Thursday, October 15, 2020

Lighthouse Flowers

"Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature." -Gerard de Nerval

* * * * *

To be perfectly honest, I've gone to my hometown beach so many times that one trip blends rather seamlessly into the next, and there's not much to make any particular day's visit stand out from all the others.
Washington State Ferry, Mukilteo Light, and the Light-keeper's Residence. 
And Gracie. 

Charming lighthouse.
Cloudy sky.
Rocky beach.
Enormous ferries chugging merrily across the water.

Big red dog wagging happily.
Polar Bear Club. 

And taking a few dips in the always-chilly water. 

But on this particular visit to Mukilteo Beach with three of my daughters on an overcast September afternoon, two remarkable things happened to make this a visit to remember. 

1. Despite my best efforts to keep up, my twisted chocolate-vanilla ice cream soft-serve cone got away from me and I ended up with streams of melted ice cream running down the entire length of my right forearm and dripping off my elbow. 

2. Delightfully inviting, the gates in the white picket fence around the lighthouse and the light-keeper's residence had been propped open and we decided to explore the property. 

I've prowled through the buildings before. They're charming to be sure - both the lighthouse proper and the larger residence, which was used up until the 1990s - but far more interesting to me were the flowers.
A short, yellow daisy amid drifts of sweet alyssum. 

All around the perimeter of the tidy clapboard buildings were narrow and well-kept beds of flowers. 

Instantly, they called me back through the decades to my paternal grandmother's house. 

Deep in the belly of Detroit, tucked into the shadows beneath the iconic River Rouge manufacturing plant where my grandfather had worked the engines in the freight yard, I visited this place only a handful of times during my childhood and felt mostly out of my element in the city. But outdoors, I marveled at the charming tangle of bright blooms that grew effortlessly in this foreboding environment and felt delightfully at home among the flowers.
Deep crimson hollyhock. 

These flowers gave me the same sense of ease. 

Old timers, classic cottage garden favorites, I recognized them all and noticed that most of them grow in my own garden just a few miles away.
Yellow daisy against smudges of magenta impatiens. 

But whereas my flower beds lay deep and wide, flowing in organic curves against the farthest edges of my yard, these prim rectangles sit snug between the buildings and the narrow sidewalks that wrap round them, exactly as was the fashion a hundred years ago.

I was, in a word, transported.
Lacy pink hydrangea. 

While they still bloomed heartily, these grand September beauties showed the change of season, with a few brown and wilting petals among their elegant ruffles. Unlike summer blossoms, bright and eager, the season's last blooms acquire a particular grace and wisdom that comes only with age.
A different pink hydrangea and a fern near the porch.

Around and around I walked in slow circles, noticing new details and hidden treasures with each passing by.
A magenta hollyhock. 

While I was absorbed in this reverie, Gracie entertained herself by scenting out the rabbits hiding in the hedges, and going into full hunt mode. 

We both enjoyed this gentle adventure and took our sweet time.
Japanese anemone.
Pink dahlias on sturdy stems.
Light blue hydrangea.
Red and purple hollyhocks.
Hydrangea and Japanese anemone. 

Eventually I became aware of the workers re-roofing the lighthouse proper, the pair of teenage girls holding a private photo shoot against the porch steps, my daughters waiting patiently at the gate for me to finish.

The spell was broken.

But I will be back to visit them again, these lighthouse flowers, and see their blossoming souls. 

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