The View from the Top of a Meadow
For two days my dearest friend and I spent long hot hours going from farm to farm in the Oregon Lavender Festival. We saw some farms which were spectacular, some which were little mom & pop affairs, some with animals such as rabbits, llamas, alpacas or chickens (I was very interested in the chickens, but the big brown eyes of the llamas tugged at my heart). We bought lavender, we ate lavender, we lived lavender and logged something near 400 miles.
I comfort my conscious regarding the energy spent going to half of the farms considered part of the tour in the knowledge that my friend would have gone with or without me and that neither of us are driving elsewhere for an extended vacation this year. It was not exactly a staycation, but considering that we came back to Mt. Angel each night for her it was not a vacation and for both of us it was soul refreshing—especially our last stop on this lavender journey.
In a sense we unwittingly saved the best for last. My tour director and driver had debated the wisdom of going to Latitudes of Lavender since it was halfway to the beach in Forest Grove. We were hot and weary from some wrong turns (which included a nude beach on Sauvie Island) and the necessity of availing ourselves of some decrepit port-a-potties. Although the weatherman had promised cooler temperatures for Sunday, he must have had his head in the port-a-potty because it was every bit as hot as Saturday, but without the benefit of the breeze of that day.
Not only was Latitudes of Lavender located in the opposite direction of home, once we found the turn off it was five miles up a one lane winding gravel road. It was 4:30 and the tour was to end at 5. What would be there when we arrived? We speculated on how anyone could grow lavender in the midst of so many trees. Finally we reached our destination and pulled into a pasture through a pole fence. We obviously were the last to arrive for the day…for this year’s festival.
The first striking thing about the place was the silence. Being so far from town and traffic there was only the sound of nature and the forest that surrounds two meadows of lavender. We walked down the slope to an awning where three people sat in the shade quietly talking.
There are those moments when one recognizes kindred spirits. Ann and Greg McKernan are two lovely welcoming souls who consider themselves the stewards of their eleven acres of forest and lavender. They do not have a shop with lavender products or ambitions to earn a living from their place—just to make the place pay for itself. What they have is peace.
Immediately Ann handed us a sheet about their labyrinth which lies at the bottom of their meadow near the trees and Greg invited us to walk around the lavender fields, the meadow and the trails through the woods, telling us that when we returned he’d have bundles of lavender for us. Because of the heat the woods are what called us so we walked down the hill to look at the large labyrinth and then to walk in the shade of the Doug Firs whose lower branches have been cut away to make for easy wandering. “This would make a wonderful place for a retreat house,” my friend commented.
Had the day not been in the 90s both of us would have enjoyed spending a long time walking the labyrinth. Instead we enjoyed the shade of the forest and drank in the silence. When we hiked back up the hill, true to his word, Greg had two huge bundles of lavender, free of charge, waiting for us. We chatted with the couple for several minutes and mentioned the idea of using the place as a spiritual retreat. They both brightened at the idea and said that although they’ve had some weddings there, they were taking ideas for expanding the use of the place.
Latitudes is located at 1,300 feet which coupled with the cold Spring this year meant that the lavender was only just coming into bloom, about a week behind the farms we’d been to lower down. The McKernans assured us that in another week their meadows would be purple and urged us to return, but our celebration of lavender was drawing to a close.
As we drove back down the dusty gravel road, ending our lavender weekend, we took some of the peace we’d found at Latitudes of Lavender. We were to need it since we managed to get caught on I-5 in the back-up of a serious accident as we headed toward Mt. Angel. Fortunately there was still lemonade and cookies in the cooler so we put down the windows and shut off the car and said silent prayers for the injured who was Life Flighted away from the scene to Portland. We were only stuck for about half an hour and were grateful to return to Mt. Angel, food and a shower.
Our weekend of lavender had been full of adventure, surprises, and laughter. If you love lavender or just want to spend time in a pretty part of the world, Oregon’s Lavender Festival could take you on a lovely tour.