by Miki Craighead
Just now my sweet peas are blooming, and I visit them as often as I can to smell their
Sweet peas bring back many pleasant memories of my childhood. When I was still in grade school, I was treated to a time to visit with my cousin Dick Junk who was the same age as I. Since my family did not own a car, my Aunt Elva would travel from Olympia to Tacoma to pick me up and take me on the long journey to Mud Bay, just outside of Olympia. Believe it or not, the trip took nearly a whole day, as Pacific Highway was only a gravel road
in the late 1930’s.
Dick’s mom, my Aunt Margie, planted many wonderful things in her garden which included a large bed of sweet peas. She allowed me to pick as many as I wished, so I would make garlands for my hair and for the pussy cat, and bouquets for the dinner table, and nosegays for my dolls. What a delicious time that was!
Of course cousin Dick didn’t especially enjoy that kind of activity, so I reluctantly gave in
to other more boy-like activities. I learned to row a boat under the guidance of my
cousin. He had the most beautiful blue eyes that God ever created. They were
translucent, semiopaque eyes that lured me into a trance. Oops, I digress with the sigh
of a twitterpated female! We went fishing in Mud Bay with a little row boat and Dick
would have to bait my hook and take care of any fish caught, but it was satisfying that I
could add other accomplishments to my life, even though the fish we caught were only
bullheads which had to go back into the water, thank goodness.
My Uncle Merle and Aunt Margie’s property was also near an oyster farm. Dick and I in
our boat often would row out to a scow where a laborer was sorting oysters. I’m sure
this worker was probably annoyed by our childish inquisitiveness. Sometimes he let us
fish from the scow.
When we got tired of fishing and annoying the oyster guy, we often would row up the
bay and find a fun spot in which to play and tell each other stories. I don’t recall ever
wearing a life jacket in the boat. I’m not even sure they had such things in those days!
And we were totally trusted by the adults in charge, as they never requested to
chaperone us or question where we went or what we did.
Sometimes Dick and I would wander into the woods and look for licorice root, a fern that
grows like a parasite on trees. We would suck on the root, savoring the flavor of real
licorice. With the internet capability, I now learn that licorice root is medicinal, and very
good for sore throats and cough.
Our excursions lasted a goodly amount of time. We would need to relieve ourselves,
and without a bathroom close by we had to be industrious about our needs. All I could
do was hide behind a bush and use big leaves for toilet paper. Since boys are
graciously endowed with an easier way to relieve themselves, Dick was quite
industrious. He found a clear spot on a high precipice and aimed his flow over the hill,
naming his special spot “pee point view!” I remember being shocked and embarrassed
while he proudly aimed his urine out over that high hill overlooking the bay.
July 4th celebrations at Mud Bay were memorable because my parents would have
nothing to do with the noisy, dangerous, fireworks; and these vacations with my cousin’s
family gave me the opportunity to experience them. Uncle Merle let me light sparklers,
and then taught me how to light a punk with which to light and throw a firecracker. But, I
assume that I was as right brained then as I am now, and I mistakingly lit the firecracker
and threw the punk! I can still see Uncle Merle running to the cupboard for the first aid
kit, and hastily bandaging my badly burned thumb!
I now digress and return to visit my pot of sweet peas. Within this aromatic meditative
moment, I am reminded that these sweet smelling blossoms are here only for a brief
time. Like our lives, they wlll wither and die, but only to evolve into seeds and make
possible new blooms in another year. And like the sweet pea, we will wither in old age
and die; but our lives will transform to the spiritual world, leaving behind in our loved
ones important essences of our lives.
Note: The property at Mud Bad is now owned by the State of Washington. My uncle
built a newer home there in later years which was designed by my dad, Stanley T.
Shaw, architect. After the State took over the property, this house was used as the administration building of Evergreen State College.