EARLY SPRING IN THE SKAGIT VALLEY: DAFFODILS AND QUILTS
After what seemed like 40 days of rain the sun came out, warm and spring-like. It was the signal to take a drive an hour north of home to the small town of La Conner, located where the Skagit Valley meets saltwater in the form of the Swinomish Channel. The town was founded in 1867 and many of the original buildings remain. But instead of housing banks, churches, and butchers, they are clothing stores, art galleries, antique shops and restaurants. The town was also formerly the home of a large flock of wild turkeys but we didn’t see any this time. Word has it that they were sent to a rest home after causing a ruckus for too many years but disappointing the many birdwatchers who come to the area.
The nearby farmland is famous for bulb production along with other crops. The waterfront is lined with working craft to bring salmon, crab, mussels and oysters to the table.
Completing the picturesque scene is a red bridge which would not look out of place in Japan. It leads to the Swinomish Indian Reservation.
The annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival was beginning without the cooperation of the tulips, but the enormous fields of daffodils were a delight.
Old farmhouses, some of which have been turned into B&Bs, stood in the fields framed by the snowy Cascade Mountains and the hills of the San Juan Islands. In a week or so, the whole valley will be a blaze of color as the tulips reach their peak.
Our mission was specific: to visit the La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum (www.laconnerquilts.org
) to donate a quilt made in the 1930s. The timing was fortuitous – the Winter exhibit of crazy quilts had been put away the day before and a new exhibit of quilts from the ’30s had just been arranged for Spring.
The museum is housed in the three-story Gaches Mansion dating to 1891, recently restored. After the curator looked at the quilt she showed us around and told us about the quilts displayed on walls along with an exhibit of suzanis donated by a local collector.
The curator decided to use our quilt as a table decoration for the three-month long Spring exhibit, so now it has joined many others made by farm women gathered together around a quilting frame to gossip and stitch fabric scraps from feed and flour sacks during the dark days of the Depression.
When it was lunch time, we chose the Nell Thorn Restaurant and Pub to sit by the water watching sailboats head out for an afternoon’s pleasure and an eagle circling lazily overhead. Across the channel, are three structures in the shape of Swinomish Indian hats used to welcome the paddlers of more than a hundred canoes from coastal tribes who gather every July to rest, share songs and tales of their journey across the sometimes treacherous waters.
In keeping with the theme of “eat local,” we dined on wonderful tiny oysters and local draft beer. Deciding to feed our minds after our stomachs were satisfied, we headed for the Museum of Northwest Art (www.museumofnwart.org) to see works by Mark Tobey, Kenneth Callahan and Guy Anderson. A special showing of John Cole’s work took up much of the ground floor. Some of his work, particularly the figures of women, reminded us of Gauguin although the landscape paintings are on Northwest themes.
Later, we passed flocks of laggard Snow Geese who winter by the hundreds of thousands in the area. It was time for them to go north to their nesting grounds and for us to go south to our home, grateful a prized member of the family has joined its sister quilts to be enjoyed by other admirers.
photos by author.