Monday, August 25, 2008

(Long!) Weekend ABC's - D is for Ditching, Driving & Dahlias

One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon is to hop in the car and just go.  Open road.  No itinerary.  Favorite music loud on the stereo.  The gas tank on full.  A warm vanilla latte in the cup holder.  Possibilities.  What will I happen upon?  What questions have I been struggling with that will suddenly be made clear?  Who might I meet along the way?

As I move away from the city and into the country, my shoulders start to relax.  My breath deepens.  I slow down.

When I lived in Seattle, it was on one of these drives that I discovered Mt. Vernon.  Mt. Vernon is famous for their gorgeous tulips and daffodils that bloom every spring.  I however, happened upon it in late summer, long after the season was over.  I was flying down the road, singing at the top of my lungs when I spied a flower stand.  I immediately slowed down and pulled into the driveway next to it, expecting someone to come out and help me with the flowers.   But the stand was unmanned.  Jelly jars were full of the brightest flowers I had ever seen.  They burst forth, fireworks of hot pink, yellow, deep magenta and purple.  I was smitten.  The cost?  $3 a bunch.  "Who do I give the money to?"  I wondered to myself.  And that's when I saw a coffee can full of money off to the side.  There was something so charming about the honor system that I took 5 bunches and left a $20 in the coffee can.  

I went back to that farm every summer and never saw a single person.  When I decided to move away from Seattle, that was one of things I knew that I'd miss--my secret little place where flowers were left on faith.

But, being the SSG, last fall after a grape stomp at a local vineyard, I was driving home and got lost.  I found myself in downtown Canby, a small town about 25 miles south of Portland.  It has just over 13,000 residents and the cutest little downtown with a park right in the center.  It's one of my favorite kinds of downtowns too--on a grid, where the streets go in alphabetical order with names like "Grant, Holly and Ivy"  The park has a large white gazebo and hanging flower baskets adorn the street lights.  I wound through the quiet residential streets, very happily lost, admiring white picket fences, crisp red front doors and houses set back off the streets.  And then I turned a corner and found it. 

Swan Island Dahlias.  

Instead of my Mt. Vernon cut flowers in jelly jars, there were FIELDS of dahlias.  Row upon row of different varieties with names like "Bodacious", "Wildman," and "Harvest Moon."  I couldn't believe it and got out of my car to wander around dumfounded.  When I finally made my way back to the car, I passed a stand where you could buy cut flowers.  And in this case, just like Mt. Vernon, it was on the honor system.   

I took a personal day today and had no idea what I was going to do.  As if by memory, my car headed for Swan Island.  It was me and BUS LOADS of senior citizens.  I happily chatted with them as I wandered the rows of such spectacular color, I was kicking myself for not having a better camera.  

And so that settles it, you all are just going to have to come visit and see for yourselves. 

Aside from dahlias, there is nothing that makes me happier than hand painted signs.  On my way out of Canby, this one caught my eye.

I pulled into the parking lot and was met by an older gentleman wearing a plaid, short sleeve, button up shirt with suspenders and a straw hat.

He has lived there since 1959.  Falling in love with the Willamette Valley, he left Illinois bought 20 acres and hasn't left.  We chatted about tomatoes and corn before I said goodbye.  As I turned to walk away, I asked him if he took care of the farm on his own or if he had help. 

"Oh no, I care for it on my own.  It's just gardening."

"20 acres is just GARDENING?!" I exclaimed. 

He chuckled and tipped his hat, sauntering back to his stand with a wave and a smile.  I pulled out of his driveway happy that he knew nothing about the double shot of espresso I require to muster up enough energy to sit behind a desk all day.

The dahlias now sit in vases throughout my house.  Tomatoes have been cored, halved, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and are currently slow roasting in a 250 degree oven.  And this well rested Serendipitous Girl is about to go make herself some corn for dinner.


Bella Della said...

Wow, what a fabulous day. I love that sort of stuff. Wish I could have come along for the ride. I laugh at the old farmer's gardening comment. That is what thought of too- it takes me at least one cup of coffee before I can even touch the pile on my desk. Sometimes I forget what real work is- the back-breaking kind!

PS- I am way impressed with the photography!

Big Hair Envy said...

Lucky girl! There is nothing better than a drive in the country. Unless it's fresh flowers and veggies! Unfortunately, those of us who live in the country sometimes take it for granted:( But not often.

Hand painted signs are my FAVORITE! I'll have to steal the camera from my daughter and take a few snapshots to post. I hope you don't mind me stealing your idea. I'll give you credit!!! said...

Oh how nice! I just love forays into the country and anything bought from a place where they are picked ripe is going to taste so much better than grocery store produce.

(Sometimes!) Serendipitous Girl said...

@ belladealla - Sometimes I think "man, I might be happy selling tomatoes and zucchini and chatting with people as they drive by." ACTUALLY add a little drive by espresso stand to the mix and I think I might have just found my new career path.

@ BHE - Steal away my friend! Love your cute little photo ; )

@ halfasstic - I am WITH you! I feel like the markets should just have canned goods and leave the produce to the farmers ...

Anonymous said...

I miss my life on the farm. I miss the freedom of "doing" for myself. I miss the personal time spent with my own thoughts. I need to go and find me, once more. You have listened, again! You have given me a wake up call to step back and see the world outside of my little view. Thank you.