On any given sunny morning, a stroll down the west end of Pacific Street may take you past the Elks Lodge, the white clapboard building also known as the old Swede-Finn Hall. Originally constructed in 1899 in a neighborhood busy with the commotion of the Finnish miners who once called it home, the building now stands in stately repose, the cream-painted facade trimmed in a tasteful lilac. Double-paned windows framed by sash curtains and a pair of elk antlers mounted above the double doors add to the historic charm.
It’s not just the building itself worth noticing, either. Two garden beds flanking the double doors announce the arrival of summertime with a fresh riot of blossoming color. Tall stalks of deep indigo lupine, flashy red blooms of delphiniums and the yellow splashes of mesa bright gaillardia all pop with color in the warmth of the sun. Thanks to the volunteer efforts of Elk members Mary Wodehouse, Suzy Day and Tom Taylor, passersby can enjoy the graceful blooms all summer.
Gardening, for Wodehouse, is an exercise in patience, planning and serenity. Usually a solo pursuit, it’s a time for quietude and getting her hands in the dirt. Though she’s been a lead volunteer gardener at the Elks Lodge for the past seven years, it’s something she’s enjoyed as long as she can remember, since she was a girl gardening with her father in their home garden in California.
“This is my Zen time,” Wodehouse said of her efforts in the lodge’s flowerbeds. “It’s peaceful. And I consider it to be an artistic endeavor.”
Also rewarding, she said, are the interactions with visitors and passersby who notice the gardeners’ handiwork and strike up conversations. She recalled one teenage girl who stopped to take in the blooms and was “just gushing over the flowers.”
For Taylor, who takes care of the daily morning watering, gardening also harks back to his youth, when as a teenager in Baltimore he found himself with some spare time and decided to dig up his parents’ weed-filled lawn to plant a garden there instead. Later in life, after he’d moved to Aspen to become a ski bum, gardening had fallen by the wayside. One day in Aspen, he found some seeds, planted them and rediscovered his early love for growing green things.
“I’ve been gardening ever since,” he said. “It’s so exciting to watch little bitty things come up and grow into something you can eat or enjoy. Just today, I ate a BLT with lettuce from my garden.”
For Day, gardening has been a new pursuit. When she began volunteering in the garden, helping Wodehouse to plan, purchase and plant the flowerbeds, she’d never gardened before. She quickly found that she loved the whole process, from choosing the plants at the nursery and planning color themes to getting her hands in the dirt.
“I just love being down in the dirt,” she said with a laugh.
For those that haven’t passed by the Elks Lodge recently and enjoyed the gardeners’ handiwork, there are two opportunities to stop by and support the community organization while enjoying the blooms this weekend. On Saturday and Sunday from 8-11 a.m., the Elks will host their traditional pancake breakfast, complete with breakfast favorites like bacon and orange juice and Bloody Marys on offer for those 21 and up. For $15, and only $5 for kids 10 and under, attendees can feast on pancakes, scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon and sausage all washed down with coffee and OJ.
“Cheapest breakfast in town!” quipped Wodehouse with a grin.
The pancake breakfast will also be on offer the following weekend, June 19 and 20, during the same times. The flowers, of course, will be free for all to enjoy.