Washington: wild coastlines, and rubber duckies, and SeaHawks blankets, and Aunt Chicken…
To some, Washington conjures up images of crisp apples, Space Needle, and sleeplessness in Seattle (thanks to coffee, Meg, and Tom). To us, it now means Aunt Chicken.
She began as Aunt Pat, Colin’s relative in far-away lands. For years, his mom would tell us, “She’s the best! You’d love her!” And so, Aunt Pat got an early map pin as we began our sabbatical planning. Little did I know how true Colin’s mom’s words would be. Aunt Pat is humorous, mischievous, kind, and fascinating. During her long career with the Board of Education, she worked with Remote and Necessary schools across Washington, taking circuitous journeys across land and sea to far-flung communities with unique stories. Schools that served native populations, kids who needed their passport 4 times per day as they passed in and out of Canada to get from school to home, and testifying before Washington legislature, were all part of her daily grind. And before that? Let’s just say that she has a great story about snatching the hat from a bride’s father’s head at a critical moment – par for the course when she was a wedding planner. Aunt Pat quickly made it onto my list of favorite people.
But my love for Pat would pale when compared to that which Katie felt for her; by the end of a few days, Katie was ready to pack up her small stash of biscuits and dog beds, and hang her leash permanently at Pat’s door. Pat, you see, had an ample supply of chicken which, following a furtive whisper of “Don’t tell your mom!” was hand fed, tiny piece by tiny piece, to my faithless scruffball. Pat would ply Katie with stories of trips to McDonalds and her very own fleecy blanket (“Get rid of that Bronco’s orange [editor’s note: it’s just orange…]! Here’s one in the blue and glorious green of the SeaHawks!”).
By the end of even one day, Katie was preferentially snoozing in Pat’s room. By day three, when Colin and I unhooked the trailer and snuck away for an overnight in the Olympic peninsula and Canada, we would later learn that Katie had barely noted our absence. She’d basked in Pat’s attention, enjoyed sniffy walks in Pat’s multi-acre garden, eaten chicken, and snuggled by the fire at night.
Before we left, though, we spent a few lovely days hanging out with Pat. Her kitchen peaks out across misty tall trees and greenery and flowers. She has bird feeders hung in front of the picture window, and as we caught up on family stories and neighborhood gossip, we watched the birds and balked at the newly emboldened squirrels that were feasting at her All Day-All Night Seed and Suet Bar.
Pat’s house is just south of Olympia, and she us took out to explore the best of the area. We walked the paths around the Tumwater Falls by Olympia Brewery, and were amused to see hundreds of little rubber duckies in the water. Evidently, the annual Duck Dash of nearby Lacey’s Rotary Club had recently taken place. We were witnessing the non-finishers, doomed to float stranded in the swirling eddies and water-trailing branches until a rescue operation could be mounted.
Later, we picnicked al fresco on a generous spread that Pat had packed, and walked the marina, enjoying the houseboats, like campers that float instead of roll. Washington has the largest population of houseboats of any state – they must know a thing or two about the Good Life.
Along the marina we passed the statue of the Kissing Couple and obliged tradition with the well-practiced pose struck by many visitors before us.
To cap it all, Pat treated us to a delicious seafood dinner overlooking the inlet bay, at a restaurant whose name we cannot recall, but with a view that was unforgettable.
On a rainy morning, leaving Rocinante and Katie behind, we headed west and then north along the Olympic Peninsula, headed for Canada.