Rose Memories

By Georgie Bright Kunkel

When my mother served two four year terms as county school superintendent she had the luxury of driving a Ford car provided by the county. But she was so honest that she never drove it anywhere but to the office and to visit the county schools. After I turned eleven, our wheels were no longer available. No matter. I walked several blocks to grade school and over a mile to high school. So you can imagine how exciting it was for me to travel from Chehalis to Portland with my nurse sister to visit her during my summer vacation.

Now fast forward to Rose Parade time 2013. My special friend asked me if I wanted to visit the Rose Garden in Portland and the Japanese and Chinese gardens as well. Three years ago I visited this rose garden with my Rosie the Riveter friend after cracking my left ankle. Now here I was, recovering from breaking my right leg and ready to experience the splendid rose garden once more. Roses of every shade had bloomed to their fullest for our pleasure and the sun which had been predicted not to show its face defied the weather reports.

The Japanese Garden tempted us to follow stepping stone trails where signs discouraged people with baby strollers from entering. It challenged us to climb to the highest point where we could walk over a narrow bridge to look down at brightly colored fish darting amongst the lily pads. For a person like me who loves color and excitement it was a change to look out at the pruned shrubbery without flowers abounding. The carefully raked sand framing each rock placement was created to encourage contemplation. Its simplicity and calmness was meant to feed the soul.

But we were not finished with our exploring as we headed to the Lan Su Chinese Garden surrounding the ornate pagoda with walls elaborately carved to tell ancient stories. As the brochure states: The Garden is designed to engage all your senses. Feel the rock mosaic underfoot. Hear the distant rushing water. Smell the seasonal blossoms. There’s no better place than the Garden to find inspiration—or yourself.

It is difficult for us westerners to contemplate the history of a culture like China with its legends passed down for many more centuries than we can imagine. Our legends are mixed with the fantasy of the Wild West which has been elaborated upon to memorialize such figures as Wyatt Earp who made his mark as a sheriff in Tombstone, Arizona. Let’s also not forget Annie Oakley of sharpshooting fame.

Portland planned ahead to preserve acres and acres of greenery and wooded trails in the heart of the city. Our own city of Seattle shares in this spirit of the green outdoors. Of late it has become more and more attractive to people gravitating to the jobs created by the entrepreneurs who developed so many business enterprises here. As I used to say, “Everyone who went west ended up in Seattle or Portland because the Pacific Ocean stopped them from going any farther west.” Such adventurers made our west coast cities the places that they are—pioneer-like and without the generations of tradition that is found on the east coast.

As I think back to the atmosphere in Portland it is like a home away from home.

And in between Portland and Seattle is my honest-to-goodness home of origin, Chehalis.

I expect to revisit the Veterans Museum there to offer some WWII memorabilia. They don’t display much from the women who served in wartime and I have some pure white silk hosiery that my sister wore as an army nurse in Africa and France during WWII. Memories of my sister in Portland and then in Seattle where she spent her last years will live on in my memory as I visualize the roses of Portland and revisit the Veterans Museum to see her delicate silk hosiery displayed there.

Georgie Bright Kunkel is a freelance writer who can be reached at or 206-935-8663.

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