Five Senses Beach Picnic

A few months ago, two dear friends—Kat Finley and Devin Sutter—and I met to plan for this five-senses picnic on the beach in Chicago. After a trip to Arizona, Kat and I had been discussing an exhibit she visited that enlisted each of the senses. Naturally, she was enamored by it, and her description got my wheels turning.

Like many of you, Kat, Dev, and I are often discussing our appreciation for food, style, aesthetics, and most importantly, community.  Each of us has felt the call to do more passion projects and use our gifts to give back.

We've worked on encouraging one another to not wait on making, playing, exploring, or bringing our visions to life, & we realized we had a special opportunity to collaborate in a different way.

So with the inspiration from Kat's art exhibit experience, Devin's desire to flex her hair styling skills, my desire to document, and our consensus to find a place of natural beauty and peace, we decided to style a picnic at the Montrose Beach Dunes.

What began as three visions became an experience none of us will forget. Why? Because while our aim was to create an environment that engaged all five senses, we received much more. Just beyond the drumming of the city, we were graced with a perfectly sunny Sunday (after a couple reschedules!), a delicious and beautiful spread, and the freedom to curate, witness, and enjoy an evening of respite and reflection.

I'm continually amazed how our God woos us this way. He knows the quiet places of our hearts so well, he gives us the hope to be patient as He orchestrates these joys for us. 

Here are Devin and Kat's visions and thoughts from the afternoon:
Devin: The evening we met to chat about the all-senses photoshoot there were talks of simplistic and whimsical—immediately braids, flowers and curls were on my mind.

The most beautiful thing about the styles done on Kat and Rach is that they were done organically. I had inspiration, but I did not have a photo I wanted to replicate. At one point Kat asked where the flowers will be in her hair, to which I said, “You know, I actually don’t know where I’m going with your hair. I’m just listening to where it wants to go and creating something that looks natural and beautiful.” It’s rare that I get to have two ladies with gorgeous hair sit and let me create a style that’s entirely being created as I go—with no huge expectations. That is what enabled me to create such beautiful hair.

As I went home after the time at the Dunes,  

my heart was full.

Seeing everyone's creativity and passions come together to create an evening that was not only beautifully designed and executed, but also restful and relaxing—it was so good for the soul. It inspired me and gave me peace and joy. All I could think was, “How did I get so lucky to be given a community in Chicago that loves the exact same things as me?”

photo: Andrew Loewen

Kat: For this photoshoot we didn’t want to just create a beautiful dinner party. While it was that, it was so much more. We wanted to create a sensual experience; one that ignited all of the senses. One that would be memorable. When all of the senses are heightened, pathways to the brain are lit, thus making the entire experience more enjoyable and more memorable. We used what was given to us through nature and through our creativity to achieve this.

  • The sense of touch was felt through our bare feet walking along the sand, the crisp September air as the wind blew gently, and through the warmth of the sun hitting our skin during golden hour.
  • Our sense of sight was alive the entire time though the blue water in the background, the golden yellow hues of the wild grass, and the arrangements of the entire tablescape.
  • Fresh rosemary and eucalyptus filled our noses as we breathed in the fresh air.
  • The taste of buttery cheeses, salty marinated olives, and sweet fruits satisfied our palates.
  • Lastly, our audible sense was heightened through the stillness. Peaceful brushes of grass and waves, away from city sounds of people, cars honking, and sirens roaring. This stillness allowed us to listen to the breeze and to the conversation and laughter over an intimate dinner with five close friends.

We created something beautiful, full of experience, while fostering community. It was so much more than we originally had imagined.

Some things I expected:
I expected Rachel's photos to capture the moment and beyond. I expected them to leave you feeling dreamy as though you just browsed through a magazine and can only imagine have a dinner like that.

I expected Dev's hair to be stunning. Whimsical, creative, and beautiful, just like her. I expected my visions to come true and for everything to pull together. It was easy to see and expect this with all of the flowers and trinkets we had pulled from our own homes, reflecting our own styles. I expected to feel a little overworked, but still enjoy the evening.

Some things I didn't expect:
I didn't expect all of our visions to collide so perfectly. To come together in a way that was beyond what I had imagined. It's easy to describe a vision and think you're on the same page, when later you see that you are not. This was not the case here. We were all perfectly on the same page, from the same chapter, of the same book, and it left us all equally excited.

I didn't expect the guys to enjoy themselves as much as they did. As soon we arrived at the more than perfect spot, with the perfect weather and breeze, everyone felt joyful and played around freely.

I expected a good night with friends, but I didn't expect one so fulfilling. It was such a reprieve to enjoy the fruits of our labor and the beauty, both natural and created, and LAUGH with the dearest of friends. I felt so full all the way through my week.

I didn't expect God's presence to be so strong. The entire scene, it set the tone. The pink hues of last of His rays in the sky, the deep blue water that catches your breath every time, and the golden untouched grass, hidden away behind the hustle and bustle of the city. We weren't in Chicago anymore. We were in nature, in God's presence, for a moment of escape from it all.

the Son radiates God’s glory...
— Hebrews 1:3

HE IS the Rays to God's light. I felt that presence, in the last of the sunlight & around the table that night.

Find us

Devin has done her balayage coloring magic on both my and Kat's hair, and you can find more of her work on Insta and right here. You can see life & stylings through Kat's eyes here, and if you're interested in what the Andrew's are up to: friend @Old_Man_Fin & @floewen


My and Kat's husbands—The Andrews—were stand-up troopers in helping us cart our mix of treasured pieces, food, and a table (our $1.75 find at the Rebuilding Exchange!) to-and-fro the beach.
Flowers: Fleur
Hair: Devin Sutter
Lettering & food styling: Kat Finley


Rachel Loewen2 Comments