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A Valentine From Miss Olivia

A Valentine From Miss Olivia
cutie valentine
Olivia on one of her first visits to Tall Clover Farm

I’ve always been a quiet admirer of the valentine. While the day celebrating its delivery seems a bit overwrought with expectations, I have to admit, I would still be delighted should an artful and poetic missive find its way into my mailbox, hand or heart.  As a giver of valentines, I’m a shameful rake on a one-way street, but in my defense I should hope my actions and intent speak for my heart on a daily basis. (Need a ride to the dock, or an encouraging word, I’m your man.) The gifts and actions of  the heart are surely not reserved for a single day in mid-February, but I digress.

Just recently, within a red rose’s reach of Valentine’s Day, I received an email from a longtime friend. With no subject line to reveal its aim, the email held added intrigue in the form of an attachment. I opened the email to find my friend Leslie’s kind words and birthday wishes. As for the attachment, she wrote, “Thought I would share an essay Miss Olivia wrote and got a Grade A on! The assignment was to write about a place that was special to her.”

Tom Olivia Gypsy Tree
A younger Olivia and I make a visit to the gypsy tree, where trinkets and treasures are often found.

I must say this heartfelt essay warmed my heart as surely, and if not more so, than any store-bought valentine could hope to.  Thank you Olivia, the sun shines brighter when you visit.  

Olivia’s Essay

Everyone has a special place in their life. What makes a place unique and personal to a person varies depending on the person, however, my favorite place is somewhere that is relaxing, but also somewhere I can have a little adventure. It’s a short ferry ride away from the mainland hidden away in the blue waters of Puget Sound. It is Vashon Island.

Vashon Island always instantly tranquilizes me. Specifically, my mom’s friend Tom’s farm. His small farm is filled with all sorts of plants, from small fig trees to bright dahlias to tomato plants to thorn-filled blackberry bushes. There’s also a huge striped hammock that I take afternoon naps on and is practically the epitome of relaxation. Tom’s house is very charming. It has a cute kitchen that always has something cooking on the stove and little vases of flowers and a huge porch that has a perfect view of the flowers. Whenever we visit him, we always have a picnic lunch on the porch early in the afternoon and then apple crisp later in the day.

lunch on the porch
Olivia and mom Leslie sure know how to put on a moveable feast.

The scenery on Vashon Island is all gorgeous. The plants are all very green and lush, while Puget Sound is always blue and calm. Downtown Vashon is calm and quiet with minimal traffic and no skyscrapers. Overall, Vashon Island is very peaceful. Vashon Island is also somewhere I can have many little adventures. Whenever I go to Tom’s house I always have to check the gypsy tree. The gypsy tree is this tree that always has random, little things in it left by the “gypsies.” When I was little, the gypsy tree always had coins and animal figurines it, but as I’ve gotten older the gypsy tree has things like charms, small little mirrors, and still a little pottery animal or two.

My mom, Tom, and I go on little shopping trips to the antique stores on the island. I always look through the sparkly vintage jewelry and the vintage clothes for a little treasure to take home with me. We also look through the floral quilts and the vintage iron beds. A trip to Vashon Island is never complete for me without a stop at my favorite bakery/cafe, Snapdragon. The bakery is brightly colored with huge bouquets of flowers scattered on the counter, the tables inside and outside in the courtyard. Everything there is perfection like the huge chocolate chip cookies, brick oven pizzas, and chocolate cupcakes decorated with fresh strawberries.

Vashon Island is very calm and full of little adventures. Special places are very personal and specific places, but everyone has at least one place that is close to their heart and meaningful to them.

hammock testers
Four of my favorite hammock testers

Miss Olivia and I go way back, since she was a rosy-cheeked baby, and I had a full head of hair. I must say what makes my place special to me is sharing it with friends who find it special as well.  Thank you Olivia, for a lovely essay. I wonder what we’ll find in the gypsy tree on your next visit?


  1. Tom, what a special surprise this essay was. Olivia is a sweet young lady and obviously you are a very dear man to impact her enough to write so beautifully. Someday I hope to see the gypsy tree and the bakery and of course, Boz and Gracie and you. Very touching post. You deserve it.

  2. Thank you Susan, I do feel very fortunate with the big hearts in my life! Now as for your visit, I have openings 2014 thru 2025. Would love to see you and the Trout! Boz and Gracie concur. Your dear Rachel is my thoughts and prayers.

  3. All children need honorary uncles and aunties in their lives to show them special places, to love them without condition, to delight in their very beingness. You are obviously one of Olivia’s special uncles – her essay is a most perfect valentine. Well done Tom.

  4. What a sweet child, loved her essay! Adopted nieces, nephews and grandchildren are wonderful gifts we give ourselves.
    I was sitting here at the end of my birthday and reading Olivia’s essay brought a smile to my heart and the perfect ending to a lovely day.
    Thanks for sharing Tom…

  5. Mayhaps it is because of the howling wind and freezing rain but if a teleporter had been available I would have set the dials for Vashon after reading that. On second thought, nothing to do with the weather here, everything to do with the picture painted there. You’ve got a rival in writing style Tom!
    PS Tom, I have just tasted a jelly which surpasses the Salt Spring Wild Plum- Lilikoi! or Passionfruit. Made some with juice that we brought home from a warmer climate than here. Now am determined to figure out how to grow them on the Gulf Islands. Ha.Ha. However, your greenhouse…?

    • Passionfruit jelly, eh? My curiosity is piqued. How clever of you to make jelly from purchased juice. I’ll have to try that. Thanks for the kind words, and nice comment. cheers my fine neighbor to the north!


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