A Seattle couple is awed by an emotional Ampersand Live

Bob and Sue Mecklenburg were among the hundreds who joined us at Ampersand Live on Nov. 10, 2016. They shared their impressions with their friends and family in their annual holiday letter—accompanied by this woodblock image. We asked their permission to share this excerpt.

Cardinal and Elms, copyright 2014 Molly Hashimoto

“As President Obama reassured us, the sun did, in fact, come up the next morning. Later in the week, we joined hundreds from our city’s neighborhoods at Seattle’s Town Hall for Ampersand Live, an annual celebration of the Northwest, “The Place We Love.” The evening’s program included photographer, Amy Gulick, who told us of “salmon in the trees,” the vital connection between bears, salmon, and the great conifers in the Tongass National Forest. Kevin Horan, a photographer, presented his images of Whidbey Island goats, likenesses that could compete for wall space in the National Portrait Gallery. Jill Freidberg, historian, presented vignettes reflecting the diverse and sustaining social fabric of a grocery store that became the anchor for the inner city community at 23rd and Jackson. Last on stage was Tomo Nakayama, a pianist, songwriter, Artist in Residence at Town Hall—and immigrant. He walked onto the stage and sat at the piano. The audience waited. Silence. He was weeping. Through his tears he recounted his experience over the last year in that very room, the many performances, lectures and discussions that had been enriched by diversity of thought, inclusiveness, mutual respect and civil discourse. And he sensed we had passed a high water mark for our nation beyond which the tide of decency and compassion was receding. Tomo composed himself and played his composition.  As his last notes faded—but before applause could begin—he struck the resolute opening chords and sang the first words of an anthem brought forth in pain many years ago, “We shall overcome…we’ll walk hand in hand…we are not afraid.” At the back of the auditorium, a few stood to sing. Then more. In a few moments, hundreds were on their feet adding both their voices and tears to those of Tomo…and forging an unspoken commitment that The Place We Love will endure not only for bears, salmon, and spruce, but especially for each other.”