Lavender helps heal farmer's grief

When Mary Borland talks about her late husband Steve, her eyes light up and a smile tugs at the corners of her mouth.

"He's passionate about cycling," Borland said.

"He'd rather ride a bike somewhere than drive."

It's not just from habit that Borland speaks about her husband in the present tense. Steve died Feb. 24 at home after a 14-month battle with a brain tumor, but his spirit lives on in Borland's memory, heart and day-to-day routines at Olympic Lavender Farm.

Some people expressed surprise when Borland announced her intention to participate in the Sequim Lavender Festival tour for the 13th year in a row, July 17-19, despite her husband's death, she admitted, but the decision actually was a very easy one to make.

The farm is on tour for the same reason that Steve's voice still greets people on the answering machine:

To honor the man Borland spent 37 years with in holy matrimony - her business partner, soul mate and best friend.

"We talked about it while he was still alive and decided together last fall to be on tour again," Borland said.

"After he died, I was in a real daze for a while but I just kept contacting vendors, sending out letters, planning the music .... It's what he wanted me to do."

With the help of friends and family, everything is falling into place as the countdown for lavender festival continues. Tending to the crops and taking care of business distracts Borland from the inevitable loneliness that follows the death of a spouse.

"Deadlines have come and gone and I've managed to meet them," Borland said. "It's all coming together and I feel pretty good about how the farm looks and the decisions I've made."

Not to say that the past few months of preparation have gone without hang-ups. The computer crashed twice and Borland had to buy and program a new laptop.

Before Steve died, he did all the computer work and printed all the labels for products, a task Borland finds more than a little daunting.

"It's been a steep learning curve upward," Borland said. "It's been very challenging but I'm proud of myself for all that I've accomplished."

She couldn't have survived the past four months without the help of her friends, community members and fellow lavender farmers, Borland said.

Multiple product-making sessions have filled the shelves of the gift shop with inventory, including culinary products, lotions, oils, creams, mists and handmade French flea market aprons.

A group weeding session with her former co-workers at Helen Haller Elementary School accomplished in a couple of hours what would have taken Borland several days to do by herself.

More than 8,000 people are expected to walk through the fields at Olympic Lavender Farm during the three-day festival.

New this year, Olympic Lavender Farm will offer lavender blueberry sorbet ice cream and lavender blueberry tea. Back by popular demand is beekeeper Morris Clemmer.

As the festival approaches and she marks each day off with an "X" on the calendar, Borland said she can't help but be excited for what she knows is just around the corner.

"I love talking to all the people," she said. "To think that people come here from all over the world: Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, Norway, Canada ... just to see what we have in our backyards is amazing."

Borland is asking people not to avoid mentioning Steve's name for fear of upsetting her. They were partners in love and life for more than three decades, and she looks back at their life together with fond memories, she said.

The couple met on a blind date in college. Borland signed up with a friend for a skiing class and her friend's boyfriend invited Steve to join the group.

"He didn't call for a couple weeks," Borland remembered with a chuckle.

"But then he did."

A special education teacher in Port Townsend, Borland won't be returning to school next year.

"I'm ready to relax a little bit," she said, noting that she'll continue operating the lavender farm in retirement and is looking forward to the change.

Lavender is useful in everyday life, according to Borland. A dab of oil placed between the eyes will help cure a headache, she said, and rubbing a pea-sized amount of cream on a rash or burn will help the injury heal faster and lessen scarring.

A few mothers of fussy infants and toddlers have told her that placing a sachet of lavender in the child's pillow, bathing the youngster in lavender-scented soap, and applying oil or lotion to the skin has worked "sleep miracles," Borland said.

For more information, go online to

Ashley Miller can be reached at

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