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Dear Friend,

Tidal Basin from the air.

If you follow my Instagram, you are likely already aware that I spent the week overlapping May and June visiting my aunt and uncle in the Seattle area! Part of me felt a little silly taking a week of vacation only a month before I leave my role, but I don’t feel good about taking time off between November and the end of our annual fundraising breakfast’s follow-up process. So it had been a while since I took more than a three day weekend, and I don’t like wasting things… ESPECIALLY things like vacation time! Although honestly, I’ve been wanting to go visit them for over a year so if I could make it happen, I was going to do it.

The anticipation of this trip was heightened more than most. If you don’t believe me, you should ask my mom who was sitting in the car next to me when I was buying plane tickets. You see, as I was doing so, I realized that I could work it out to have an extended(ish) layover in Denver on my way out. So not only was I going to spend a week with my family and their puppies (who I lovingly refer to as my ‘dog cousins’), but I was also going to get to see one of my best friends since high school, who lives in Denver and whom I hadn’t seen in almost a year. (Again this sounds silly given that I’m MOVING to Denver in a month, but a WHOLE YEAR!) The final hour of each of my flights seemed to drag on forever because I just couldn’t wait to see and hug my people.

My time in Seattle (technically Sammamish) was primarily spent reading, relaxing, eating, and hanging out with the puppies. Let me clarify, I refer to Shaftoe and Glory in the LOOSEST sense of the word ‘puppy’. If you were thinking about two young little dogs running around being cute, you have the wrong idea. I am talking about 9-year-old dogs who are both well over 100 lbs. and like to spend their days napping in the living room. Although the fact that he can’t fit doesn’t keep Shaftoe from trying to sit in my lap (not that I mind).

This trip was the first time in too long that I’ve given myself space to read extensively for pleasure. I had been meaning to read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel for about a year, and it was just small enough to tuck into my purse, so I brought it along with me. Once I finished Station Eleven, however, I needed to find something new and went exploring through their books until I settled on The Silent Tower, which is the first of The Windrose Chronicles by Barbara Hambly. Published in the 80’s and 90’s they were new to me and exactly what I was looking for. In fact, after finishing The Silent Tower, I went on to read the next two in the series (The Silicon Mage & Dog Wizard) before returning home.

On Wednesday morning, my aunt and I visited the La Marzocco Cafe and Showroom. My dad loves coffee and has a talent for finding the best coffee in town, even in places he’s not familiar with (I have no idea how), so I had asked him for a recommendation and this is where he sent us. La Marzocco is an espresso machine manufacturer whose café in Seattle features a new ‘Roaster in Residence’ each month. At the time of our visit, Toby’s Estate from Brooklyn was the featured roaster. When we arrived, I ordered a Cortado Breve, and my aunt ordered a drink off their menu called the Gingersnap. We enjoyed them so much that we got a second round with reversed orders!

Before I went, one of the things I told my dad was that I wasn’t going so that I could be a tourist and explore Seattle. I was going because I wanted to deepen my relationship with my aunt and uncle and better understand what their daily lives look like. Life in L’Arche has taught me the value of dedicating time to simply be present with people. And I don’t just mean that it’s appreciated by the person/people I’m being present with, but also that it is a practice that is and has been meaningful for me. In that vein, part of my time with them was spent visiting/touring/eating lunch at my uncle’s workplace and briefly meeting a few of his coworkers. My aunt, one of her good friends/neighbor, and I also got to have a ‘girls night’ one afternoon and attended a winery concert event together another evening.On Friday morning, my aunt, uncle, and I all went to visit Snoqualmie Falls. If you watch Twin Peaks (which I haven’t) this is apparently the falls shown during the opening credits. We started at the top where the overlook is before hiking down to the bottom of the falls where, in addition to another viewpoint of the falls, you can see where the pipes from the hydro plant come down and join the river. It was stunning. It also made me really excited to be in Denver soon with access to hiking trails in the beautiful Rockies.

If I were an anthropologist, I think I would study the importance of food in forming and creating community/culture. That is to say, like most families (I assume), my family talks and thinks about food a lot. According to my dad, the uncle I was visiting is the one who helped introduce him to more varied and interesting cuisines, and thus the reason that I grew up thinking squid was a completely normal food to eat. So obviously one of the first questions they had for me when I arrived was, ‘What kind of food do you want to eat this week?’ Throughout the week we visited one of their favorite places, Flo Sushi and Sake Bar, as well as a Oaxacan place they hadn’t tried before. The night before I left, my uncle and I also made Maqluba. They had never heard of it but, when they had asked about food I wanted to eat, I had mentioned it was one of my favorites from my time in the Middle East. I think of Maqluba as being a perfect comfort food, and was excited to be able to see what the process of making it actually entails. We used the recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi’s book, Jerusalem to great success.

The morning I left, Shaftoe could tell something was up and waited patiently for me at the top of the landing as I went back and forth between the bathroom and the guest room getting ready and packing my stuff. Then he trotted down the stairs next to me as I brought my suitcase down. Once downstairs he plopped down on the floor and made puppy dog eyes at me until it was time to go. One of my favorite photos of him while I was there is from that morning of him just looking at me. The look on his face seems a bit quizzical and just perfectly fits how I was feeling as I was getting ready to go.

Overall, I think you could say this trip was exactly what I needed before my upcoming transition. Taking a step away from the busyness and chaos of preparing to move across the country for a short time of being with people I love with nothing on the agenda except to be and experience what was before me. What a gift it was!

Lots of Love, Mandi Jo