One mild September evening, moonlight shines on the quiet waters of a hidden lake. Out of the darkness cloaking hundreds of miles of woods and craggy hills, a speck of light gleams unevenly. As we move a little nearer, we see it is a campfire, built on the rocky shore of the moonlit lake. The flames flicker and leap, throwing eerie shadows across the trees and water. It almost looks as though figures are stirring in the half-light around the fire. Let’s slip a little closer and see….
Yes, now that we’re nearer, we realize we recognize these figures. Why, they’re some of our friends from A Doll’s Picnic! But what are they doing here on a balmy mountain night, instead of snuggling up in bed at home? It looks… yes, it looks as if they’re roasting marshmallows! A perfectly natural thing to do around a campfire, after all. Hmmm… we don’t see a tent; they can’t be camping. Ohhh, of course. It’s a picnic. A night picnic. Picnics don’t always have to be in the day time! Maybe if we settle down here behind this big rock we can watch them without being seen and hear what they’re saying….
“I just heard a fish jump,” announces Jade, glancing toward the water. She’s deftly roasting a marshmallow with one hand and cradling a cup of cocoa with the other.
“I heard it too,” agrees Sophie, turning her hot dog. “Do you think the fish can see our camp fire through the water?”
“If they do, maybe they think it’s a star that’s fallen and landed on the shore,” suggests Betsy, her hazel eyes twinkling with fun in the firelight.
“But maybe they can hear us talking,” says Emma. “Stars don’t talk.”
“Maybe the fish think they do, though,” says Betsy. “What do fish know about stars, anyway?”
“If stars did talk, I wonder what they’d talk about,” muses Amy, sipping her cocoa and carefully turning her marshmallow. “Do they talk about each other? Like, ‘Hi friend! How are things going in your solar system?’ ‘Not so good, pal, I’m getting sucked into a black hole.'” Everyone laughs.
“Paulina, you hang out with astronomers. What constellations are up right now?” asks Merida from the hammock, where she’s hugging a teddy bear and gazing at the sky.
“Well, it’s a bit hard to see the fainter ones when our eyes are dazzled by firelight, but that’s the Big Dipper,” says, Paulina, pointing.
“And if you follow the trajectory of the handle over to there, that’s Arcturus. And there’s the North Star.”
“The skies are so clear and so dark at night here,” says Merida. “Even with the moon up you can see the Milky Way. I’m grateful to live someplace with such clear skies.”
The other dolls agree, and take a break from staring into the flames to gaze up into the sky at the brilliant first quarter moon and the glittering stars appearing more thickly as the darkness deepens. After a pause, the fire snaps and hisses and everyone jumps and checks their marshmallows to make sure they’re not scorching.
“Your marshmallow is almost ready, Paulina,” says Emma. She’s been roasting two marshmallows, one for herself and one for a friend.
Paulina thanks her, and then Emma turns to Sharon and Poinsettia, who are talking about famous Canadian astronomers and scientists. “Are you sure you guys don’t want one? I can make another.”
“No thanks,” smiles Sharon. “We’re fine with the ginger cakes and brownies and sandwiches and apples and oranges.” Everyone laughs again.
“Why do you think food tastes so good at night?” asks Patience, getting ready to slide her marshmallow off the stick. “I think I like picnics even better after dark than in the afternoon.”
“Maybe it’s all the energy it takes to build a fire and fend off the night-time monsters,” laughs Millie, sipping her soda.
“Or all the energy it takes to stay warm,” agrees Sophie. “Though it’s not cold tonight–it’s perfect. It’s practically warm enough for a swim.” Her dark eyes sparkle with daring.
“Oooh, not me,” shivers Paulina. “I’d be certain a lake monster was going to come up and swallow me.”
“Me too,”adds Amy, giving her marshmallow one last turn. “I’m glad Ali won’t let us get wet.”
“Speaking of monsters,” suggests Jade mischievously, “does anyone know a good story?”
“One dark night, by a little lake, far from civilization, a group of friends sat roasting marshmallows around a campfire…” begins Betsy, in a mysterious whisper.
The dolls giggle and huddle closer to the fire, listening to the lake water slapping against the rocks in the dark.
Happy Autumnal Equinox, from A Doll’s Picnic!