Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quiet Places

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.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story (and a beautiful, peaceful picture). I can picture "the beach" and it represents those precious places in all of us that we remember from childhood. Thank you for evoking my own fond memories.

btw, you mention car-sickness and that is one of the less-pleasant memories you and I share. And I wonder if you still "take the remedy" as an adult as I do -- automatically fall asleep in a car (when not driving, of course). Luckily my husband doesn't need alot of conversation while he's driving and isn't annoyed by the occasional snore!

As I look back, I'm guessing part of the sickness was from bigggg cars with looooose suspension, and me always sitting in the back seat. I remember drives up mountains where it felt to a little girl in the back seat like her part of the car was swinging wayyyy out over the edge -- enough to make anyone sick!

Katharine said...

Thanks for sharing!

You think it was those biiiiiiig cars that contributed to our carsickness? I hadn't considered that. My doctor told me that folks who were prone to carsickness as kids often grow up to have migraines. That's been true for me, unfortunately.

My remedy is not to fall asleep, but to always be behind the wheel. As long as I'm driving, I don't feel ill.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. I guess I'm really fortunate that I don't have migraines -- I hadn't heard about the possible connection. I'm most comfortable when I'm the driver too, but "wrestling" the wheel away from Hubby is tough! :)

Lynnette Bonner said...

I used to get really car-sick too. But now that I'm an adult it doesn't bother me so much. I can handle the backseat, but much prefer the front seat - either driving or riding, because the back seat still makes me a little queasy. But no migraines for me. Thank you, Lord!

I love your description of your trips to the beach. Our family had a mountain that we would picnic on often - and we always went to the same spot. On the way down, Daddy would usually let all four of us kids ride on the open tail gate and we would see if we could hop off, snatch a pine-cone off the road and hop back on again. Daddy, of course, would watch out the rearview mirror and speed up the minute one of us hopped off. :)

Blackie's Uncle said...

As one of your older brothers, I remember those trips well. Especially when we would return from the beach on a warm Sunday afternoon, just after the dog had cooled herself off with a dip in the bay and then climbed into the back seat of the car. Yum!?!

I found an aerial picture of the "beach place" on a Washington State website a couple of years ago, and have installed it on my computer at the office as my wallpaper, so I can see the beach anytime I want.

Chaplain Mark said...

Katharine, This is a great blog post about only a glimpse of your and our best memories of Shelton. You ought to write about quiet times in the woods.