Lavender dreams of the old West
It was just supposed to be a few days off from the scorching heat of the summer Sonoran Desert. It was not meant to be a transformational journey. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I rarely go on “vacation” or “holiday”. I generally must have a specific purpose to travel. I don’t even visit my family unless I can combine the trip with a workshop or seminar! (sorry folks 😉 ) But as I reported in my last post, I took the opportunity to leave the desert floor for a few days just to bask in the mild temperatures and beautiful alpine scenery of the mountains.
If you knew the friends who kindly invited me, you’d know they take hosting seriously, and planned activities for the two full days I was there. I generally gamely go along with this, as who am I to dissent when they’re being such gracious hosts? I’ve stayed with these friends several times before, and as a result I’ve gone on long woodland hikes during the spectacular spring wildflower season; I’ve visited old mining towns; I’ve seen native arts and crafts; I’ve viewed prehistoric petroglyphs.
This time, though, they outdid themselves—partially without knowing they were going to. As I was about to turn in for the night on the day of my arrival I was informed we’d be visiting a “Lavender Farm” tomorrow. —A what? I ought to win a prize in diplomacy for the way I kept a pleasant face on during the discussion. First of all I hadn’t known lavender was “farmed”; never thought much about it, and even if asked, I’d say lavender was some flower old British ladies liked in soap. Even after I’d accepted the idea of a lavender farm, the thought of spending my time there seemed a bit dorky and girly, quite honestly. So why would I want to look at a bunch of flower fields and then be strongly encouraged to buy…I don’t know, some…soap? Being a good sport and all, I went along, though, and asked myself 1. How long could it take, after all? and 2. How unpleasant could it be?
We went. We saw field after field of blooming lavender of many different varieties. (I didn’t know there were varieties.) We learned some were medicinal, others, therapeutic. There was even a culinary lavender, a key ingredient in Herbes de Provence. And, speaking of Provence, I learned that city is the prime lavender producing region in the world. #2 is, as you might guess, the United Kingdom. Third on the list is, surprise, surprise, the very farm upon which I stood in the White Mountains of Arizona, USA! Apparently, the growing conditions are just perfect there, as the farm owner discovered when he planted some ornamental lavender in his garden. The rest—for his family—is history.
After scenting my pillow with the lavender essence I’d purchased ( 😉 ) and having had a splendid night’s sleep, I awoke with great anticipation of what the next day would bring. We started out early, once again (I’m NOT a morning person!) on our way to something called “Little House Museum” of the old west. I don’t harbor much romanticism about Cowboy Culture, but I’d learned (am still learning) to keep an open mind. The curator of this unique multi-building museum is a descendant of an old Mormon family, sent west by their leaders to establish communities in western lands. Her great-grandparents had homesteaded, ranched, and farmed in the area, and this lady is carrying on the tradition. In addition to having old western style cabins and lodges for rent, trail riding, hiking tours, and fly fishing lessons, she gives guided tours of her private museum which contains artifacts from pioneer life of the 1800s. Many of the items are fairly standard: Pistols, saddles, clothing, and cookware; but she has the most extraordinary collection of player pianos, self-contained player-orchestras, and nickelodeons I’ve ever seen; all in perfect working condition and demonstrated by her. She explains how her father was friends with one of the Clanton gang, who missed getting killed at the OK Corral, but was later shot and killed just down the lane from where we were standing. Another of dad’s friends was one of the “Hole-in-the-Wall” gang (you know, Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and friends), who’d decided to go “straight”. This woman was a living historical artifact herself, right before our eyes! I’d seen the movies about the above referenced western gangs; I’ve even been to Tombstone, Arizona, and have seen the re-enactment of that famous gunfight. But somehow, hearing this woman describe her life and times made it all much more real.
OK, now I come to—what was for me—the best part. My friends have lived in Arizona much longer than I have. They’re very familiar with the different areas, and had been to this museum a couple of times before but not for several years. We were informed that if we wanted to, (for four more dollars) we could tour the archaeological site. —What archaeological site?!? We glanced at each other, my hosts as puzzled as I. It turned out that, five years ago whilst plowing a field, a farm hand dug up the corner of an old foundation. Further investigation found buildings which had been inhabited a couple of thousand years ago. Indigenous peoples would destroy and bury any signs of their occupation when moving to a new place. We were told that the people living here would have broken all their pots, filled their former home with the pieces and with other debris, and then buried the site before moving on. This site was indeed filled with broken pots, many of which have now been reconstructed, and miraculously including one pot which survived intact. These artifacts are now on display, and the excavation of the site continues. It is believed to be one of the oldest and best preserved ruins of its kind and place. The archaeologist leading the tour was very knowledgeable about religious customs at the time, and, even though they were at first reluctant to do so, a local family of Hopi Indians (spiritual descendants of the original inhabitants) gave their blessings, and permission for the site to be excavated, as they believed it was Good Work for our times. They held a re-dedication ceremony, pictures of which are also on display. Our guide told us many stories of religious custom and beliefs, including why his native family believe this site was found now, in our times, as well as the message the stories depicted on the pottery have for us today.
It must be that I exude intention to always travel with a purpose. I had no idea I’d be attending “workshops and seminars” on this brief and beautiful trip. I’m blessed with fabulous friends and a constantly unfolding, curious life path. As I sprinkled some Herbes de Provence on my bagel and cream cheese this morning, I took a moment to acknowledge appreciation for All that Is.