Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I've had occasion to drive in the valley quite regularly this spring. My favorite road is the former north-south "highway" along the valley's western edge. Part of the route is snugged right up against the hill, with marshland on the other side. Few houses, lots of trees and fields and grasses, and quiet.
Stop me if you've heard this one... Before I was born, my grandparents bought a farmhouse, acreage, and several beach lots on a small bay in Puget Sound. My aunt and uncles on both sides of the family ended up owning a beach lot and some woods, and most of them built cabins or homes there. My family spent every summer weekend at The Beach.
My childhood (before the age of 12 and a half) was not stressful, but I loved that drive from Tacoma to The Beach. It started with traffic and lots of people, but gradually I-5 calmed down and there were the Nisqually Flats to enjoy. Once we turned onto Highway 101, it was mostly trees and fields and estuaries and quiet. A short stretch of downtown smalltown, and then onto the highway along the bay. If my eyes could leave the road without inducing carsickness, I'd steal a few quick glances across the water to our place.
When we reached the foot of the bay, we'd turn up the hill and across country to the other side. There were lots of interesting homes along the way, with the typical range of country un-kemptness and occasional neatness. Old cars, refrigerators, a beaver dam swamp, a miniature railroad layout, a boulder painted "Dad's Kidney Stone". Another estuary, and then our little road. Home.
Years later, after the last of the property had been sold, my Aunt Margret commented on how much that place had meant to all of us. She added, "I hope each of you has a piece of The Beach inside you." Even though we didn't own it any more, she knew we needed the peace we'd felt there.
Well, Aunt Margret, you're right. I need the feeling of openness and quiet I get from visiting scenes like the one above. I am so thankful that I can drive just a few minutes and get to meadows and wetlands like this. Even if all I do is pass by, it fills my heart-space again. And whenever I hear a Swainson's thrush calling in the trees, it takes me back to that A-frame cabin at The Beach.
Happy birthday, Dad.