I've been enmeshed in writing another book about my various adventures. It's still all very rough, but I received so much excited feedback about my pictures from my recent cycling trip to the lavender festival that I thought some of you might enjoy a sneak peek into the chapter that recounts that particular tale. Happy reading! -S.C.
I had done two cycling trips to Bellingham and back, which is twice the distance to Sequim. Sequim and back, roundtrip, would be roughly the same distance as one-way to Bellingham - and experience had established that I could manage that with few problems.
Since farms are never located in city centers there would be some extra miles involved getting out to the lavender fields plus a hefty leeway for puttering about between farms and the inevitable wrong turns and pathfinding exercises. (I have never yet managed a journey, foreign or domestic, where I managed to smoothly get from any given Point A to Point B without first realizing I was lost at Points C, D, E, and F along the way. If I had been born a homing pigeon I would be the only example of the species which stopped to ask directions from roosting songbirds.), but I confidentally reasoned that I could do this. Likewise, I dismissed the fact that the route to Sequim climbed far more hilly terrain than the one to Bellingham. Mileage was mileage, after all - wasn't it?
By July 2014, with the lavender festival just a few weeks away I was very excited about my upcoming trip... On the Monday before the festival in Sequim, Gabriel came home from his work on Bainbridge carrying a large bunch of lavender, tighly packed into a bundle as thick around as my arm. It was a gift sent along by his mother, who had purchased it from the farmer's market down on the island.
I bustled around the kitchen looking for something pretty to hold all the fragrant flowers. They made such a big, impressive bundle I didn't want to spoil the effect by breaking it into smaller groupings, but the bunch was far too large to fit into any of my vases.
"Any suggestions?" I asked Gabriel, but he just smiled and kissed me.
"Home decoration is your sphere, my dear," he said.
I gave him a lopsided grin, and kept searching for an appropriate receptacle. I thought of the stoneware jug we keep drinking water in by our bed, and fetched the blue and gray pottery piece downstairs. Even that proved too small for the enormous bundle of fragrant floral wands - but it did give me an idea. I rushed upstairs again and returned with the porcelain wash-water pitcher from our guest room. I held it up triumphantly before Gabriel, and declared it perfect.
I set the pitcher on the china hutch and arranged the lavender wands within it. Their deep purple buds set off the pitcher's painted cobalt-blue roses and gilded curves perfectly. As the downstairs rooms filled with the glorious fragrance of lavender, I dreamed of the much-anticipated festival and read more articles about the flower it celebrated.
"Lavender is an old favorite English perfume in which country it finds its best conditions of growth. It is also largely raised in France, but the product is not considered to equal the English. There are some four to eight grades of lavender oil in the market, the Mitcham and Hitchin, English, commanding the highest price. The French is very good however, the "Mont Blanc" being usually a fine article. Lavender enters into the composition of colognes, also into Lavender Water." - Good Houskeeping, May 26, 1888
A Plea for the Old-Fashioned Lavender
By Mrs. H.E. White, Bryan, Brazos Co., Texas (1880)
...There is another flower, even dearer to me from the associations that cluster around it... and this much loved flower is the Lavender. It is called Lavendula from the Latin lavare, to wash - because the ancients used it in bathing and washing; and we all know the oil is used in medicine and perfumery. Lavender water and lavender tea are used to soothe the nervous and hysterical. These qualities give it a rank among doctors and perfumers. Now for its use in flower gardens. With its silvery, compact leaves, and purple blooms it makes a beautiful hedge, planted and trained and trimmed... I remember a garden I visited frequently while I was in Southern Europe, and to me, one of the sweetest, prettiest things in it, was a hedge tenderly guarding the flower beds, a hedge, all silver and purple, of modest, old-fashioned Lavender. Bring it from the kitchen garden and let it adorn our flower yards, where low hedges are wanted. In obsolete parlance to "lay in lavender" meant to lay away nicely and carefully, to keep sweet, showing that from time immemorial, lavender has been used to perfume clothing. Does not the dainty Keats tell us, in his "Eve of St. Agnes," of the "Lavender-scented sheets!" Does not its perfume bring to us a delicious dream of our childhood?
... We lay our loved dead, our holiest memories, to rest in sheets scented with Violets and Lavender; there is a holiness, a purity about these two modest, purple blooms, that no other fragrance can claim; other flowers smell stale after a time, these two always seem fresh and pure.
Lavender was, in old days, an emblem of affection, and Dryden as well as Keats, has embalmed it in verse.
"He from his lass, him Lavender hath sent,
Showing him love, and doth requittal crave."
Let us revive the ancient love and appreciation of this flower! Let it perfume our linen, our baths, and soothe our nerves with its fragrant tea. Let us honor our gardens with this ancient patrician plant that stands on its simple suit of silver and purple, and claims a place among flowers that gold and scarlet can never fill.
A combination of factors prompted my desire for an early start. I knew the trip would take me a while, and I wanted to have plenty of time to enjoy myself. Moreover, I believe early morning to be the prettiest part of any day, and wanted to be well underway and into scenic territory by dawn. To facilitate this end, I looked up the scheduled sunrise ahead of my trip: At this time of year at our latitude, "nautical twilight" when the horizon would become visible in the east was scheduled for four a.m. I wanted to be well underway by the time that first glow illuminated the sky. I was worried that Gabriel would try to talk me out of such an early start, but he just smiled and shook his head.
"Well, watching the sunrise over the lavender fields will be very romantic," he told me in an approving tone, and he kissed me.
I set my alarm for one a.m. and as soon as it sounded I forced my way roughly out of bed. If I hesitated at all, I worried that I might immediately fall back to sleep. Our mechanical alarm clock has two separate springs: Winding one powers the time-keeping mechanism, while winding the other delivers potential energy to the alarm. I am sure some mechanical alarm clocks have a way to shut off the clanging bell once it has achieved its function and save some of the potential energy for future use. Our alarm clock, however, is a particularly cheap example of the technology. Once it starts ringing, it keeps going until the spring is completely unwound. There is no way to turn off its loud clang as it clamors for attention.
I didn't want to disturb Gabriel's rest any more than absolutely necessary, so in an attempt to at least muffle the bell I grabbed the alarm clock and clamped it underneath my armpit. It still buzzed away, but at least the sound was reduced somewhat. When the spring finished unwinding and the clock finally stopped performing its noisemaking duty to the utmost extremity of its capacity, I replaced it on our maple nightstand and went downstairs as quietly as I could manage.
An act of forethought had struck me just as I had been getting into bed the night before, and I had gotten up again just long enough to move everything I would want in the morning to the downstairs bathroom. (Whenever I get up before Gabriel, no matter how quiet I try to be the splashing of my morning ablutions generally rouses him. I wanted to avoid that this time.)
As I passed through the kitchen I put my kettle on the stove to warm the water for my morning tea, then I lit an oil lamp and brought it into the old bathroom that had once been a porch. Since this is the least insulated room in a house which has little insulation to speak of anyways, in the winter at such a time of morning it would have been positively frigid. In a colder month I doubtless could have seen my breath against the darkness... In July though, it was a lovely temperature - even at one o'dark in the morning.
My cycling outfit was on a wooden hangar, waiting for me on the metal hook inside the bathroom door. My various morning accessories were all arranged around the little sink in the corner: soap, hairbrush, washcloth, the salt I use for deodorant and my two types of hairpins - the bobby pins I use to form the Francis Cleveland loops at the front of my hair were in a daintily-painted little china hairpin holder which Gabriel's Grandma Catherine had passed down to me, and the hairpins for my bun were aranged in a metal holder my husband had given me to store them in. The only usual items for my morning routine that I hadn't brought down with me were my bowl and pitcher: The sink would serve that purpose well enough, since I was already in a bathroom.
Once I was bathed and in my shift, I went back into the kitchen just long enough to chop up two little new potatoes a friend had given me from her garden into my great-grandmother's cast-iron skillet with a little olive oil, and set a saucepan of water on the stove as well. By the time I finished dressing, the potatoes were sizzling, the saucepan of water was simmering, and a vigorous jet of steam was pouring out of the copper kettle I had turned on earlier.
I carefully lowered a brown-shelled egg into the water in the saucepan, and flipped over our sand timer. I fixed the last of the lavender tea from the last year's lavender festival, dished up my potatoes and took my soft-boiled egg out of the water, then settled in to breakfast. The egg's shell had cracked during its cooking, so instead of using my egg cup to hold it I cracked it into a bowl and ate it with a teaspoon - what a 19th-century "Good Housekeeping" article identifies as the American way to eat a soft-boiled egg. (At the same time, the article recognizes that infinite variations on eating boiled eggs exist. Fans of Jonathon Swift will recall that in Gulliver's Travels, the famous author used the assorted methods of egg consumption as a metaphor when he poked fun at warfare waged for religious reasons.) I wanted to have plenty of energy for the ride, so I ate all I could hold. By the time I washed my dishes my stomach was uncomfortably full against my corset, but I knew its contents would settle as soon as I started putting in miles.
...I tiptoed upstairs, and softly kissed Gabriel goodbye for the day. "Wish me luck," I whispered, tucking the covers underneath his chin.
"Have fun," he murmured, then drifted back to sleep.
It was a quarter-hour before three in the morning when I left home and the stars stood out bright as crystals in the dark sky overhead. The moon was a waning quarter - bright enough to be beautiful, but not so overpowering as to dim the stars.
Summer nights may be shorter than winter ones, but they seem to hold a deeper quality to their darkness. Fewer lights pollute the cosmos: there are no Christmas decorations, and far fewer porchlights. Likewise, fewer forgotten lamps burn all night to illuminate windows which were overlooked at bedtime. I looked around at the electric lights which did stand out - street lamps and a few household ones. I thought about how much brighter the stars must have been when electric light was a novelty instead of being taken for granted - a thing to be cherished, instead of glutted on and wasted. I thought back on a poster I had seen on the wall at the University of Washington's Astronomy department when I had been a student at the U.W. "Remember the Milky Way?" It had said. Below this caption was a plea for awareness about the problem of light pollution. This very real but little recognized issue is often dismissed - but very legitimite. Light pollution may not poison the gut as water pollution does, but I think it weakens the soul when we lose our connections to the natural delineations between night and day. I thought of our various lights at home - our lamps and candles, and yes, our dim classic electric lights with their bulbs of hand-blown glass. We use the light we need - neither more nor less - always watching our consumption by watching the level of the lamp oil and seeing the candles diminished. Mirrors and mercury-glass amplify the power of the energy consumed. These light sources are always extinguished when not in use. Reflecting on this made me proud.
As if in sympathy for my thoughts of disappearing stars, a meteorite flahed across the easter sky, then vanished. My first thought, seeing it, was that it must be an early precursor to the Perseid meteor shower that happens every August. Then I thought of how (historically as well as mythologically) falling stars have long been taken as portents of great things, both good and ill. I decided to take it for a good sign.
Several miles down the road, the farthest acuity of my vision saw blurry outlines of two tall, tawny creatures. They were moving with that peculiar, halting gait often reported by people describing their encounters with Bigfoot. I knew full well what they were, so I continued cycling on without hesitation. I did recall another time though when I had encountered an even larger example of their species in conditions of even lower visibility.
When Gabriel and I lived on Bainbridge Island, our house was located in a dense thicket of woods. Access was via an exceedingly long gravel driveway which we shared with our neighbors and which was punctuated by several steep, sloping hills. Our house was located near a small gulley which the dirt road had to navigate, and the two sharpest hills on the loose gravel path were twins of each other: one descending into the gulley, the other coming back up it again. As I descended the hill going down into the gulley, the farthest edge of my bicycle's light caught a glimpse of something that nearly made me choke on my own heart. Up ahead on the opposite hill were two eyes, glowing red in the lamplight, and right at the level of a tall man's face.
I was terrified! I felt there had to be a logical explanation, but I knew that I would never discover it if the terrifying, huge owner of those demonic eyes retreated into the cover of the trees before I could identify whatever it was as a non-threat. Gabriel was away from home visiting a friend. I knew that I must reassure my terrified, inwardly-screaming, adrenaline-filled self that those glowing red eyes really did belong to something innocuous. Otherwise I would be awake - and alone - all night.
I wanted to scream and flee. Instead I turned off my light - the last thing I wanted to do. I clenched throat muscles that would not swallow, and quietly walked forward.
I knew the dirt road well enough to navigate it without lights. When the change in angle of the slope under my feet told me I had reached the bottom of the hill I again tried to swallow - and could not. There had been no sound of movement ahead. This could only mean that the man-height creature with demonic eyes hadn't moved: It was standing on the hill above me.
I tried to comfort myself with the thought that a cougar's eyes would be lower to the ground than the orbs I had seen. With the unkown beast in the darkness standing unwavering at my approach though, there was little consolation in reflecting upon what it wasn't.
When I finally drew close enough for my dim bicycle light to illuminate the unseen creature, I thumbed the switch.
Spotlighted in the glow from my light, a five-point buck turned and ran into the woods. I started breathing again, and hurried home.
The deer on the road to Sequim were not nearly as concerned about a human on a bicyle as that mature buck had been. The doe and two adolescents milled about in the road nonchalently as I approached, then crossed over into the woods when they apparently realized they couldn't eat the concrete highway. Shortly after passing them I saw a large coyote (about the size of a German shepherd) trotting alongside the road, making his nightly rounds. He noted my presence and I acknowledged his, but neither of us made the slightest change in our pace as we passed each other. We were just fellow travelers on the road, each minding our own affairs.
I only had one nerve-inducing experience as I biked through the dark. Admittedly, it was most likely just my own paranoia that caused me unease. Even while I was worried I felt silly about the whole thing.
As I approached a bridge I saw a light bob out from underneath it. It looked like the glow from a flashlight, and by its light I could see a lower road running along the shallow gulley I was crossing perpendicularly. The speed at which the light moved, along with its slight swaying motion revealed that it was not a flashlight as I had first thought, but the lamp on another bicycle.
It was barely after three a.m. and daylight was still hours away. I was on a lonely road through forested state park. Seeing any human out at such a bizarre hour in such a secluded place might have made me a little nervous. I was glad that he was moving perpendicular to me on a different road. The sentiment made me a little chagrined at my paranoia, but regardless of this I knew that the sharp ear-pricking adrenaline which was stinging my senses would settle down once the other cyclist passed out of view.
Then the light turned and started climbing the ravine. I heard heat-withered summer underbrush crushed underfoot as the bike was dragged up and onto the highway - the road I was following. The light turned in my direction.
Don't be paranoid! Don't be paranoid! My thumping heart and suddenly hyperactive adrenal glands didn't follow my brain's command as readily as I might have wished. It's probably just a commuter working late hours. I looked for the neon-colored reflective gear which is practically a uniform for modern bike commuters.
There was no neon, no reflective gear. The other cyclist was shrouded in a dark hoodie with its cowl pulled up over the face. Any clue as to identity or attitude was masked in darkness. My heart thumped like something in an Edgar Allan Poe story.
Don't be paranoid! Don't be paranoid! I repeated to myself. For all you know, it could be a woman under that hood!
I doubted this.
She could be as scared of you as you are of her!
I doubted this even more. Culturally, Americans don't scared of highly feminine blonde women. I looked down at my white shirtwaist, plaid skirt, and ladylike bicycle. I only frighten people credulous enough to think I'm a ghost.
He passed me on an uphill and slowed. I passed him on the accompanying downhill, then regretted doing this when I realised my back was now exposed towards him.
Don't be paranoid! Don't be paranoid! I tried to follow my own advice - but I still quickened my pace.
As I rode through the dark, not knowing how far behind me the other biker was following, I felt like the character of Violet Smith in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's story "The Solitary Cyclist."
Ahead, my light flashed against a discrete yellow sign: "Trail Crossing Ahead." I knew the trail well, otherwise I might have missed the sign. The path was a narrow dirt footpath which cuts across two miles of dense deciduous woods following a ravine. I had been planning to take this trail already: it was a shortcut to the main highway and would cut a measurable distance off of my route. (The basic distance from Sequim to Port Townsend and back was sixty-five miles. If I added any miles to that, I wanted them to be used getting to extra lavender farms, not lollygagging about in the dark.) As I approached the trailhead though, I started to have doubts.
What if I just let the shadowy cyclist behind me take the trail and I stayed on the road? I knew I was being paranoid, but I would feel less nervous without him behind me. Wouldn't a few extra miles be worth some peace of mind?
With my inborn tendency to overthink things, I next started to doubt my doubts. What if I didn't take the trail - but the other cyclist didn't either? Then I would be stuck with extra mileage, and no reduction of my paranoia.
I glanced behind me. A hill hid the other biker's light from view - which meant he couldn't see me either. I wondered if he knew about the trail. If he doesn't notice the footpath, it'll seem like I just disappeared. This thought hit me just as I came to the trail crossing. I turned left onto the obscure wooded path before the other cyclist could see the move.
When my wheels came off concrete and onto packed dirt, I dismounted and doused my light so that it wouldn't show through the woods. If the shadowy cyclist missed the tiny sign a quarter-mile back announcing the trailhead, it really would seem like I had disappeared. If he did turn this way though, I was now in a wooded thicket - even more isolated than the road.
I felt absurd for thinking all of these things, and remembered my grandmother's story about the day she didn't bring the cows home.
I grew up living in my grandma's house, so by the time I went off to college at age eighteen various of her stories had grown quite familiar to me. She had been raised on a dairy farm in Alberta, Canada - prairie country so isolated that the teacher in the one-room schoolhouse where she was educated had to send away for maple leaves through the mail. One day, while performing her customary chore of bringing the cows home, she had grown so afraid of her neighbor for no discernible reason that she had run home without the cows and told her mother she couldn't find them. Decades later she always laughed about it. "If my mother had known the truth-" she always said, "-she would have switched me within an inch of my life!"
As I pushed my bike along the dirt trail through the dark woods, I told myself that it was stupid to be so worried about someone who had demonstrated absolutely no aggression. Travelling alone at that bizarre hour didn't necessarily mean anything unseemly. After all, I was out and about at that exact same time. Great-Grandma Helen would be ashamed of you for worrying so much, and she would switch you within an inch of your life! I chided myself, mirroring Grandma's prediction about what would have happened if Great-Grandma Helen had known the real reason little Alma didn't bring the cows home that night. Still, I couldn't help feeling relieved when I emerged from the other side of the woods onto the highway and there had been no sign of the other cyclist on the trail.
I followed the highway for a few miles, then crossed onto a parallel rural road with fewer automobiles and far better scenery. My route was hugging the coast of Sequim Bay, and the water and the tidal flats reflected the very first fragments of pre-dawn glow. I started to catch glimpses through the trees of shimmering flashes, hints of the magical sunrise I had left home so early to watch en route.
I had prepared for the trip by reading what Victorian-era material I could find about my destination. In the nineteenth-century Sequim Bay was of significantly greater importance than the dry bit of land which would (in the twentieth-century) eventually become the city of Sequim, and as I cycled the long distance around the bay I reflected on the lavish praise heaped upon that body of water in a pamphlet written in 1877 for the express purpose of inducing immigration to the area:
"Sequim Bay is a beautiful body of water, extending a little over four miles inland in a direct southerly direction, and varying in width from a few hundred yards to three-fourths of a mile. The mouth of the bay is made quite narrow by a sand spit which, on account of hte position of the shore line below, renders the bay completely land-locked. About the mouth of the bay, on the west side, are a number of Indian huts, and from twenty to fifty Indians live here during the greater part of the season. The deep water inside the bay is accessible to vessels of large size, there being about 12 feet of water in the channel at low tide - although tugs for towing would be necessary, as the channel is quite too narrow to risk sailing in. Once inside, the bay is large enough to accomodate the largest commercial fleet in the world. Lumbering has been extensively carried on along the shores of this bay, although no work of that kind is being done in its vicinity at present. A very small stream empties into it at its head and several at different points along its west side. But three claims are occupied on or near its shores - all on the west side - though about a half a dozen others can be obtained whenever young men with nerve and industry can be found to locate here and hew out homes for themselves and families."
I was caught up in reflections on these passages as I cycled along, but a loud raptor's shriek brought me abruptly back to the present. The call swooped past me and vanished into the dark fir trees separating the road from the water. Still on my bike, I looked up to see if I could spot the owl that had made the piercing cry. Nothing was visible within the thick boughs, but soon I heard a chorus of little shrieks - quieter than the first, but otherwise identical. I smiled to myself as I idly wondered what Daddy Owl was bringing home for his hungry family, and pedalled on.
Since Gabriel and I started using oil lamps to light our home, every Autumn the disappearing daylight reminds me to be sympathetic in my skepticism about stories of half-seen phantoms in dark rooms. I never cease looking for logical explanations, but experience has given me a better understanding of how the human mind populates shadows with figments of substance. Similarly, whenever I spend time alone outside away from the perpetual electric daylight of cities, I am reminded how easy it is for one's mind to get carried away by trifles in the dark.
Human eyes are not very acute in low-light conditions, and when unfamiliar elements introduce themselves into one's sphere of perception at such a time, the mind grasps at possibilties to explain what dulled vision fails to comprehend. I had recognized the dimly-seen deer earlier because I remembered my earlier experiences with another of their kind - and also because I'd seen enough deer by now to recognize the wretched ruminants for what they are. A more credulous person might easily have seen Sasquatch in those tawny, loping figures. I was charmed by the harsh, high-pitched sounds of the owls because I have a weak spot for raptors; a superstitious person who believed in hobgoblins might have had an entirely different experience of the matter. Even as a sensible-minded, logical person, I had found myself inordinately disturbed by the simple presence of another cyclist on the road.
I was rounding the southernmost portio of Sequim Bay when the sun came up. It was the modest sunrise of an overcast morning - sedate, not showy, and it painted the atmosphere in tones of cream and shell colors rather than the more garish tones prefered by painters of such scenes. As different layers of clouds moved over and through each othr in the sky, swirling with their different densities and refracting varied portions of the spectrum of the emerging sun, the whole sky looked as though it were formed out of marble, like the vault of an immense baroque cathedral.
Time passed, and so did miles. As I approached within a few miles of Sequim, the sides of the road grew increasingly covered with dense corridors of thimbleberry bushes, laden with velvety red fruit. I adore thimbleberries, and if I had followed my very strong desire to park my bike by the side of the road and begin a concerted attempt to devour them all, Gabriel wouldn't have seen me again until the end of berry season in August. However, I did want to reach the lavender fields while they were still blooming, so I contented myself with a few handfuls of the delicious fruit and fought my more gluttonous impulses as I rode past the rest of them.
As I neared the town, I thought of another article I had read:
"Two of the occupied claims have families on them... A horse trail connects this bay with Port Discovery. Leaving here on the west side, we follow a good wagon road past some excellent though still unreclaimed marsh land, and after travelling two miles we emerge upon a fine looking prairie bearing the name of the bay. The prairie contains about 5,000 acres, but it is gravelly and is used only for a common cattle range, except around the edges where good land is found in spots. Some eighteen small farms are located around the edges and in the vicinity of this prairie. The people are peaceful and happy... Sequim prairie lies upon an old water course, and is consequently underlaid by a vast bed of gravel which renders it liable to "dry up" about the middle of each summer. In the spring and early summer it presents a most beautiful and in fact a gorgeous appearance, being one mass of green vegetation - with wild flowers in profuse and pleasing varieties, but in July and August, after the early rains have gone, its supply of moisture disappears through the gravel underneath quite out of reach of vegetation, and the level plain gradually assumes a barren aspect o be revived only at the recurrence of another spring. Very little good land is vacant in the vicinity of this prairie, except grazing land." 
When I finally reached Sequim, it was seven-thirty a.m... I had a map to the various lavender farms, but unfortunately it was not very detailed and therefore only moderately useful. I spent several hours trying to find the road leading to a particular lavender farm that I had read had a duck pond on its premises, but unfortunately found only frustration in the pursuit - no lavender, and certainly no ducks. The only access shown on the map was directly from the highway, which didn't have a shoulder here and was therefore accessible only to motorized vehicles. I spent several hours trying to find a side road which would connect up with the route to the farm from a different direction, but had no luck. I consoled myself with some berries an steered my bike back towards farms whose signs I had already seen.
The next farm I sought turned out to be dramatically farther out from town than the impression given by both their sign and my poorly labeled map. (Some sort of mileage scale would have helped the map greatly, but it had none.) As I crawled my way over uphill slopes steep as walls and accompanying downhill descents that felt like falling off the edge of the world, I started to wondere where any of these alleged lavender farms could possibly be. I grumbled to myself, and ate some more berries.
By the time I finally reached the farm I was properly hungry for more substantial food. I took out my lunch from my panier, settled down on a bench, cut open a bun with my mother-of-pearl pocket knife, and sandwiched in my cheese. As I ate and quietly contemplated the small field of lavender, I noted that the cars in the farm's parking lot seemed to outnumber the visitors in the field. Since there was no gift shop, restaurant, or public building of any sort for people to be concealed within I did not entirely understand this phenomenon - but I didn't try to do so.
I finished my sandwich and drank some water from my antique canteen, then walked to the far end of the parking lot to make sure that I wasn't missing more lavender beyond the one small field I had seen. The rest of the farm seemed to be devoted to produce, so I turned my bike (which I was pushing over the uneven gravel of the parking lot) and headed for the exit. Just as I was about to go, a beautiful, willowy blonde woman came running up to me.
"Excuse me," she asked in an excited soprano voice with a light Russian accent. "Can I take your picture?"
"Sure!" I smiled. "With the bike?"
"Yes, please!" The Russian beauty responded. "Could you stand right there-" she asked, pointing. "-In with the lavender?"
I was a bit nervous about my bike (which even I'll admit is unwieldy, despite my devotion to it) damaging the plants, but I stood in the spot she indicated. The soft, recently-watered clay soil packed down beneath the combined weight of myself and the forty-pound steel bicycle, and I hoped none of the farmworkers were watching.
The beautiful Russian lady took a vast number of pictures of me, and she explained she was a professional photographer here on a shoot with her husband. When he came over and seemed impatient, she let me go and promised to send me copies of the pictures.
The second and third farms I visited were (thankfully) much closer in to town. By the time I reached them it was early afternoon and the farms were far more crowded. I was also getting rather tired at this point, having been in the saddle since 2:45 in the morning.
The third farm had large wooden chairs (painted lavender, of course) out in front of the field. These were naturally a welcome sight for my sore legs. I took out a notebook I had brought, along with a toffee bar, and rested in one of the chairs while I jotted down a few notes about the day so far. (Writing is a bit of a compulsion with me -I can't not do it.)
There were a lot of people at this farm, and no sooner had I finished my toffee than I was asked if it would be okay to take my picture by first one person, then another, then yet another... Soon an absolute horde of people had gathered (including a tour group from Pakistan) all clustering close, and all wanting my picture as I wrote. I felt a little like the owl in the wallpaper illustration "Mob Scene" by William Morris.
I always get self-conscious when people want to take pictures of me writing - more so than pictures taken at other times or during other activities - and this was an absolute mob. Tired though I was, I stayed only a few minutes, thanked everyone for their interest - and fled.
My one regret as I headed home was that I wasn't bringing any lavender back with me. The first farm hadn't had a gift shop, and at the later ones I hadn't wanted to leave my bike unattended amongst so many people. Just as I left town though, I saw a small, hand-written sign at the side of the road. It was the sort of sign which usually announces the presence of a lemonade stand, but instead of drinks it said, "Lavender and jam."
I pulled down the driveway near the sign and found four adorable little children running a tiny lavender stand set up at a folding table. Their mother was nearby checking their math as they made change, and the whole family welcomed me as I rode up. Even their black cat was participating in the family business: He came out to investigate my bike and sniff at its tires. The youngest girl proudly picked up Pussy to show him to me closer and introduce us. The cat's expression remained nonchalent as she hoisted him up above her own face - the features of which were flooded with pride in her kitty. The cat was so large and the girl so small that in this position - with the cat's head above hers, the kitty's ragdoll-limp feet dangled down to the girl's own. The cat looked at me calmly through golden eyes. "Hello. These are my humans," he seemed to be saying.
I bought two bags of lavender from them, chatted a bit about my ride, and resolved to check for the wonderful little family again at the next Lavender Festival.
I was already tired when I headed for home, and by the time I was halfway there I somewhat regretted all the extra miles I had put in earlier searching in vain for the duck pond farm. (The various puttering about I had done around the Sequim area probably meant that my full mileage for the day would add up to around 80 miles.) Regrets don't change facts though, and I pedalled on despite my burning leg muscles. I thought of what a piker I would (justifiably) be considered by my more athletic friends or by historic cyclists like the women I had read about. In my own defense, it wasn't so much the distance as all the steep hills along the route that were exhausting me. I kept thinking of short stories I had read in nineteenth-century cycling magazines about cycling parsons, reflecting that their favorite passage must have been Isaiah 40:4: "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain." I imagined one of the preachers from the stories composing an entire sermon that text during a ride like this one.
It started to rain when I was five or six miles from home, but luckily it was a soft, misty rain and not a drenching one. It softened the edges of the landscape and hung a silky gray veil over everything as I pulled into Port Townsend.
I finally got home at nine o'clock at night, having been riding nearly non-stop since 2:45 in the morning. Gabriel had a hot supper waiting for me of beans, vegetables and rice. Food never tastes so good - nor bed so welcome - as when one is completely exhausted.
 Dorman, Will B. "Perfumes and Perfumery." Good Housekeeping. May 26, 1888. page 30.
 White, Mrs. H.E. "A Plea for the Old-Fashioned Lavender." The Gardener's Monthly and Horticulturalist. Vol. 22. No. 263 (November, 1880): p. 325.
 Immigration Aid Society of North-Western Washington. North-Western Washington: It's [sic] Soil, Climate, Productions and General Resources, With Detail Description of the Counties of Jefferson, Clalam, Island, San Juan and Whatcom. Puget Sound Argus, 1877. p. 22