Karen List: An Outdoor Thanksgiving? Bloody right!

For the past few days, U.S. health experts have been begging Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving and instead to have small dinners w...



For the past few days, U.S. health experts have been begging Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving and instead to have small dinners with those in their households — outside.

With a Thanksgiving forecast for 50 degrees and rain, how many people are seriously considering that option?

Well, we are — for the simple reason that all of our lives we’ve been Anglophiles who see the Brits as role models in relation to their belief that the weather should never stop one from enjoying one’s pursuits, whatever they might be. For us, one of those pursuits will be Outdoor Thanksgiving.

We adopted this philosophy early on as frequent travelers in Britain who would have seen very little if we’d waited for sunny days. Instead we’ve walked over hill and dale from Land’s End to London to Loch Lomond, with occasional forays to Dublin and Donegal, through clouds, rain, wind and storms of every variety.

If we’re lucky, we get clouds and can easily imagine what the Lost Gardens of Heligan or Chatsworth or Snowdonia would look like in the sunshine. And we’re barely slowed down by “mizzle,” which is rain that permeates the air, but doesn’t really fall. It’s just there, hovering.

Even torrential downpours haven’t stopped us from suiting up and seeing the sights, from hiking on the Coastal Path past the Durdle Door to swimming in the North Sea in water so cold it makes the waters off the Maine coast seem balmy.

But our real inspiration for Outdoor Thanksgiving this year is the Sunday we spent one summer at Ullswater in the Lake District. Because it was Ullswater Day on our travel calendar, we saw no reason to change our plans despite the 50-mile-per-hour winds blowing torrential rain sideways.

Our plan was to take the boat from Glenridding to Howland and hike the seven miles back. Our family of four boarded with a lovely English family of four who’d brought their granny along for the ride. We spent much of the trip huddled inside the small cabin, while the English family braved the elements outside on the deck.

“If you can’t see Helvellyn, it’s raining,” the captain shouted over the wind. “If you can see Helvellyn, it’s going to rain.” We were determined to enjoy not seeing Helvellyn as much as the other family.

But by the time we had rocked and rolled to Howland, with the rain and wind unabated, our family unanimously decided we could not possibly walk seven miles back, that the wiser course would be to take the boat. We smiled at the English family, assuming they had made the same call and that we’d enjoy the return trip together.

At that moment, the English grandmother, wearing her Sunday blue flowered dress with a white cardigan and sandals, stood up and disembarked with her family trailing behind her. We watched in awe as they walked onto the dock, turned right and started the trek back.

Though we felt seriously outdone, we stayed on the boat, bravely deciding to move to the outside deck for the remainder of the trip.

Once off the boat, we had a short respite from the gale in the gift shop, where a park ranger told us it was “hands and knees on top of the fells.” What did that mean, we wondered?

What that means, the ranger explained, is ramblers today are reduced to crawling along the highest part of the path on their hands and knees because if they stand, the wind might blow them off the path. And the rescue helicopter might have trouble reaching them in the rain.

But still, they rambled. Because it was Sunday. And that’s what you did on Sunday.

To cap that day’s lesson in British fortitude, we walked back to our car past another family of four enjoying a picnic — the four of them sitting on a bench overlooking the water with their hair blowing sideways at a perfect 90-degree angle to their heads. They chatted and laughed over their cheese and pickle and cucumber and cress sandwiches, having a jolly time. The tea from their thermos was hot and the damp biscuits, of no consequence.

These were our people! As our raincoats and pants swished softly on the walk back to the car, we resolved to be better — to try to live up to the families who’d shown us the way that Sunday.

So that’s why we’ll be eating cold turkey and stuffing in the mizzle or worse on Thanksgiving Day. Possibly wearing sandals.

I think those English families would be proud.

Karen List is a lifelong Anglophile and a professor in the UMass Journalism Department.    



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Newsrust: Karen List: An Outdoor Thanksgiving? Bloody right!
Karen List: An Outdoor Thanksgiving? Bloody right!
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