In December last year (2021), an essay I wrote, “Collectively Imagining a More Just World,” was published by the Polity of Literature on ArtsEverywhere.com. The editor’s introduction and the first few pages of the essay itself are included below. On the essay’s title page, the Polity of Literature offers this brief summary:
Travis Ray ComesLast committed a terrible crime, but what should happen next? Stories of injury and stories of repair involve us all. We must tell and receive these stories collectively.
The commission to write the essay gave me the freedom to follow the story wherever it took me, and the pandemic gave me time. The story takes a winding path with many side trips along the way as it follows two main characters who were also my principal collaborators in learning and writing. Their words are often incorporated directly.
Travis Ray ComesLast, Assiniboine-Hunkpapa and Lakota Sioux, has been in prison since he was twenty and so far has served twenty-five years of a fifty-one year sentence. He’s no longer the person he was when he entered prison. Recently he wrote, “Changing my life is a way of showing remorse, taking responsibility, and making amends.”
Heather Dew Oaksen is a filmmaker who has known Travis since 1994 when she taught video skills at Green Hill School, a maximum security juvenile detention center. Their friendship has continued and grown since then. Heather spearheads a team of supporters who are fighting for Travis’s freedom.
Above all, Travis’s trust was fundamental to my ability to tell this story, and Heather’s high spirits and willingness to engage in the nitty gritty details were essential.
My third main collaborator, Polity of Literature editor Matthew Stadler, offered me the opportunity to write, engaged with me in the ideas I took on, and showed me in new ways that writing and reading are fundamentally a collective process. I encourage you to check out both the Polity of Literature series and the ArtsEverywhere site.
The introduction and first section of “Collectively Imagining a More Just World” follow. The full essay is here.
Travis Ray ComesLast, an Assiniboine-Hunkpapa and Lakota Sioux tribal member, grew up near Spokane, Washington. After a chaotic childhood he committed a series of increasingly serious crimes, later explaining to a friend, “I got into as much trouble as possible one day trying to get arrested ’cause I knew that if I did I would get help, and since I didn’t know how to ask for help, that was my way to get help.”
By the time he was an adult a conviction for killing a man had put him in the Washington state prison system for more than fifty years. He would live and possibly die as a prisoner.The system that put him there, the state justice system, cast his imprisonment as compensation for the horrible injury he caused his victim and his victim’s family—a-life-for-a-life being the logical conclusion of a system predicated on an-eye-for-an-eye. Now Travis is forty-five-years old. The victim’s family is still aggrieved; the daughter who never had a father growing up is living with the life-long impact of that loss. And Travis, an entirely changed man in his head and heart, will live most of his life, perhaps even die, as a prisoner.
In the 1990s Travis told his story to a young filmmaker, Heather Dew Oaksen. Over the next decade Oaksen began telling Travis’ story, and the stories of other prisoners, through her films. Anne Focke, in her second piece for the Polity of Literature series, tells the story she learned from Heather’s films and from Travis himself after she joined a team of supporters Oaksen gathered to help Travis in his effort to regain his freedom.
Whose story is this? How should it be told, and by whom? Literature is collective, always. It exists only among writers and readers and never in solitude. Literature displaces solitude by bringing us into the collective space of writing and reading. As such, it is a powerful means for justice, which like its inverse, injustice, is always and only a collective condition.
Ecosystems are so similar to human societies—they’re built on relationships. The stronger those are, the more resilient the system. And since our world’s systems are composed of individual organisms, they have the capacity to change. We creatures adapt, our genes evolve, and we can learn from experience. A system is ever changing because its parts—the trees and fungi and people—are constantly responding to one another and to the environment. Our success in coevolution—our success as a productive society—is only as good as the strength of these bonds with other individuals and species. Out of the resulting adaptation and evolution emerge behaviors that help us survive, grow, and thrive.
— Suzanne Simard in The Mother Tree
This story is not about forests directly, but it benefits from what we, in human societies, can learn from forests. As I write, I want to learn how or whether the many related but disparate people and activities I come across can work together toward something new and larger. Can they become like healthy soil, with mycelia, fungi, mycorrhizal networks, tree rootlets, all feeding and influencing each other? How does this mesh grow thicker and stronger? How can it become visible and, over time, undo or take apart and break down large, seemingly permanent structures and institutions and then grow new ones, like fungal fruiting bodies, to provide nutrition to new or ancient seedlings? New narratives will be needed for this and perhaps are already being created by collectively imagining new futures.
My story begins with a single thread, a single path through the ecosystem of the story. I start with one individual, Travis Ray ComesLast.
I came across an article in the Spokesman Review by Colin Tiernan… it was a story entitled “All These Children Matter”…actually made front page! It was a story about the unmarked graves of the children found at some boarding schools and the affects it has had on Native Peoples. It spoke about intergenerational-trauma, PTSD and secondary PTSD resulting from the atrocities experienced at the schools. Reading the stories made me cry… its sad and frustrating!
I couldn’t help but remember all the stories my mom would tell me of her experience at boarding school and the thought of how much the affects had on my upbringing? I wonder what if she would of felt safe enough to teach me and my siblings our traditional ways and language… would I of made better choices, did the trauma [she] experienced at boarding school deprive me of a fair equal opportunity at life? How many and to what extent did the boarding school traumas have on Native Americans? Experts say the trauma has been passed on from generation to generation, even to the extent its in our DNA!! Had my mom not attended boarding school would I be in prison??
I just know much of what keeps me in place today and made me the man I am today is the traditional ways of my people. The story shed some light on what Indians have been saying… it validates what we been knowing all along! I encourage you to read the article.
An email sent by Travis Ray ComesLast from Airway Heights Corrections Center, to a friend, Heather Dew Oaksen, August 2021
Travis Ray ComesLast, Assiniboine-Hunkpapa and Lakota Sioux, is in his twenty-fifth year of incarceration for a murder committed when he had just turned twenty. He will be seventy-four when he finally completes his court-mandated sentence of fifty-one years. Born in 1976 in Spokane Washington, Travis speaks of himself as having felt abandoned as a child, reports Heather Dew Oaksen, a friend of mine as well as Travis’. He grew up in the midst of constant disruption and violence. His father was in prison and his mother mostly absent. An alcoholic for most of her life, his mother, Sharon, would disappear for long stretches of time.
Travis has three siblings, Heather told me, and so many half-siblings she lost track of the number. “I never really knew my biological father,” Travis told her years later. “He was in and out of prison all my life! My earliest memories with him are all bad… giving me beer in the little half beer cans they use to sell, hitting my mom, and going on a high-speed chase with him and my uncles. In the middle of the chase, they dropped me off on the side of the street and told me to go home… dirt was all around me from the car racing down a side road. Asking my mom about this years later she said I wasn’t even two years of age when it happened.”
The extended family is large and sprawling—a stepfather, the stepfather’s brother, aunts and uncles, and many other familial and tribal connections in the Spokane area. What I know of Travis’ early years are the stories he tells. Others have surely had similar childhoods, even if I have not. I repeat the stories that Travis tells because I want to show him as he sees himself. As a five-year-old, an aunt took Travis in and cared for him at her home, which she also ran as a house of prostitution. Travis made easy friends with “all the ladies,” and at some point, they gave him a few quarters for candy. When the news of this exchange got around, the ruling pimp exploded in anger and fired gunshots at the closet where Travis was hiding. Even in this near-parentless context, Heather said, as Travis got older, he followed his aunt’s example and was constantly trying to take care of his younger siblings and his mom. At about age 17, after his three siblings were taken in by relatives, he was left alone in a house with no electricity. “I spiraled out of control after this,” he said. “I got into as much trouble as possible one day trying to get arrested cause I knew that if I did, I would get help, and since I didn’t know how to ask for help, that was my way to get help.”
This family life had a lasting impact that shows in the lives of Travis and his siblings today. A younger brother, Kenneth, is in prison for a double murder he committed at age 15. While an older brother is doing pretty well, his sister suffers from addiction and has multiple children by different fathers. Most of his half-siblings are in jail. “There is much history in the ComesLast name,” Heather told me recently, “and it continues to hold Travis back.”
Even while living in this home environment, Travis learned of his Indigenous culture and was proud of his Sioux heritage. He’d been taught by his stepdad and that side of the family—grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends of the family. They had a drum group called Spokane Falls and travelled around the area performing. He said recently that what he knew of his culture he learned through the drum and singing and dancing. From age eight to thirteen, this kept him out of trouble. He even had his own regalia. At one point, though, the family gave away the drum and all the regalia, collected over years from various relatives. This had a terrible impact. “It changed the dynamic of the family,” Travis said. The family lost its centre, and he began his own downward spiral. Speaking to Heather in a juvenile prison, he told her: “There’s a lot of things I still don’t know about my culture. You know, I feel something in my life is being left out. I don’t feel whole. Until I know fully about my culture and all my ways, that piece of me will always be missing.”
Recently, Travis had a heart-to-heart with his mother about her boarding school experience. He wondered why she waited so long to tell her children the story. She had been reluctant to talk about it earlier, he told Heather. She wanted to forget. Her response is understandable. Stories of the abusive system of Indian Boarding Schools have filled the news over the past year or so. In 2020, the Washington State Senate adopted Resolution 8703, which acknowledges the government’s role in the abuse of Indigenous children at state-funded boarding schools. “This is part of our lives that just won’t go away,” said Tulalip tribal member John McCoy, a retired Washington state senator. McCoy went on to explain that the resolution states that between 1869 and the 1960s children at these schools “were punished for speaking their native language, banned from acting in any way that might be seen as representing traditional or cultural practices, shorn of their hair, stripped of traditional clothing and all things and behaviors reflective of their native culture, and shamed for being Native American.” The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, begun in 2012 and based in Minneapolis, is launching a ten-year push toward healing, education, and advocacy. Their website quotes board member Sarah Eagle Heart saying, “Our grandmothers are just now talking about the pain they experienced in Indian Boarding Schools.” Travis’ mother is one of these grandmothers and just wanted to put the experience behind her.
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.
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.