Swans Trail

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how close we live to rural areas that fill in along the I5 corridor once you get north of Everett. We’re not even in the car for five minutes, and already we’re staring down a long stretching through fields of farmland. On the side of the road is something that looks like a wedge-shaped parade float constructed out of political signs and novelty American flags, imploring us to help make America great again.

“Take the exit like you would if we were heading into downtown, but turn right,” my wife Melissa instructs from the passenger seat. We go out to the same farm every year, but somehow I fail to internalize the way to get there. To be fair, there are perhaps a dozen such places within a ten minute drive of one another, and we frequently shoot weddings at one or another any given summer. They get mixed up in my head.

“What does the farm grow?” asks my daughter Rory from the backseat. I glance at her in the rear-view mirror at those big brown eyes behind the lenses of her aquamarine glasses. She’s above your average six year old in most measures; taller, cognitive ability, more sophisticated vocabulary, etc.

She’s only four and a half.

“It’s a pumpkin farm,” Missy volunteers most unhelpfully.

Ugh!” Rory delivers a near-perfect simulacrum of the grunts of annoyance so frequently uttered by her older cousin. It’s not her most charming trait. “I mean what does it grow besides pumpkins!”

“Corn, and I don’t know what else,” Missy answers. “Every farm around here grows corn.”

I’m pretty sure they grow apples, too.

“I don’t think so,” Missy disagrees. “I’ve never seen any apple trees there.”

Still pretty sure they grow apples.

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There are a lot of places of business along this stretch of road take the name of Swans Trail, which in turn takes its name from the Swans Slough it runs alongside. The Chapel at Swans Trail. The Farm at Swans Trail. Swans Trail Farms.

For added confusion, The Farm at Swans Trail and Swans Trail Farms are on the same property, but are two different venues. You can walk right off one and into the other and never know it. It’s enough to make me rub my temples in pain if I think about it too long.

All these places have swans in their signage. I’m almost certain Swans Slough is named after a person with the last name of Swans rather than the bird, though a cursory Google search on my phone doesn’t turn up anything except the businesses that take their name after it. I think it’s the grammar of it that bugs me. “Swans Trail” rather than “Swan Trail” or “Swans’ Trail.” It’d be like naming something “Cows Lane.” It makes the curmudgeonly editor that resides in my head twist his lip in chagrin.

These are the thoughts that occupy my mind as I navigate our ridiculous little green Kia Soul into the grassy field that serves as The Farm’s parking lot during the season. The sky is a brilliant, crystalline blue swept with lingering cirrus clouds trailing the weather system that has been raining on us for the past week. Or maybe it’s heralding the next. Possibly both; it is October in the Pacific Northwest, after all.

The ground has been churned to mud long before our arrival, and I try and keep a happy medium between keeping enough speed to not get stuck in the stuff while not running anyone over in the throngs of pedestrian traffic walking up to the farm from their own parking spots. This is the one day of the year that I wear my boots, and it changes the tactile familiarity of the pedals to something alien.

Once the car is parked and we’ve picked our way through the grass and mud, we meet up with Missy’s sister and our nephew who’ve arrived in another car. My sister-in-law is a few years older than me and my wife. We don’t have a lot in common–besides my wife–outside of writing and editing. But to the best of my knowledge, she doesn’t do much of either anymore. She has a fawning admiration for J.K. Rowling as some sort of literary genius that I find mildly off-putting.

The day’s hardly begun, and already my nephew is in a churlish mood. He’s difficult to contend with in the best of times, as he his understanding of the world and reaction to it are filtered both ways by  a variety of behavioral conditions. High(ish)-functioning autism. Operational defiance disorder. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Adolescence.

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