Walking with gratitude into 2022

Cheshiahud & Tleebuleetsa, “The Last of the First” Lake Union history

As we move into the new year,  I carry with me feelings of deep gratitude, while still aware of the crises our country and world face. Fueling my gratitude are memories of a “dispersed-unity” walk on Thanksgiving Day last year (2021). On that day over 125 people walked “together,” some of us around Lake Union in the middle of Seattle, others elsewhere in the city or wherever in the world they were. In preparing this post and organizing all the photos and notes the walkers sent afterward, I felt again the love and relationships their participation expressed. It gives me hope for the new year.

In Seattle we walked in memory of a friend and much loved musician, teacher, and quiet activist, Paul Taub who died in 2021. More about Paul is here. Guiding spirits for our walk each year are Cheshiahud and Tleebuleetsa (pictured above), said to be the last Duwamish people to live a traditional, independent lifestyle on the shore of Lake Union. We honored their historic land as we walked. More about them is here. For me, knowing their history plays a part in changing the meaning of a day reserved for giving thanks.

I’ve walked around Lake Union on what’s now called the Cheshiahud Loop Trail with friends every year since 2010. In 2020, the first of our pandemic years, we walked around the lake in masks, separately or in small groups, and invited friends across the country to take their own walks “with” us – alone but together – wherever they were. They sent photos and messages recording their walks. That “dispersed-unity mask-arade” felt so good, we’ did it again 2021.

Because we had such an amazing turnout in 2021 from many parts of the country, I’ve divided the following photo and text memories into several groups: Lake Union walkers, other walkers in the Seattle area and across Washington state, and folks who walked the wider world. Enjoy the journey!

Lake Union walkers

Nearly 30 people walked around Lake Union as part of our 2021 Thanksgiving walk. Some of us walked as a group, some walked solo or in pairs. Rain was forecast and the sky looked threatening throughout the day, but it didn’t actually rain until the final couple of miles . Most Lake Union walkers walked on Thanksgiving Day, but a few made their way around the lake on a different day but with our collective procession in mind.

The group in this photo gathered at our “traditional” photo-op stop, Waterway 15. From left to right we are Suze Woolf, Shaya Lyon, Ellen Sollod. Liz Brown, Liz’s dog pal Lily, Chris Day, Steve Price, Emily Zimmerman, Sushila K.C., Garrett Cobarr, Carolyn Trapp, Micki Lippi, Paul de Barros, Sue Dickinson, and Paul & Sue’s dog pal Rosie.

A second group photo was taken a little farther down the path, closer to our coffee shop stop. We gained a few and lost a few. Included here are: Chris Day, Emily Zimmerman, Gary Rondeau, Ellen Singer, Gary & Ellen’s dog pal Sage, Parker Lindner. Parker’s dog pal Puka (in the stroller since she can’t quite make such a long walk these days), Paul & Sue’s dog pal Rosie (checking out Puka), Paul de Barros, and Sue Dickinson. I was there in both groups phone camera in hand.

Susan Peterson and her friend Pat Cirone joined us at the south end of the lake as we headed out. At about noon, before we reached Waterway 15, Susan sent me an email: “Pat and I are going to head back. Thanks so much for inviting me! And thanks for the dedication to Paul.”

Shortly after we left the park I got this text from Shaya Lyon:

On the day before Thanksgiving, I had received an email from Alida Latham: “We will try to join you for a few blocks, depending on how my body is behaving. We will watch for you in front of our house on Fairview East. We have to be elsewhere shortly thereafter though, so just a brief bit of company.” As we made the turn shown here, a couple of us sent a quick text to Alida to alert her to our approach.

No one thought to take a photo at the time, so this is a cribbed online photo of the turn in very different weather in a very different season. Imagine gray sky, bare trees, fewer cars.

A few moments later, Alida and Christopher emerged from their home, walked into the street, and met us with a bowl of tangerines for the road. A friend who hadn’t walked with us before joked that now they’d expect treats to appear at strategic moments along the entire route. Instead, they experienced a delightful first ever!

Woody (or Woodruff T.) Sullivan and his wife Barbara walked with us for the first time  as part of our 2020 dispersed-unity Thanksgiving “mask-arade” and decided to walk with us in person this year. It was wonderful to have them along. I’m sorry they didn’t show up in any of this year’s photos.

As always happens, walkers meet new friends, talk and walk together for a while in twos and threes and small groups, and then the configuration of walkers shifts and continues on in new patterns a little like leaves drifting down a stream. A good example of this motion arrived by email afterward. Suze Woolf wrote: “We enjoyed the whole time, but it was particularly lovely when we speeded up to get to know Micki Lippe and her neighbor.” Suze also sent photos:

And she annotated them: top left, “Steve Price before the Freeway/University Bridge;” top right, “Micki and I trying to do Grant Woods’ Gothic farmers;”  lower center, “Mikki Lippe’s young Nepalese neighbor, Sushila.” Micki sent a follow-up note as well: “Going on that walk was one of the best things that has happened to me in a very long time. I met Garrett, who I really enjoy talking to…and then I met a man whose name I did not catch, but he was the very tall man [Steve Price]. We had such wonderful conversations… So interesting, such bright people. Sushila really had a great time also.” And to conclude, Micki asked, “Also I was wondering am I the oldest one who was there? I will be 79 in January.” Both Suze and Micki asked for each other’s contact information. I obliged happily.

A few people walked the lake that day on slightly different routes or in the opposite direction. As some of us walked counterclockwise close to the lake’s north edge, we caught a flash of bright orange moving clockwise  on a trail above us.  The walker’s big wave let us know it was Catharina Manchanda. She was walking on the Cheshiahud Loop Trail perhaps hoping to meet up with us. But our group had veered off that trail for a while to be as close to the lake as possible. Catharina and her family have walked with us in past years. We missed them this year but were glad to at least come close.

A few other people walked with but apart from us. The next day, Tom Corddry let us know that he and Lynn Holmes had been there on Thanksgiving.

Bonnie Swift wrote about the walk that she and Toi Sennhauser took: “I’m attaching a photo of Toi and I under the Aurora Bridge taken the day after Thanksgiving. We met at the Center for Wooden Boats and walked around the lake, which makes it about a 3-hr walk. We thought of you!”

Finally, to wrap up the Lake Union walkers’ story, as a group of us reached the coffee shop at milepoint five, the rain slowly started. From there, only two of us chose to push ahead. With coffee cups in hand, Shaya and I turned, crossed over the Fremont Bridge behind us, and completed the two miles left in the loop.

Other walkers in the Seattle area and across Washington state

Meanwhile, other dispersed-unity walkers were traipsing elsewhere around Seattle and Washington State. You can travel with them below, in more or less alphabetical order.

Edie Adams, Michael Simons, their friend Jacob, and their puppy pal, Paris Doberman, walked the area around Snoqualmie Falls

Bill Affolter, Suzie Tedesko, their son, David, and grandson Shay on David’s back. “We’re on a wet, windy but beautiful Thanksgiving walk to Iceberg Point on Lopez Island. Love this great tradition.”

In my invitation I’d written: “If you’re tied to the kitchen or otherwise not very mobile, a walk around the table or the block will do!”

Lisa Buchanan and Michael Welsch in Seattle took that suggestion to heart. The day before Lisa wrote: “I will be elbow deep in cooking dishes for that day and later we will visit our friends from Taiwan to have dinner. Will send a shot of what we’re up to sometime during the day.” Then on Thanksgiving she sent this captioned photo, “Michael playing with anchovies.”

Lyn Coffin, her son Chris, and her granddaughter Anya (who goes to Stamford, Lyn noted), “walked around a small part of Lake Washington.”

Kathy Fridstein in Port Townsend, with her husband Mark Manley and grown children Heather and Eric, wrote: “We had an active, busy and wonderful Thanksgiving weekend! The day focused on tending to the fire and cooking the turkey in our pizza oven. With Mark’s careful attention I believe this was the best turkey ever. We are so thankful that this year we could enjoy family and friends at one large table indoors for wonderful conversations and a festive meal.”

Gail Gibson and Claudia Vernia sent these notes and photos from the other side of the Cascade mountains: “Thinking of you all. Happy Thanksgiving from Snow Mountain trail, squinting in the sun.”

Marcia Iwasaki with Stan Lokting sent these notes and photos from south of Seattle: “We took our Thanksgiving walk in Lakewood this morning before the torrentials. You’re a genius to inspire us all to both appreciate nature and make tummy room for feasts to come. We are a lucky bunch to enjoy this day and to know you. Happy turkey day!”

Karen Lark in Seattle wrote: “I didn’t manage to take a photo of our walk since, as one might expect from my family, it was quite late and dark by the time we walked up and down the road. It was also POURING rain, so we each had an umbrella in hand and still got quite wet. I used an umbrella from my parent’s front porch that may belong to a neighbor, with fluted edges and a pattern of large pansies over the whole thing. When light shone through the umbrella you could see all the flowers, like my own personal stained glass window on our walk. Thought of you while we were out!”


Kazuko Nakane sent a note and photo of the walk she and Alan Lau took: “Yesterday, we were at Rose Garden next to Woodland Park. It started to rain, and we went home.”

Heather Dew Oaksen sent messages both before and after her walk with husband Greg and son Erik. The day before, she wrote: “How wonderful to participate in your annual community tradition. And, such a nice tribute to Paul. He is missed for sure. Though we can’t be with you physically on T-Day, we’ll definitely invoke your spirit and those of other walkers as we stroll in Moran State Park.”

And right after their walk she sent more: “Hello and happy day to you and other walkers. We took a wet and windy hike in Moran State Park on Orcas Island gathering Hedgehog mushrooms for dinner. Nature’s tasty treat.” The results, she wrote later, were actually a mix of chanterelles and hedgehogs.

Mary Ann Peters sent a 20-second video from her walk with Thatcher Bailey along Union Bay in Seattle. A little later she added: The “Thanksgiving walks are a beautiful thing and I’m so glad they continue. My circumstances continue to limit my intersections with people, so small is the ticket.”

I couldn’t figure out how to insert her video here, but below are stills from its beginning, middle, and end moving east to west.

Judy Piggot in West Seattle sent this note: “By the time I walked it was dark. After a heart-filling day, a walk, even a wet one, was welcome. No photo though.

Simon Pritikin, who lives with his family in Seattle, sent this note and photo: “Hope your Lake Union walk was wonderful and made for another good Thanksgiving. Sorry we missed it but we did get a nice walk in the woods. Hope you’re doing OK through all of these pandemic and other challenges.”

I followed up with a note, wondering where Simon and his family had found such bright sun and gorgeous leaves. He replied agreeing that it was a pretty gray day in Seattle, but he thought he’d send “some liquid sunshine for intrepid walkers. The pic was from the week before in NJ! We had dinner with a friend on the Eastside so took a much less sunny hike that day.”

Charlie Rathbun sent a 14-second video, showing him and Nina Moser climbing steps with two little dogs. “99 steps,” he wrote. “Nina does it 10 times. I do 5.” I asked about the dog pals with them. “The Aussie is ours, Percy,” he said, “The little Cavapoo is Dosey, our neighbor Ann’s dog. She is the one behind the camera.”

Again, I couldn’t figure out how to add the video, so here’s a collage.

Debby Ross is a friend we met on a Thanksgiving walk several years ago. Turned out she had mutual friends with some of us and has come regularly since then … until this year. The day after Thanksgiving I ran into her walking on a sidewalk near my home. She was sorry not to have managed to join in but had us in her mind that day. I decided that was close enough.

Beth Sellars in Seattle wrote: “I imagine your Lake Union Walk was just as wonderful as always, in spite of the increasing rain. While we had a short period before the extended family arrived, I took your advice, and my son Matthew and I took my daughter, Anna (ZOOMING from Switzerland) on an hour-long neighborhood hike.  It was actually quite fun and humorous as we hiked along with Anna, pointing out all the “high points” and beautiful trees in the neighborhood to Anna.

“Attached is an image I took overlooking the Locks with dog Rooster, and Matthew holding Anna in ZOOM format. Thanks for the idea, Anne…it was really fun!”

David Strand, who lives a few blocks from me in Seattle, sent these memories: “I hope the 2021 thanksgiving walk was a big success back in Seattle. Here is my evidence of my virtual participation with family and friends up in Mazama in the Methow Valley. It was a little chilly but we were buoyed by my brother’s adorable and rambunctious new puppy and a beautiful pileated woodpecker sighting.”

The whole group included David, Connor, Michaela, Aravind, Eileen, Jonah, Kira, KC, Kristi, Dana, and Erik. The solo pair is David and Connor. I forgot to get the dogs’ names.

Walkers in the wider world

The sense of connection and relationship across the city and state were amplified by the knowledge that, far and wide, others were walking with us. Notes and photos of their journeys follow, again in alphabetical order so as to avoid any other sense of hierarchy than the alphabet.

Rebecca Barnes in New Bedford, Massachusetts, wrote: “Here’s my Thanksgiving picture – before our walk! Forgot to bring my camera when we ewent out. My friends Pam and Andrea, and my dog Arty. Hope your deadlines were good ones.

Wendy Brawer, once a Seattleite, now a long-time New Yorker, participated in last year’s dispersed-unity mask-arade with a group of friends by walking along the waterfront in Long Island City. But I hadn’t heard from her this year. Then, on December 9, 2021, Wendy sent this note: “Hi! I broke my arm on Thanksgiving so have yet to walk around a body of water…but I will be in touch. doing alright thanks to my Wingman [Ray Sage].”

On Thanksgiving eve, Rebecca Cummins, who has walked with us almost every year since the beginning, wrote, “Misha and I are currently in Joshua Tree at a residency there. I will miss our annual group walk – its such a stunning tradition.” And on the day itself, she sent a photo and this note, “Documentation of my walk to Mt. Ryan, Joshua Tree, for sunrise. Hope you had an awesome walk with the crew! Missed you all!”

Aviva DeLancey (my stepdaughter), is a resident of Kansas City, Missouri, along with her family – Brian (her husband), Livia and Henry (their kids, my grandkids), and Louie (their puppy pal). Aviva sent photos and a message: “Happy Thanksgiving!! Hope you had a good walk today. We’re in the woods of Tennessee outside of a town called Goodlettsville.  Going home tomorrow.  Took some short walk /runs with Louie today around the property. 💗”

Gwen Demombynes reported in for herself and her husband, Patrice (Port Townsend residents): “We are still back east, heading back to the PNW on Saturday. We walked and I thought of you. These are from the sculpture trail created by  David Colbert in Cornwall Bridge, CT.”

Richard Farr and Kerry Fitz-Gerald have recently moved 70 miles north of their long-time home in my neighborhood on Capitol Hill. They’re now in Anacortes not far from the ferry landing to the San Juan Islands. Richard wrote: “So sorry we missed you this Thanksgiving. We were in Alaska (my first time ever) visiting our youngest – and we did go on a hike or three in the -3F or so temps, so I attach a picture.: We also moved to Anacortes. Our new house is surrounded by forests and ocean and we’ll love it even more when we stop falling over boxes.”

My brother Karl Focke, whose home is in Austin, Texas, says, “I took my walk in Tyler TX at about noon. My walk was along the South Tyler Trail.”

Another brother Ross Focke, who walked with us last year, walked again with Beth Benjamn this year. Beth wrote of the photo they sent, “Thanksgiving walk photo – Thompson Creek Trail, Claremont, CA. I wanted a photo by the watch out for mountain lions sign.”

Judi Jennings, Louisville, Kentucky, wrote, “I made a Thanksgiving walk in solidarity with you all today. We don’t have a lake in Louisville so I walked in Cherokee Park in remembrance of the original inhabitants & also my ancestors. Here is one pic from about 5 30 today & I have one more I will forward to you. Thanks for reaching out and I loved thinking about you and Seattle happy memories and gave thanks for our friendship. ❤️❤️”

“This is me now she 74 😀. Should have said with other picture that the stream in it is Bear Grass Creek used as a pathway by Daniel Boone et al in surveying & claiming the land for white settlers in 1770s.”

Barbara Johns of Vashon Island, Washington, sent this: “Good morning, Anne and fellow walkers, and thanks for calling us together once again.

“My Thanksgiving walk was shortly after dawn at Kealakakua Bay on the Big Island of Hawai’i. It’s an area steeped in spirit and history, native and colonizer, a sacred site since ancient times and the site of Captain Cook’s “discovery” and later death. I’ve walked to the nearby heiau at dawn most mornings of our stay here, and although a short distance, it seemed an appropriate destination for Thanksgiving. This season to native Hawaiians is Makahiki, a time of renewal, and I wish to all of you the same.”

Barbara continued: “Captain Cook Monument, erected by the British in 1871, is a white speck across the bay. Requested Thanksgiving self-portrait is at base of steps to heiau platform. I continued the walk down the road and around the point, with sun now fully risen.”

Barbara notes: “Heiau means ancient temple in Hawaiian.” Thinking some of us might like some history of this place, she sent photos of historical signs. The text in them isn’t readable in this blog format, so for somewhat clearer reading I’ve added them to the backend of this site. You can find her photo of a sign about Hikiau Heiau here and one about Kamehameha here.

Peter Mahler, in Madison, Wisconsin, the day before our walk, wrote, “We [he and his wife Annette] will be at friends in the country outside Madison. We will try to take a hike for a bit to be part of the unbroken circle. Thanks to you for maintaining the tradition.” Especially since he walked with us last year, I expect that’s just what they did.

John McGuirk, whom I know from my years working with Grantmakers in the Arts, sent this photo and quick note: “Hello from our new home in Palm Springs!” More specifically, I learned later, he and Richard live in Cathedral City.

Jean McLaughlin (Penland, North Carolina) joined us in last year’s dispersed-unity walk and was with us again this year. She wrote: “Tom [Spleth] and I walked a 2 mile path near our home today and redid it later in the day with our friend Mattia Serrano who was visiting from Scotland. Hope your walk was as pleasant as ours. 50 degrees. Clear skies.” I replied telling her of Seattle weather that day. A few days later, Jean added, “Our temps dropped into the teens last night….still clear thank goodness… we took advantage of one last 50 degree day to hike the Roan Mountain to Jane Bald on Saturday…steady gusts up to 40 miles an hour…but warm and gorgeous. Love the sound of the friendships surrounding you.”

Kate Murphy, whose home is in Seattle, was in Portland with her mom for the week. She wrote: “Happy Thanksgiving Anne!  A few photos… The Portland sun came out just in time for our Thanksgiving walk up Wildwood Trail in Forest Park — Wishing all a Happy Thanksgiving 🍁.  Gobble Gobble, Kate and Sadie  🐾”

Maria Nordman sent a photo and a captioned, 8-second video, “Santa Monica rainbow hello from Maria.” Here are a couple of images from her video along with her photo greeting.

From Portland, Oregon, came this from Sandra Percival: “Happy Thanksgiving Anne & company! I’ll be walking a similar length walk albeit a few hours to the south of Seattle! I will be following in your footsteps and reminisce on the days of walking Lake Union in Seattle. Here’s my Portland route and favorite bridge – the Steel Bridge:”

With a virtual hug, Frances Phillips sent this from San Francisco: ‘I’m afraid that I botched this very simple assignment. I didn’t manage to take a walk on Thanksgiving Day, though I did take a lovely walk along the ocean shore in Pacifica the next day. Unfortunately, I left my phone/camera at home, so I am unable to document the event. I’ll try to do better next year!”

In fact, Frances didn’t botch anything – she took a walk, she thought of us, she sent a note. That’s good in my book! And besides, as she says, there’s always next year!

From a few hundred miles south on Thanksgiving eve, Louise Steinman let us know, “I will send you a photo when I walk around the Silver Lake reservoir or up in Griffith Park on Thanksgiving morning. (after my French lesson with a medical student living in Haiti.)” The next day she sent this greeting and photo: ‘Happy thanksgiving!!!”

From not far away, Aurora Tang sent this the day after: “Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I lost track of time and at 10pm last night realized I forgot to go on my Thanksgiving walk! But here is a photograph from today’s walk with my husband, in Los Angeles.”

Friend and high school classmate, Nancy Taylor (then Tyson) wrote a few days before Thanksgiving from her home in Hawaii to say, “Thought you might be interested in this email I received this morning as our 5 girls are coalescing around your wonderful idea!!! Tori, #3 daughter, writes this from Singapore…

“We would love to join!! It’s not a holiday here, so maybe we can walk to school ‘with’ you! If it works for everyone in all time zones we could maybe even do it at the same time!! Cam’s graduation is Friday (sadly stupid covid means it’s just being recorded. Wah wah I hate Covid) and he’s to be at school by 8 am. So the boys and I would walk over about 7:15 am our time Friday which would be Thanksgiving Thursday 6:15 pm for Tiff, 5:15 pm for Tace and Dom, and 1:15 pm for all in HI.  Would that work?!”

I didn’t hear from Nancy again until about a week after the Lake Union walk. “Well — our family was almost a total failure in terms of contributions!!!  We all walked ‘together’ that day (with the exception of one daughter and her family) and we were Face-Timing with 4 of the girls and, as a result — none of us remembered to take a picture!!  The only picture that was taken was by the one daughter who walked earlier and was not on the call!! Here is the picture she sent!  It was taken in Truckee, California. I wish we’d remembered but we didn’t and that’s that!!!  But we did walk!!!!

I couldn’t resist asking if I could include everyone’s name. “Of course!!” she said. “Please include whatever you’d like! We’d be thrilled.” So, Taylor family walkers included:

Heather, Carroll, and Nancy Taylor in Kaneohe, Hawaii “you know that one!!”
Kimberly Taylor and husband Chris Rohstedt and son Marcus Rohstedt in Truckee [in the photo above]
Tori and her husband Dave McMillan and their two boys Cameron and Markham in Singapore
Tiffany Christian and her dog Petey in Williamsburg, VIrginia
Tacy Soucie in Houston. “Her husband Dom was preparing food for people in shelters at the time of our walk/talk I believe.”
Another Nancy was with us too, my cousin Nancy Walton who wrote from her home in Mullin, Texas the day before, “Rocket and I will be doing our 1 mile around 7 am central time and I’ll send a pix. Then we go to Jeff and Alyssa (newest family member) and on to Thanksgiving at her mom’s in Austin.” At about 8am central the next day, Nancy sent this: “Windy and cold here  could only get rocket in picture.” And a few hours later she sent one of herself.

Janet Wright (Hoboken, New Jersey), a long-time friend of Nancy Taylor, sent an email to Nancy and me: “Thank you for this wonderful suggestion. My family and I tried to walk in solidarity, in our haphazard way, on our own timeline…I was in the hospital at the time we could have joined your walk (2pm EST) so all day long I was aching to be discharged so I could at least walk a block along the Hoboken riverfront on Thanksgiving for my wonderful family and friends and in gratitude for the diagnosis which may finally get me fully back to my best possible state of health. Brian and I managed the one block walk before I even got home from the hospital! This hopeful, unifying and spiritual activity was very meaningful to me and my family.
Aloha and Mahalo”

Ellen Ziegler (Seattle), sent memories of her walking on Maui, Hawaii with Tom DeGroot: “Hi Anne! I was in Hawaii There was not much Thanksgiving there… :+) We walked along a Thompson Road ‘up country’ in Maui, where it’s 74º instead of 84º. We thought of you walking around the lake together and were grateful for your thoughtfulness and togetherness. Here are two photos, one earlier in the day and one later.
Much love! Ellen and Tom”

When I think of all these walkers and of the relationships among us all, I also imagine the many more connections each of us has, often criss-crossing with the others. All together we make up a mighty, fine mesh. Invisible in the soil under our feet, the mycelium layer of tiny fungus tendrils connecting with each other and with plant rootlets, gives us a way to imagine our own connections.

With gratitude for all!









A “dispersed-unity” Thanksgiving Mask-arade

Cheshiahud and Tleebuleetsa, “The Last of the Few

Oh so thankful

We walked alone together on Thanksgiving Day around Seattle’s Lake Union in an annual community walk dedicated to the last two of the Duwamish people to live on their traditional tribal lands near Lake Union—Cheshiahud and his wife Tleebuleetsa. For our pandemic times I adapted this tradition by encouraging friends to walk solo or in small groups and by inviting friends from around the country to join in. At least seventy-eight people helped make this a grand, dispersed-unity, Thanksgiving Mask-arade. It felt like a huge cross-lake, cross-city, cross-country hug.

Annual Thanksgiving walk route, approximately 7 miles.

Email notes and photos indicate that at least twenty-eight of us walked along or around Lake Union, and at least sixty-nine others walked somewhere else: in the city (Queen Anne Hill, First Hill, Capitol Hill, Green Lake), in Washington State (Tacoma, Chuckanut, Port Townsend), or in places across the country (New York, North Carolina, Minnesota, California, and more). Altogether and nearly one hundred strong, we walked with eight dogs and two babes in strollers. We used walking sticks and a scooter. We walked through trees, over bridges, up stairs, along lakes and rivers, over hills, through an historic fort, along a sunny beach, and in the snow. We passed goats, people in funny hats, amazing fungi, a slug, one Christmas yard display, and a rainbow over Lake Washington. We walked in the daytime, at night, and at dusk with a full moon.  A few of us even ran into each other, spotted by our bright yellow or orange attire.

My long-time friend, Norie Sato, made the circuit around Lake Union with me. Norie was the first person to accompany me on my annual Thanksgiving walk around the lake after I’d been doing it solo for a few years. During that walk she also gave me the news that the City of Seattle had recently designated a path around the lake as the Cheshiahud Loop Trail. Directional signs began to show up shortly after that.  The walk with her that day inspired my invitation to other friends to join in what, since 2010, has been an annual tradition. Below is Norie at the entrance to Good Turn Park on the northeast side of the lake. It’s one of many street-end parks created by the City all around the lake. It’s a regular stopping point on our annual walk. And below that you’ll see Norie standing with the Dunn Lumber mural at the north end of the lake near Gasworks Park where we started.

Next I offer proof that we were, indeed, on the Cheshiahud Loop Trail. I’m wearing a yellow rain slicker that had been folded up with my winter things, not worn for years, proof of my pack-rat leanings. As I unfolded it this year I discovered it came from a much-loved site-based artwork by artist Susan MacLeod sponsored by and/or in the late 1970s on the sports field at Seattle University. The memories added to my gratitude for the day.

Following are photographs and notes I received from walkers after they finished walking. First are the Lake Union walkers. Their photos are evidence of Lake Union’s history as a working waterfront, long established as such in the city’s zoning code. After that are the friends who walked in their own neighborhoods or other favorite places around the city, state, and country. Altogether, we covered a lot of territory!


“A tale of 4 bridges…The only orange thing I have is a cotton scarf that I got during Bear Training Level I for Seasonal Employees, while I was artist in residence in Glacier National Park… and indeed, we saw no grizzly bears walking around Lake Union : – ) – nor anyone else in orange : – ( ”
— Suze Woolf & Steve Price, champs who not only walked the entire route, but created an excellent visual story of it all.

“Missed you but we did it (well, part of it…) Here we are at our starting and finishing place, MOHAI parking lot.”
— Paul Taub & Susan Peterson

“Here’s a couple of photos. We really enjoyed the walk!  We stopped at Good Turn Park so we could get home to make a Thanksgiving dinner. I designed Good Turn Park in the 90’s.  But it has fallen into disrepair and weeds.  The Parks Dept. refuses to maintain it because it’s on SDOT property.Neighbors tried maintaining it for years but they lost their leader about ten years ago. The crazy bench seat I was on is down by the beach at Good Turn at the foot of the big redwood that someone planted when the park was new. The ceramic tiled bench was near Pete’s store.

“We met Paul de Barros and Sue Dickson along the way. Very nice little chat. Paul and Sue forgot about wearing yellow or orange. Piper and I made up for them!”
— Tom Zachary & Piper Greenwood, Seattle

A number of people ran into each other and sent me criss-crossing photos. Their comments and photos follow.

“Happy Thanksgiving, Anne. Well, I thought I could catch you and Norie before finishing my lap but then I ran into Piper and Tom, and we talked for a bit. I sure noticed every orange and yellow accessory along the way, this year!”
— Catharina Manchanda

Catharina Manchanda

“Happily saw Chiyo, Mark, and Catharina toward the end of my walk! Thank you for the inspiration, Anne. It’s a walk I’m going to take more often than Thanksgiving. I hope your walk was a fine one.”
— Barbara Johns, who sent more photos in a second message which appear as the last entry from Lake Union Walkers.

Mark Calderon, Catharina Manchanda, and Barbara Johns
Chiyo Ishikawa & Mark Calderon

“We enjoyed our first Thanksgiving walk with you. Here are some favorite moments.”
— Chiyo Ishikawa & Mark Calderon

“I was so grateful to find this unlocked port-a-potty at just the right time!”
— Mark Calderon

The first Mask-arade person Norie and I saw on our circumambulation of the lake was Debra Ross, seen here at Good Turn Park. It was great to see her.

Six close friends walked the lake together: Liz Brown, Suzy Schneider, Ellen Sollod, and Gene & Bill McMahon and their daughter Becky. Comments and photos follow.

“Here [the first photo below] is where we had to turn around…new construction and repairs predominant in this.”
— Ellen Sollod

“More beautiful trees at Green Lake but all in all a visually stimulating walk. I’m always on the lookout for trees but still have not identified that unusual one [final photo in the group]. Thank you Anne for your grand plan…we did eventually encounter more of your fellow walkers! Sorry we missed you and Norie! Enjoy your Thanksgiving dinners tonight!”
— Gene McMahon

“Rowan and I are going to Spokane for Thxgiving this year, so I did my Lake Union walk over the weekend [11/21/20]. Photo with yellow backpack strap attached. 🙂 ”
— Bonnie Swift

“On my way I remembered about the yellow. So first I found a scrap of old construction tape and tied that in my jacket. Later I added a yellow leaf. But I didn’t see any yellow in people except one guy in a bike who was wearing a yellow vest.  I walked a little more than half the distance. This was a lot of fun thank you. I hope you’ll buy my novel The Aftermath from Amazon or Adelaide if you want an ebook!”
— Lyn Coffin

“This is just a short little note of thanks. This walk was the perfect holiday activity for my family; my mom, stepfather, two dogs and I walked the lake last Thursday in place of gathering for dinner. We so loved being outside encountering many familiar and friendly faces along the route. Thank you for organizing this and finding a creative and spirited way to make it happen, even during a pandemic. Yours fondly.”
— Sarah Traver, Seattle

“Thanks for the ‘MASK-querade’ walk. Sorry we didn’t run into you. We did the whole durn thing, clockwise from the MOHAI lot. We did hear from Tom and Piper along the way that you were up ahead but I guess you finished before we did. Man, my feet hurt when i got home!”
— Paul de Barros & Sue Dickson (photo by Tom Zachary & Piper Greenwood)

“Thank you so much for encouraging the walk. We did a semi loop this year. We saw Chiyo and Mark along the trail. Recognized more by their yellow and orange. Great idea because masks obscure everyone. So many joggers in black out.
“Love to you on this day and remembering the Duwamish peoples past and present.”
— Saya Moriyasu & Jeff McGrath, Seattle

“I made a short visual journal, shortened further here, to send my Midwest siblings in advance of Thanksgiving day calls and remembering the Seattle get-together we missed last summer. Familiar sites to all who’ve made the walk, this one ending with my meeting friends. For your viewing pleasure! ”
— Barbara Johns, from her second message. Her photo journey around the lake is a nice complement to the one Suze and Steve offered at the start.


“Picture from my remote walking – Elliott Bay and Goats walking!”
— Edie Adams, Queen Anne Hill, Seattle

“Happy Ongoing Thanksgiving, Anne. I did not walk on Thanksgiving because it poured drenching rain here all day long. Instead Arty, pictured below in his puppy-cave, and I spent the day in our cozy house with great company on zoom. My dinner wore the day’s colors. And nature provided her own the next day for a walk in Dartmouth, the town next door to New Bedford, on a new property owned by the land conservation and walking trail provider, Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust.

“I trust you are receiving many of these delayed transmittals of Thanksgiving 2020. It was wonderful to read yours and remember the circumnavigations I’ve joined you for in past years. It is sweet to think of your emissaries all over taking the Cheshiahud Loop to other parts of the world, as well as to imagine joining you again to trek the original around Lake Union some year soon.”
— Rebecca Barnes with friends, New Bedford, Massachusetts

“Three photos from my Thanksgiving walk today, Anne. Not at Lake Union unfortunately, but still sweet. I hope you had an excellent walk with Norie.”
— John Boylan, Seattle

“Seattle U, between dinner and pumpkin pie. The Ent.”
— Jan and Doug Bradley, First Hill, Seattle

“I probably missed the deadline but I wanted you to know that I joined you in spirit on Thanksgiving as I walked to a park in Shoreline honoring the Duwamish peoples.”
— Brian Branagan, Shoreline

“Long Island City with Manhattan in view over East River w Andru, Howard, James, Ray & Wendy 11/26/20. It gets dark early lately! ”

Sent a day or so later, but still in response to the Mask-arade posts:
“oops meant to send! thanks for letting us be unity too — we were in the park where Bernie & AOC spoke in 2019 -– it was so fab, 25K people & love fest.
“just went to our little park, 3 bands playing at once with the ping pong table, hearing it all, golden gingkoes and cheerful people – very sweet. first time to play pingpong & go to a zoom meeting at the same time…only one dog stole our ball briefly”
— Wendy Brawer, Ray Sage, and friends, Brooklyn, New York

“Here’s our photo from our walk! We kept it socially-distanced and it was just me and my pup, P! We walked around Highland Park in LA today, about 4 miles 🙂 ”
— Jess Capó, Los Angeles

“Love the notion of a collective meander of grace and gratefulness. Here is the view of my late late walk along the shore of Crown Harbor off of Alameda Island, CA.”
— Bill Cleveland

“This is woody, michael, jeanne, Louca and me at green lake starting at 11am today. Thanks for the inspiration! The folks in funny hats were along the route – a friendly flock!Happy thanksgiving 🐿 ”
— Rebecca Cummins with Woody Sullivan and Michael Swain & Jeanne Foss with their son Louca, Green Lake, Seattle

“Lake Union” walk…Well I’m afraid to say we cheated a bit. We were just about to leave the house and go out to Lake Union, when it started to pour, so we waited – and then realized that there was no way we could do the full loop and get the food in the oven in time. So we instead did a walk on Capitol Hill. But we did think of you and we did wear yellow jackets. Happy Thanksgiving!”
— Richard Farr and Kerry Fitz-Gerald, Capitol Hill, Seattle

Here are a couple of photos from Ross Focke & Beth Benjamin: Beth at Beth Johnson’s pastures and Ross & Luke on the beach.
— Ross Focke, Beth Benjamin, and their dog Luke, Claremont, California

“We have had a fun weekend and with cherishing the time with Heather and Eric, have not had a chance to sit down and send this off. Confession, we took our walk on Friday. Mark and I were pretty busy on Thursday getting everything ready.
I am thankful for being able to share Thanksgiving weekend with my favorites, Mark, Heather and Eric. I am also thankful that the magical Fort Worden, where this photo was taken, is practically in our backyard. And thankful that I can share and be a part of this community, looking forward to seeing the photos on the website. Hope you had a wonderful walk on Thanksgiving!”
— Kathy Fridstein, Mark Manley, Heather Manley, Eric Manley, Port Townsend, Washington

“We will walk a bit outside of La Conner with your walk in mind.”
— Cathy Hillenbrand & Joseph Hudson, Seattle  (La Conner is a small town in Skagit County, Washington)

“Weisbecker/Law/Louie/Matumona Family masked walk
Our walk to Sunset View Park today.
Strange crew.”
— Carolyn Law & Andy Weisbecker, Beth Louie & Jake Weisbecker with their daughter Bellamy Gabriella Weisbecker, Hélène Matumona & Lucas Weisbecker with their son Loreto Jabulani Weisbecker, Greenwood/Sunset View Park, Seattle. This family definitely gets the prize for the largest family to participate in the 2020 Mask-arade!

“Hope you’re having a great day. Here we are scooting on Lake Washington.”
— Margie and Brian Livingston, Lake Washington, Seattle

“Here we are on our Thanksgiving walk in St Paul about to head up the steps in the background!”
— Sarah Lutman & Rob Rudolph, Saint Paul, Minnesota

“1  Out our front window a few days before Thanksgiving…….now all melted.
2  Me back home wearing my “Anne Focke Walk” yellow.
Nice to talk with you.
Stay healthy.”
— Peter Mahler, Madison, Wisconsin, who, in a first for a Thanksgiving Lake Union walk, engaged me in a Facetime call  while I walked over the University Bridge.

“Anne, Happy Thanksgiving to you! Tom and I always take a walk on Thanksgiving and today turned out to be a very pretty day… we see the Linville Gorge on the front end of our walk and the Black Mountains in the distance midway through the walk. Your lake walk with friends is a great idea…we are celebrating all we have to be thankful for with you today.”

And a little later:

“I didn’t tell you where we are or what we are thankful for…and we aren’t wearing masks because we are the only ones on this property…We started our walk at home with the Linville Gorge behind us along with farms beside the Blue Ridge Parkway and midway through a neighboring farm we have the Black Mountains behind us. We have so much to be thankful for…valuable friendships, good health, creative lives, precious freedoms, and an incoming commitment to addressing social justice inequities.”
— Jean McLaughlin & Tom Spleth, Little Switzerland, North Carolina

“Good Morning Anne!
“I trust your Mask-a-raid went off like clockwork. We took an early morning hike in Moran State Park! Looking forward to seeing your photo compilation. ”
— Heather & Greg Oaksen with their son, Eric Oaksen, Orcas Island, Washington

“This is so beautiful, Anne. I’d meant to send pictures earlier. I didn’t find anything yellow to wear (though I chose an orange hat and carried the gingko leaf from our yard to the coast, in tribute to you)  but Nathan, Zoe and I did go for a walk on the Santa Monica beach.”
— Claire Peeps with Nathan Birnbaum and their daughter, Zoe, Santa Monica, California

“Happy Thanksgiving +1, Anne. Glad the physically distanced Maskarade went well and you and Norie had fun. Thanks for the invite. Carrie and I and the girls did get out to walk in the hills above Chuckanut Drive. Cheers to you through all pandemic challenges.
P.S. Took the masks off for the pic…”
— Simon & Carrie Pritikin with their daughters Jasmin and Olivia, whose home is in Seattle

“I wish we took pictures to share – we did the Ruston Parkway in Tacoma. Hope you are doing well and having a nice quiet holiday season.”
— Dechie Rapaport with Willie and Gabby, long-time Thanksgiving Lake Union walkers, Tacoma, Washington

“Walked with son, who is now back on The Big Island, on Thanksgiving Day.  Walk is along La Jolla waterfront where sea lions love to loll on the beach. I 🤗”
— Yvonne Sanchez, who lives in Seattle but was visiting family in San Diego

“Hope you had a great walk today. Thinking of you from afar as we walked at Kobayashi Park in University Place (next to Tacoma and my new home….Seattle got too expensive). It’s a short walk through the woods and beautiful stream. My guy in the picture is Richard Reynolds.
“Now, on to the last of cooking and finally eating.
“Till we meet in real life again!🧡🍁🧡 ”
— June Sekiguchi and Richard Reynolds, Tacoma, Washington

“Thanksgiving Walk 2020: Aaron, Connor & I walked around the reservoir at Horizon View Park in our town: Lake Forest Park. Didn’t take pics and forgot to post a note, but your walk inspired us, so that’s what we did as part of the Dispersed Unity Mask-arade!!!!”
— Anne Stadler with Aaron Stadler and Connor Fosse Stadler, Lake Forest Park, Washington

“Happy Thanksgiving from Philadelphia! I spent most of the day tucked in at home with my husband and our 10-month-old daughter, but was able to sneak out shortly before sunset for a walk around the neighborhood while the turkey was cooking. Never underestimate the power of a walk, no matter how short! We live in Fishtown, a neighborhood just northeast of Center City and close to the Delaware River – and also close to a historic cemetery with beautiful old Sycamores. This is where I went on this little stroll. Here are a couple of images of the moon rising over its trees, as well as the view leaving our building (the globe light fixtures also reminded me of the moon). I would love to do the route around Lake Union someday… I’ve done a yearly Good Friday walk since 2014, one year circumnavigating Manhattan Island, which feels like the opposite in terms of looking out to the water as a constant versus the Lake Union route looking in. Either way, there’s a pull in that space where water meets land, and discovering all of the inlets and hidden gems.”
— Erin Sweeny, Philadelphia

“Greetings from Rainier Beach, Anne, I joined my family and we walked by Lake Washington, around Genesee. The highlight was seeing this Rainbow!
“On to Hanukkah, the Solstice, Christmas, New Years, and more.”
— Diane Tepfer and family, Rainier Beach, Washington

“Thankful for the wild fungi on parade in a forest near Tacoma on Thanksgiving!
Richard, the Wild Fungi (Fun Guy) in the South Sound”
— Richard Woo, Tacoma

A thousand and one thank-you’s to everyone who walked with us this year! It means so much to hear from all of you. You fill me with hope and thankfulness.

A final image from the east side of the Cheshiahud Loop Trail near the Eastlake Community Garden, a miniature Thanksgiving gathering, hosted by the two turkeys on the porch of the little cottage. They all seemed to be having a good time, and I doubt they dined on  a “traditional” Thanksgiving meal.

One Wish for the World

Back in late May this year, Wier Harman, director of Town Hall Seattle, invited me to participate in a benefit event to support independent artists. Given the physical distancing required by the coronavirus, the event would take place online.

Wier proposed a program format where about a dozen people would each record a short video message in response to a shared question. He kept the overall framework simple: “Tomorrow will be better if…” Given the late May timing, the impact of the pandemic shutdown was on his mind. “What happens next?” he asked, “What should we DO now?” His final question was, “If you had one wish for the world, what would it be?”

I quickly said, “I’m in.” Town Hall wanted 350-600 word responses, addressed directly to the camera, pre-recorded from our respective homes. They’d edit them together with a live host and live musical numbers. The deadline was only about a week away. During that week, the killing of George Floyd turned the world upside down again, giving me a few days to reflect and adjust my response.

About a month after his first invitation, Wier wrote to prospective participants again. “In my 15 years here,” he said, “I can’t recall a month as head-snapping and as emotional, AND as steeped in the possibility of transformational change.” He wrote of his struggle to adapt the program in some way to incorporate the scale and impact of the global activism for justice for Black Americans. He noted that the program goals were still to raise money for economically stressed artists and “to inspire our community to imagine a future transformed by collective will.” I just love Wier for the hope I heard in his words. He also acknowledged that some of us might not feel comfortable proceeding.

Then a few days later, after hearing from invitees, Wier wrote again with apologies. They were canceling the event. In the end, he said, “The community of available participants no longer speaks to the breadth of perspectives we hoped could share in responding to this moment.”

All the same, I continue to hold onto the wish I have for the world, inspired in part by Pablo Neruda. So in early August I asked for and received Wier’s blessing to recycle my video by posting it on this site.

One wish for the world

Click image for video

Even though the benefit event didn’t happened, you can still support one of the funds that Town Hall originally identified: the Seattle Artists Relief Fund Amid COVID-19, managed by Langston. You can also learn more about the essential role Town Hall plays in building community in this region here and you can click here to support its work.

Memorable dents

I find notes to myself everywhere – jotted on scraps of paper, tucked in folders and books, scribbled in the pages of other documents, inside printed-out email messages – reminders of incidents or ideas, quick insights or future dreams. Proliferating for decades, they are extensions of my memory, or at least a source for recovering pieces of it. Each note captures something I’ve found intriguing, worth attention in the moment and sometimes worth pursuing further. I’ve imagined that each note leaves a dent in my memory. Recovering it deepens the dent, gives me a chance to consider its contents again.

Each small dent is different from the next. Recently it occurred to me that all these dents may be making a pattern, like the elaborate designs on old silver pitchers or the patterns in pressed tin ceilings or the random dings in a much-loved sauce pan. But until now I hadn’t consciously tried to decipher the design.

A month or so ago, my energy for writing got sluggish. It was hard to start anything, even though my list of ideas was long. I decided to get out of town to see if a change in surroundings would help. I also decided that in this short chunk of time, I would avoid trying to begin anything new and big. Instead, I gathered up some of the notes I’ve kept on scraps, those “dents” in my memory, polished them a bit, and considered how they might fit together.

A collection of these short pieces follows here.

Drawing on snow

February 2019 was Seattle’s snowiest month in 50 years – more than 20 inches fell during the month. One morning, sitting in my bright second-floor corner apartment after the month’s first big storm, I got a good view of neighborhood comings and goings and of the weather and sidewalk conditions at the intersection below. I admired the snow, layered up smoothly on the tops of bushes along the sidewalk. Though it came roaring back later that week, on this day the snow had begun to melt. The sun was out, the street was wet, and the sidewalks were slushy and icy.

As I watched, wondering how long the snow would last, an older woman with a cane, in a pink coat, walked toward my building. As she approached the corner, she turned toward one of the flat snow-topped bushes, lifted her cane, and wrote or drew something in the snow on top. She admired it briefly and walked on.

The bush faced away from my window, just out of sight. I was sorry I couldn’t see what she had written. Eventually, my curiosity got me on my feet. I put shoes on, grabbed a coat, and went out to see what the neighborhood walker had drawn.

When I saw it, I thought, of course! What would anyone of any age draw with just a few strokes? Her cane-drawn heart lasted three days until the next big storm came through.

Instant community and a lime

One evening after a busy and fragmented day, I enjoyed a light but just-right meal at a neighborhood bar and bistro owned by a friend. While I sat by the front window eating, a colorfully dressed, 25-year-old woman walked out the door past me. Standing with a cigarette, she initiated, in a way that seemed effortless, a street-side conversation with a gray-bearded man sitting on a motorcycle he’d just parked. They were soon joined by a young black man pulling behind him a loosely-full garbage bag. With laughs and small gestures, all three seemed to be having a good time and eventually headed off in separate directions. From where I was, only a few feet away but on the other side of the glass, they were like players in a silent movie. What an amazing instant community, I thought.

Apparently, the young woman felt I’d been a friendly, if mute, part of their conversation, and, before returning to the bar, came over to tell me about herself, which is how I know her age. A little later, as she left the cafe, she came back and gave me a lime.

A lime? I learned afterward that she’d bought it from the bartender. Surprised, I thanked her. It’s the only time I’ve been given a lime. Her gift, and the easy openness she carried with her, were soothing – a magical antidote to an otherwise hectic day.

What I love so often falls in between

In 2005 a space in Seattle’s new City Hall was given my name. The Anne Focke Gallery consists of the lower-level elevator lobby and a stepped-back space that becomes a corridor to the community meeting rooms. At least half-a-dozen rooms in City Hall were dedicated to specific people that day. Unlike many “naming rights” these days, naming these rooms had nothing to do with financial support, and I was one of just two who were still alive. I felt honored. I was also on the program to say a few words at the dedication ceremony. As often happens, I carefully planned my remarks, but when my turn came and I faced the crowd, my mind went blank. I spoke extemporaneously, forgetting most of what I’d prepared. This is my chance to share some of what I’d written in advance.

May 14, 2005

Many thanks to the City for giving this space my name. I’m truly honored.

The space seems just right.
It’s an odd little space
between things
not exactly a room
not exactly a corridor
not exactly square.
It’s a space that falls between other spaces.
It suits me. The art and work I love so often falls in between.

An etched wall plaque suggests permanence. But this space is the passageway to community rooms. It’s also an intersection as people come and go from the elevator. This room will always be full of energy as the art on the walls, the people passing through, and the communities they care about change. Their inevitable shifts and turns will fill this space with possibility.

My hope for this space is that it can also stand for:

Paying attention to what doesn’t seem to fit.
Making room for something new.
Putting trust in artists – their imagination, their ideas, their work.
Giving young people real responsibility.
Celebrating our contemporaries, people who are alive in the world.

 So many of you in the room contribute to making our city what it is. Much of what the City remembers me for I had the opportunity to do when I was in my 20s. Perhaps every five years or so the space should be renamed for someone else who made a difference when they were young.

Finally, I hope this gallery can stand for the qualities of luck, serendipity, and openness to the unexpected. So much of what I value requires what Jane Jacobs called “drift,” a kind of work defined not by “practical utility,” but by play, curiosity, and aesthetic investigation – work that often falls in between.

2019 coda: Increasingly we live in a black and white, either/or, in or out world. Can we discover the value and beauty of grays, the possibility of and’s, the creativity and energy in between?

Knowing a little about a lot of things

I’m not a specialist.

Self-analyst that I am, I’ve known for years that I’m no specialist. Recently I ran across a crinkled, brown paper napkin where, perhaps five years ago, I’d scribbled a list of observations about this character trait. I’d probably forgotten to bring notepaper along to the coffee shop where I’d been sitting when the need came to jot the list down. After reflecting on the words for a moment, I probably just absent-mindedly tucked the napkin into whatever I’d brought along to read, and it took a while to resurface. The deciphered handwriting says that I…

Know a little about a lot of things.
Know a lot about how to live and move through the world knowing a little about a lot of things.
Know how to do a lot while knowing a little about a lot of things.
Know a lot about how to do a lot while knowing a little about a lot of things.

“Knowing a little about a lot of things” is not something that shines on a professional resume or in a job interview. But it seems a fine, even useful way to live, love, and work. And I’ve managed to get a lot done even without a specialty.

An experience as a pre-teen gave me an image I continue to value. When I was about twelve, a difficult day at school had left me feeling rejected and desperately insecure. It might have been the day I was called a “leech” by girlfriends and banished from the lunch table. When I got home, I went out behind our house and took my anger and frustration out by knocking rocks into the valley with my baseball bat.

As the high emotion gradually seeped away, I wondered how I could go on, how I could get past the bad feeling I had. I got help from my love of geometric forms – a love probably fostered by my physicist father – and imagined two choices. I could think of myself as an upside-down pyramid with everything balanced on one point, meaning that if I were knocked off that point (as I’d felt that day), the whole structure would come tumbling down. Or, I could think of myself as a complicated polyhedron with many points, meaning that if the point I balanced on was disturbed, the structure would turn only slightly to another point and I would only fall a little. I couldn’t be completely knocked down.

The mental picture of having many facets and many points of balance remains a valuable piece of my self-image. It affects my approach to emotional challenges and it gives me a boost when I feel insecure about my lack of a “specialty.” All those facets and points on the polyhedron in my mind help me remember the value of knowing many little things, rather than just one big thing. Getting work done this way means thinking and moving horizontally rather than vertically, learning and making connections broadly rather than specializing deeply, being able to move easily from one thing to the next.

Too much society?

Excerpt from an email response to David Mahler, December 5, 2009.

Yes, indeed, thanks. I am finding many ways to get walking into my life. I try to walk two to three miles a day, though it varies. I’ve had a personal tradition for the past four or five years of circumambulating Lake Union on Thanksgiving Day before the big meal. My aim is to stay as close to the water as possible. It’s a continuing treat. The weather definitely plays a role, and the terrain and landscape change a lot on the way around. Surprising phenomena and characters always show up. One year I passed the same couple twice and we realized we were each doing the same thing. We said, “See you next year!” though we haven’t.

This year I took a shortcut and ran into a wild-looking fellow on a little road that ran along a run-down complex of wooden buildings where I suspect he lived. As he chased pigeons away from the building, he muttered to me, “Too much society!” I smiled and scooted away, hoping I also wasn’t too much society. After I passed by, he shouted in my direction, “Hey!” I turned around and saw him give me a big thumbs-up, “Thanksgiving!”

Us and them

Once upon a time, we lived with convenient polarities – us and them, women and men, black and white, young and old, the in-group and the out-group. We now know better. We have so many ways to define gender, so many shades of human color, so many ways to be our many ages.

In truth, I move through the world inside many different groups, and outside many others, inside many varieties of “us” and outside many different “thems.” Sometimes us shifts and becomes them, or them transforms into us, or the boundaries become porous and I am neither or both at the same time.

In fact, my world is all mixed up and always shifting.

How is it that we’ve allowed ourselves to be defined by sharp divisions? We need our many small communities, but do they have to be at war with each other? How do we stop the warring without losing the community that we get from “us?”

Quiet in Port Townsend

In the Port Townsend home of friends during a self-made writing and thinking retreat.

Sitting alone trying to write, I’m distracted by the silence . . . though, in fact, it really isn’t “silent.”   When I hold still, I hear the inside of my head, and then the sound of the keyboard when I start writing. Whatever noise there is, I make myself.

It’s startling. I can’t stop listening. The refrigerator is off, no car is crunching down the gravel street. It’s 9:30 pm. The birds are silent.

Ah, now I hear the hum of a small plane, far off, fading quickly. The soft hum-buzz in my brain keeps going. I wonder if someone with better hearing would hear more. But there . . . the refrigerator seems to be slowly gearing up, just one small step up in volume at first. A couple of tiny creaks from the house, probably cooling down from the day. And now the fan of the heating system kicks in. (It wasn’t the refrigerator after all.) The temperature has dropped low enough to trip the thermostat. The sound of the fan rises, first slowly . . . now with more oomph.

The silence has vanished.


The polyhedron in “Knowing a little about a lot of things” is actually a dodecahedron-icosahedron compound and the beautiful image comes from Wolfram MathWorld. You can find the graphic and a description of it at: http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Dodecahedron-IcosahedronCompound.html.

The photo in “In between” was taken in 2019 of a plaque created in 2005 which includes an etched photo taken in 1978.

Why walk? – Every time, it’s time away.

What is walking good for?

Losing myself in thought and sometimes in space
Getting where I need to go
Carrying on good conversations with friends old and new
Doing errands and learning how many things I can carry at once
Taking a stand in marches with friends and strangers
Grieving the loss of a friend or family member
Letting my mind go into itself and into the walk, often with unexpected results
Exploring new places – in small towns, wild & wide open spaces, and tightly-packed cities
Enjoying the familiarity of the same path over and over again
Mulling over next steps, thinking ahead through tricky situations
Whatever the weather, feeling it through skin and bones and ears
Getting away from my desk and out of the house
Putting muscles, bones, and joints to use, temporarily getting rid of the occasional arthritic pain in my right hip

In May this year, I decided to keep track of a month of my walks, mapping them after the fact, describing them briefly, noting what took me outside, and seeing where and how far I went.

What more is walking good for?

Timing my arrival at doctors appointments and work dates with careful precision
Smelling the wind, the trees, and of course the blossoms
Chatting with friends and strangers I meet along the way
Talking with nearby birds and small critters – squirrels, cats, dogs, a rabbit, and a raccoon
Feeling the satisfaction of my feet solidly hitting the ground
Finding new ways to get to familiar places
Allowing time for aimlessness
Listening to all the sounds I walk through
Getting unstuck and centered
Discovering new staircases, vistas, and untraveled short cuts
Following alleyways, water edges, railroad tracks, and back roads
Trying to come to terms with civic crises and figure out what I can do
Letting off steam
Simply enjoying the parallel motion of mind and feet

To make up for the fact that I didn’t have a map for every day in May – some days I either forgot to make notes or didn’t get out much – I made a record of a few good walks in June. In fact, it was hard to stop the recordkeeping, though I’m glad I did. I didn’t use a “fitness tracker.” It’s been clear, after listening to friends who use them, how easy it is get hooked on those electronic devices. It’s an obsession I don’t want.

Looking back at these records, I notice that, in this particular month, many of the walks I think of as favorites are missing – in towns and landscapes outside Seattle, political marches and rallies, through industrial areas or along railroad tracks, around the arboretum, along the waterfront, through Interbay and over the locks, and anywhere with grandkids. It’s definitely time to get outdoors and walk, right now.

What took me outside?  Where and how far did I go?


2017 Thanksgiving Day walkers

When I started living alone about 15 years ago, all of a sudden my daytimes on Thanksgiving Day were wide open. Since then, almost all my celebratory Thanksgiving meals have been with friends Norie and Ralph, who enjoy preparing the evening’s magnificent food with little help from us, the guests. So, what on earth, I wondered, does one do during the day on Thanksgiving without any hosting or cooking responsibilities?

Take a long walk, of course!

At the time, I lived downtown, an easy walk – about a mile – from the south end of Lake Union. So I decided to walk around the lake. I wanted to see how close to the water I could stay as I circumambulated. Over the course of about 6.5 miles, the terrain and the landscape change many times – from docks with fancy water craft and restaurants, to light marine industry, houseboats, small street-end parks, two bridges, a major regional park constructed on the site of an old gasworks plant, a couple of sea plane terminals, and much more. And the weather is just as changeable – rain, fog, clearing, sun, wind, drizzle – anything goes.

I always made curious little discoveries and encountered memorable characters. One year I passed the same couple twice, and we realized we were doing the same thing, just in opposite directions. We said, “See you next year!” though we never did. Another year I ran into a wild-looking guy on a little road that ran alongside a run-down ramshackle complex of buildings where I suspected he lived. As he chased pigeons away from the building, he muttered to me, “Too much society!” I smiled and scooted away hoping I wasn’t also too much society. When I got twenty yards or so down the street, he shouted, “Hey!” in my direction. When I turned, he gave me a big thumbs up, saying simply, “Thanksgiving!” You just never know where you’ll find joy.

One year, Norie took time out to join me. From her I learned that Seattle City Parks and Recreation had given “my” path an official name: “The Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop.” The City’s path doesn’t always stay as close to the water as my path did, though I suppose parts of mine were probably a little too sketchy to ever be “official.” But the course is marked with signs, and information about it is posted online.

The Loop is named for Cheshiahud, a Duwamish man, also known as Lake Union John or “Chodups,” who lived most of the last years of his life on the edge of Portage Bay, an extension of the lake. The photo below shows him with his wife Tleebuleetsa, also known as Madeline. Born in about 1820, Cheshiahud died in 1910. It was said he was the last of the Duwamish people to live a traditional, independent lifestyle near the lake, land historically inhabited by the Duwamish people and their ancestors. More about his life is here.

Cheshiahud and Tleebuleetsa

Eight years ago I began to invite friends to come along. We start our walk at 11 a.m. at South Lake Union Park. We head out, whatever the weather, walking counterclockwise. With a few side trips – to the lake at street ends, a photo-op stop at the north end, and a coffee break at the Fremont Bridge about two thirds of the way around – we allow about three hours, though it often doesn’t take that long. The weather is always a surprise – bright or gray, sunny, drippy, or down right wet. For the first shared walk, we even had snow on the ground.

Each year, we have a few stalwarts who walk almost every time, many repeaters, and always new people – young and old, very small children in strollers, and a nice assortment of dogs. One year, we picked up a few curious strangers part way around. The past few years, we’ve passed, or more correctly, been passed by, quite a caravan of families on bicycles of all sizes.

I’ve loved the way that, over the duration of the walk, people drift forward and back along our loose line of walkers, talking with both long-time and newly-discovered friends. All in all, there’s never been a year when I didn’t end the walk feeling invigorated and grateful, for the walk, for the weather, and most of all for the friends.

Note: The  photo of Cheshihud and Tleebuleetsa was taken by Orion Denny, the first white male born in Seattle.


Why keep making things up in an eighth decade?

Making it up, part 2


With seven decades under me, I want the chance to reflect back on the past I’ve known and to imagine forward to what might yet be by learning from others – young and old, here and there, alike and different, artists and others.

The years I’ve lived have given me a many-layered foundation, built slowly over 70 years, an aggregate mix of success and acknowledgment, failure and loss, gaps and continuities. The foundation is a strong but supple underpinning that offers something steadier to stand on than I had when I was twenty, a ground for making and strengthening relationships, for continuing to make a living and a difference, for being curious, being mad, being silly, for listening, loving, thinking, writing, acting up, and continuing to dream.

I want to share what I’ve accumulated and see if it’s useful beyond myself. I want to use the past as a springboard for my curiosity and for new connections and ideas. I’d love to inspire others to do the same, to use the foundations we’ve built to make things better.

Get up, I tell myself. Get up!  Let’s get going!

On turning 70, I became clearer than ever that my time is limited.

So, if not now…when?

I have so many questions.

What do we, who are 70 and beyond, do with the extra years that modern medicine and knowledge have given us? How do we mix past and present? How do we, as an ever-larger percentage of the population, answer these questions and make a difference today?

How is the nature of work changing? How is the economy around us changing? Can we be part of imagining a different future?

How can we live together with all our differences? What can we do to strengthen the common ground that seems to be getting lost?

What can we learn from artists’ experience of work, or of aging, or of the common good? How are artists adding to wider community conversations? What more can we do?

I want to provoke new attempts to find answers.

In an eighth decade, what patterns can I make? What new ways can I move? I’m still trying to change the world.

I want to use my old-fashioned, old-fogey ways and mix them up with sometimes hard-for-me-to-understand new ways:  new technologies, new ideas about the social world, new understandings of the natural world.

I’m eager to bounce ideas around with younger people. I want to be a novice again.

I want to be a spur, a spark, l’ancienne terrible – though this personality type doesn’t really sound like me.

I’d love to figure out how to call myself. It seems we’re often asked for a few words to identify who we are. I’ve never had a good answer. So, at this point, am I . . .

A vintage instigator?
An antique inventor, rabble rouser, catalyst?
An always curious old codger? (Can women be old codgers?)
Or maybe, a seasoned listener and observer who’s been around the block – more than a few times?

I want to keep making it up.

I want time and a charge that asks me to go back to the little piles of notes and ideas left behind at times in my life, notes that are now stacking up in storage, to think about them one more time, to clean them out, pass them along, or at least recycle the paper.

Jonas Mekas, now 93, put it this way: “My own personal work was done in pieces. Now all those pieces are crying out to be completed. I’m obsessed with finishing them.”

The spirit of making it up – of life and work as an experiment – has run through my life from the start, from organizing marching majorettes in high school, to making art, creating an artist workshop at a television station, helping start formal and informal organizations, networks, and conversations, and, just last year, helping to create, fifty years later, a new alumni-in-residence program at my college alma mater.

I want to keep living an experiment, where the results are unknown and possibility is wide open.

Note:  The first “Making It Up” was posted on November 28, 2016.

What is this “Carrying on”?


Roget’s Thesaurus offers these synonyms…


Q  Why is this website called “Carrying on”? 

Carrying on is what storytellers do when they get going and can’t stop. Carrying on is what grandkids do that creates a din in the living room. Carrying on is what people do when they’re mad or when they have a powerful sense of purpose or when they pick themselves up and keep going. Carrying on is what people lucky enough to live into the upper atmospheres of their lives get to do.

Q  But how does a website have anything to do with carrying on?

“Carrying on” is a prompt to keep me writing, to help me get down to it. Writing is a thread that winds through all the messiness and many directions of the work I’m doing now and have done in the past. Writing has been a way to plan, reflect, report, ruminate, try to understand myself and the world, and make my thoughts hold still before they meander off.

“Carrying on” is a gentle but clear commitment to write. There’s nothing easier than procrastinating when a tough writing puzzle awaits – there are always dishes to do, doctor’s appointments to make (more, it seems, as the years go by), correspondence from friends to answer, errands to run, bills to pay, someone else’s deadline to meet. The truth of Thomas Mann’s words become clearer every day. “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

“Carrying on” is meant to take advantage of what might otherwise be an unfortunate personal trait: I’m much more likely to keep a commitment made to others than one made only to myself. It’s partly out of a desire to strengthen this commitment that I maintain a list of friends, family, and colleagues to whom I report when I’ve added three or four new pieces about once a month. Unwittingly, they – that is, you – are holding me accountable. I’m grateful for your help, whether you know you’re giving it or not.

“Carrying on” gives me deadlines. The end of every month comes with a little shove, becomes a kind of deadline. I feel pressure from my writing-soul when a whole month goes by without my having added anything new. If you’ve been getting these updates, you might notice how often they arrive on the last day of the month. (If you’re not getting them, but would like to, let me know at annefocke@gmail.com.)

“Carrying on” is a place to put writing that’s meant to be read by others. I’m writing in public.

“Carrying on” is a place to put some of what’s on my mind right now. And it’s also a place to put pieces I’ve written in the past that didn’t quite get finished, or need revision, or didn’t have a way into the world. A long trail of half- and almost-completed pieces fill paper and digital folders, and I have many little books full of ideas I want to explore by writing about them.

“Carrying on” may become something of an anthology.

“Carrying on” reminds me that for years I’ve said, “I’ll write about that some day.” I remember my mother saying the same thing. But she never had the chance.

With “Carrying on,” I ask myself, If not now, when?

and continues with these.


Postscript:  I’m thinking I should aspire to all of Mr. Roget’s synonyms as I keep on carrying on.

“Carrying on” is part of the Jini Dellaccio Project,
a fiscally-sponsored project of Artist Trust.

A birthday, simple joys, and a close call

“You celebrated your birthday by telling your friends about a close call with death decades ago? Really?”

This was what I heard when I told a friend about an email message I wrote six years ago. Actually, the message is one I’ve saved and occasionally send to someone new when it seems helpful. It’s not my birthday today, but I’m reminded of  the message because I’ve just sent it out again.

Anne Focke
May 6, 2011 12:09:03 PM PDT
Subject: Birthday musing

Birthdays have a way of reminding us of all the people we want to fold in and hold close. I know it’s a little unusual to send greetings to other people on one’s own birthday, but I thought I’d break tradition this time. Since you’re all scattered hither and thither, I’m grateful for electronic tools that allow me to at least throw a virtual loop around you all. I’m so lucky you’re all in my life. A few lines from Denise Levertov’s poem, “Complaint and Rejoinder,” say it well:

…you want to place all of it—
people, places, their tones, atmospheres,
everything shared uniquely with each—
into a single bowl, like petals, like sand
in a pail.…

Today I’m taking time to celebrate the simple joy of being alive, visiting gardens and seeing friends. It’s a cool, overcast Seattle day, crisp and gorgeous in its own way . . . and getting brighter at this point.

My celebration was given perspective by an email I opened this morning. It reminded me how close I came, at one point, to not being here for my day today. The video, “Dear 16-year-old-me,” is all about a cancer I had almost 40 years ago.

The melanoma (superficial, spreading, malignant) appeared on my back and looked like a mole gone a little crazy. There wasn’t chemotherapy back then; they just cut it out. Somewhere I have a little artist book I made about it. I called it “Healing.” The big scar that remains on my back and the pale stripes on my right thigh remind me how lucky I am to be here now. The video suggests sending the link to every 16-year-old I know, and I realized I don’t know many, but I could send it to family and friends who might have kids or grandkids who would. So I send it to you.

It’s an odd birthday greeting, I know, but it’s really about being alive!

Love to you all,


“We must find a way to stay in the same room.”

January 7, 2011

Can we stay in the same room?

The commons. Public trust. Civil society. 

These words describe big ideas that matter. Once you start paying attention to them, they seem to show up everywhere. But sometimes the ideas they encompass are so big or so complicated, or are used in so many ways by people with such wildly divergent views that they lose their meaning or make it hard to tell where they hit the ground in our real, every-day world.

In a group conversation about where the concept of the commons can be found in our daily lives, Wier Harman, a hero of mine who has managed to keep Town Hall Seattle hopping each year with between 350 and 400 events across a wide spectrum of ideas and culture, first thought of groups that form around pre-schools.

But then he focused on what, given the general direction of his politics, he called the “unlikely,” emotional impact of standing at a Rotary meeting with a roomful of Rotarians wholeheartedly singing patriotic songs together at the start of their meeting. He noted that at work he puts a lot of time and energy into arguing for Town Hall as a space that allows for profound differences.

With his Rotary singing as a backdrop, he added, “We must find a way to stay in the same room.”

• • • 

These words retain the quiet power today that they had for me in 2011. I hang on to the aspiration they express at least as tightly now as I did then. I keep my notes from that conversation handy and find I’m pulling them out more and more often.

The question of how we do it continues to haunt and provoke me.