Mikel Townsley’s flower stand “Wild is Her Favorite Color” has become a popular attraction on Cays Road since going up on July 5. She planted more than 700 starts this year as a project to help channel her energies after working at the Olympic Medical Cancer Center. (Matthew Nash /Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Mikel Townsley’s flower stand “Wild is Her Favorite Color” has become a popular attraction on Cays Road since going up on July 5. She planted more than 700 starts this year as a project to help channel her energies after working at the Olympic Medical Cancer Center. (Matthew Nash /Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sequim flower stand eases stresses

Cancer center patient-navigator finds solace in garden

SEQUIM — Standing at Mikel Townsley’s flower stand, visitors can see Dungeness Spit. Turning around, they have a view of the Olympic Mountains.

Those who poke their heads into the stand at her Cays Road garden to pick a bouquet, sold for a nominal price, may smell sweet peas or catch the fireworks-effect of dahlias.

Whether the flowers go to the dinner table or to a loved one, Townsley, 34, said she’s not trying to go into a big business.

“I just want to make people’s days better,” she said.

Since May 2017, the Sequim High School graduate has worked as a patient navigator — and for the last few months also as supportive care lead — for Olympic Medical Cancer Center in Sequim. She interacts with patients at various stages of treatment, seeing some for more than three years, she said.

Tucker, a lab/Pyrenees, greets visitors to Mikel Townsley’s flower stand in Dungeness with a big smile. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Tucker, a lab/Pyrenees, greets visitors to Mikel Townsley’s flower stand in Dungeness with a big smile. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

“I don’t work for a paycheck,” Townsley said. “I care about offering people a meaningful experience that they are being seen and advocated for.

“You think about those people’s lives all the time.”

Townsley’s stress relief used to be running.

“It was my way of processing the day,” she said.

A health issue and advice from her doctor led to a dramatic change in her lifestyle, sending her into her garden.

“I just came to this place,” she said. “It’s heavy, and I wanted something light.

“It was a polarity. In this process, I want to put my hands in the dirt and create something for these people.”

Ryan and Tom Schaafsma helped Mikel Townsley build her flower stand this summer in exchange for a fresh bouquet each week for Ryan’s vacation rental by owner. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Ryan and Tom Schaafsma helped Mikel Townsley build her flower stand this summer in exchange for a fresh bouquet each week for Ryan’s vacation rental by owner. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Little house by the bluff

Before the garden came the seed of an idea that she’d eventually live at her house, now at 2680 Cays Road.

Townsley moved to Sequim/Dungeness with her mom Victoria and older brother Gavin, who now lives in San Francisco, Calif., when she was in the third grade. They lived nearby on Victoria View Street and they often drove past the little house.

“I remember telling my mom I was going to live there someday,” she said.

About two years ago, Townsley was living in west Port Angeles but looking for a place in Sequim. She had two priorities for her new home: a fenced yard for her dog, Tucker, and living close enough to ride her bike to work.

When she drove out to the 1938 farmhouse on Cays Road with homeowner Ruth Beach, who had rental properties with her husband, Glenn, she remembers saying, “ ‘Oh my gosh!’ I knew it was the same place.”

When she moved in, the landscaping went around the home and featured sage and Shasta daisies. However, in her line of work, the phrase “pushing up daisies” came to mind too often.

“I couldn’t have that,” she said.

So she dug them up and started anew.

With COVID-19 precautions in place, Victoria Townsley postponed her move to Tucson, Ariz., to live with her daughter, Mikel. “If she wasn’t here, I’d be even more exhausted without her,” Mikel said. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

With COVID-19 precautions in place, Victoria Townsley postponed her move to Tucson, Ariz., to live with her daughter, Mikel. “If she wasn’t here, I’d be even more exhausted without her,” Mikel said. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Fresh starts

Townsley knew she wanted to expand her garden after she painted the house with some help from Glenn Beach.

A dividing fence went in during February 2019 to separate Tucker’s roaming area from the future garden. She rented a sod cutter and planted dahlias, her favorite, and sweet peas, which she said smell like “fresh summer mornings.”

This year, Townsley went all-in with her garden, filling her sun porch and dining room table with about 700 flower starts.

“It took a little while, but I got it all in the ground after a few weekends,” she said.

Sweet peas and dahlias are two of Mikel Townsley’s favorites in her garden. Proceeds from bouquet sales will help with some expenses of obtaining a master’s degree in social work. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sweet peas and dahlias are two of Mikel Townsley’s favorites in her garden. Proceeds from bouquet sales will help with some expenses of obtaining a master’s degree in social work. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

To build the flower stand, she enlisted longtime friend Ryan Schaafsma, her best friend Arin’s brother, and their dad Tom — on the condition Ryan receives a fresh bouquet each week for his vacation rental by owner.

The stand was built on the Fourth of July and was up on July 5. Some people stop by to chat or to buy flowers, or both.

“It’s really amazing how many people rubberneck driving by, or yell out the window, ‘Nice flowers,’ ” Townsley said.

As a grade school student, Mikel Townsley told her mom some day she’d live in this house on Cays Road. Years later, Mikel lives there with her mom, Victoria, and dog, Tucker. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

As a grade school student, Mikel Townsley told her mom some day she’d live in this house on Cays Road. Years later, Mikel lives there with her mom, Victoria, and dog, Tucker. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Genetic green thumb

Townsley grew up with a mother who was a horticulturist but “didn’t fall in love with it.”

Years later, she signed up for a plot in the Fifth Street Community Garden in Port Angeles.

“I just loved it,” Townsley said. “It was a great way to grow my own vegetables.”

She worked the plot for three years before finding the trek too much while working in Sequim.

Townsley is finding the silver lining during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her mom is living with her for the time being. Victoria recently retired from the Port Angeles Library, intending to move to Tucson, Ariz., but those plans have been delayed since April.

“If she wasn’t here, I’d be even more exhausted without her,” Townsley said.

“My assistant is on leave (at the center) and I’m trying to keep pace. (My mom) is a gifted floral arranger, and I’m extremely grateful.”

Her mom and brother inspired the name of the flower stand: Wild is Her Favorite Color.

When Townsley turned 30, her mom and brother surprised her with a party, and Gavin picked out a poem for her, “Wild is Her Favorite Color” by J. Iron Word.

As a grade school student, Mikel Townsley told her mom some day she’d live in this house on Cays Road. Years later, Mikel lives there with her mom, Victoria, and dog, Tucker. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

As a grade school student, Mikel Townsley told her mom some day she’d live in this house on Cays Road. Years later, Mikel lives there with her mom, Victoria, and dog, Tucker. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Flower stand

Each day, Townsley and her mom put out about 15 bouquets, choosing from some 80 varieties of flowers from the garden, and they sell out each day. She plans to keep the stand open until early October or when the first frost comes.

Proceeds will go toward costs of Townsley’s master’s degree in social work at the University of Washington, which she will start in late September.

The Clallam County Physician’s Fund awarded her a scholarship, too. She plans to continue working at the cancer center while she takes classes.

Sweet peas and dahlias are two of Mikel Townsley’s favorites in her garden. Proceeds from bouquet sales will help with some expenses of obtaining a master’s degree in social work. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sweet peas and dahlias are two of Mikel Townsley’s favorites in her garden. Proceeds from bouquet sales will help with some expenses of obtaining a master’s degree in social work. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Her plan is to remain in the area and continue working in social work. Bouquets will remain a staple in her office but not around the cancer center, she said, as she wants to respect people’s allergies.

Meanwhile, Townsley said, the flowers “make me feel like I’d added another layer of something beautiful to the world.”

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

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