Saturday, September 30, 2006
Camp Pinelow on Deer Lake.
Vegetation on Deer Lake...
Yesterday Rhonda and I visited Camp Pinelow to negotiate a potential venue for our upcoming couples retreat. Initially, Camp Pinelow was simply one site on a list of possible locations, but as we declared our intention to the camp director, we had something of a spiritual experience. With each passing minute of our tour, we experienced a Higher Power working in our bodies and minds. Rhonda and I looked at each other and said, "This is the place."
We're very excited about securing this location. It will be perfect for our retreat. We'll post more information as time permits.
The Spokane River with fall colors emerging.
Once again I find myself walking the banks of the river admiring the subtle change of colors as summer surrenders to fall. The life sap retreats in preparation for its yearly hibernation and the trees reveal a different face. Today, the change is just barely noticeable, but experience tells us the leaves will ignite in fiery shades of red, yellow, orange; and then suddenly one day the world sleeps beneath the icy grip of winter.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Abe and Nate are cousins, but more like brothers.
My friend Nate invited my family to a barbeque in honor of his departure from Spokane. He is leaving for an extended trip down the western coast of North America, including Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. I'm excited for his upcoming adventures, but I'm sad to see him go. As I've heard so many times, there is no goodbye. We always say "See you later..."
His cousin Abe also attended the barbeque and played some amazing rhythms for us. I hate to reveal my ignorance, but he has some kind of device that makes drum beats and other electronic sounds. He may record some music for the soul dance.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
The Spokane River near SCC...
A couple weeks ago I reported on my first day as an instructor at Spokane Community College and how no students showed up to my class. As it turns out, the college did not advertise for the class, and so they decided to cancel until next quarter. Meanwhile, I joined the daytime class with two other instructors. I taught my first formal lesson today with a group of amazing students. I'm glad to be back.
Monday, September 25, 2006
In the lobby of Little America.
Rhonda and I attended Couples Training at the Great Life Foundation last weekend. It was a phenomenal experience. I can't even begin to describe what we learned about ourselves and each other. As we peeled through all the layers of judgment, pain, withholding, and fear, we experienced love and joy on a whole new level.
We know the couples training works because of how we feel and also the feedback we received during the last evening of the training and during our return trip to Spokane.
After the last night of the training, we stopped at an old dirty gas station to purchase gasoline for our car. I was wearing a tuxedo as I walked into the station to pre-pay. There was a man standing at the counter who was obviously drunk. He had a bottle of liquor in a brown paper bag, crazy hair, a dirty face, and missing teeth. When he saw me he exclaimed loudly, "Dude! Nice suit!" I thanked him for noticing, and then he said even more loudly than before, "Damn, you're hot!" I thanked him again, and then he said, "If I were gay, I would kiss you!" Everyone in the gas station laughed, but I just thanked him a third time and went back to my car smiling from ear to ear. As I left the gas station, another man rushed to open the door for me. I felt like a king.
Then during our return trip, we stopped at Walmart in Idaho Falls. As we paid for our food, the clerk leaned forward and said, "Are you guys in love?"
I said, "Yes, we are."
He leaned forward and smiled wistfully as he said, "I just knew you guys were in love because you're glowing."
Since returning home, I realize we have a choice every day to live on PURPOSE, or to fall into old habits. As we live our highest values, our lives become richer and filled with meaning.
Monday, September 18, 2006
When news of their misadventures reaches my ear, I get so angry, tragically sad, and bitterly disappointed, but when I see their faces again, I forget their misdeeds, if even for a moment. I cannot save them from their ruinous path, but for one brief hour I welcome them home; and for an instant, they are no longer the lost boys of Spokane, but my children again.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Saturday, September 16, 2006
The girls are delighted with their new pajamas.
My kids and I spent the day together, and used up some gift cards we received to buy more school clothes. The girls were expecially excited to buy new pajamas. After shopping for clothes, we took a picnic at the park, and then visited my mom. I think they were very happy today. The world is so complicated, but as I watch my children and their excitement, I am reminded I was once a child, and I also saw the world with delight.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Thursday, September 14, 2006
A statue depicting the first Holy Family.
My children and I visited Holy Family Hospital this evening where a good friend is recovering from complications related to surgery and childbirth. She gave birthto a baby with special needs. The child was absolutely precious and holy. In many Native American traditions, children like this are considered sacred beings. I certainly felt reverence in the child's presence, as though I were granted audience with a genuine holy family.
A ceramic head outside the SFCC Art Building.
Summer break for the Community Colleges of Spokane finally draws to a close as faculty and staff members of the Institute for Extended Learning attended Fall Orientation. We started with breakfast, but quickly turned to other pressing matters like student registration forms, CASAS testing, WABERS, the CCS Portal, leave forms, etc., etc., etc. Yeah...by the end, I felt a lot like the ceramic guy at the top of this blog; frazzled and confused. My head was swimming in excess information. Of course, I probably will need it some time down the road, but for today, it was a lot to take in just one sitting.
On a bright note, I got to see a lot of people I haven't seen in a while, including Mary and Annie from Colville.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Rhonda with a soulful look in her eyes...
Rhonda leaves for Boise and Salt Lake City tomorrow in preparation for the couples training next week. She if offering massage therapy to help pay for our experience.
I have to admit as the couples training approaches, I feel my emotions beginning to stir. Rhonda and I don't really have secrets or any lurking issues we haven't already faced, but I know myself well enough to say my deepest vulnerabilities revolve around issues of marriage.
I can't explain my feelings for Rhonda; none of it makes sense. I love her in a way that rips into my soul and pulls out all my grief, and beauty, and rage. Sometimes I think I'll fall into a bottomless pit of PAIN and darkness if I allow myself to get too close, but when I think about leaving, my world falls to pieces. Perhaps the other side of grief and rage is LOVE. For me, the path to love passes through the dark places of my soul; sometimes it's easier to pretend I feel nothing.
I tend to feel things deeply, and as we get ready for the couples training, I prepare myself to dive in and not hold back.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Monday, September 11, 2006
A display of white roses honored the ones who fell.
Light was visible through the American flag.
This afternoon, I went to Riverpark Square in downtown Spokane, and I saw a display of white roses beneath a massive flag to honor those who lost their lives in the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. I'm sobered to remember the ones who fell. My heart is filled with sadness, mingled with beauty and love.
A Ghost Dancer carved in stone.
Francesca and I spent several hours yesterday speaking on a very real level about the deeper nature of life, spirit, suffering, and love. To illustrate the theme of our discussion, I shared a dream I had a few years ago when I was fighting a court battle to save my foster children. In the dream, I saw my adversaries standing in a line on the other side of a field, firing guns and grenades. Hatred burned in their eyes as they tried desperately to kill me. At first, I hid behind a brick wall, but the Voice told me, "Don't be afraid. They cannot hurt you..." I emerged from my hiding place and stood with my arms open wide in a gesture of ultimate surrender. I felt the bullets passing through my body like a breeze; completely harmless. I stood triumphant and free.
I thought the dream meant I would win the court battle for my children. I lost.
I was devastated to lose my children, and my faith was deeply fractured. Many times I felt like shaking my fist to the heavens and crying to God, "You said they couldn't hurt me!" How many nights did I weep for everything I lost? It's too much to recount.
Even though I passed through what Francesca called the "Dark Night of the Soul," as the pain began to heal, I felt the whisperings of spirit return slowly to my heart and reveal a deeper level to my experience: "Nothing real is ever lost." The outward appearance of my life changed dramatically as a result of their evil designs, but on the level of Ultimate Reality, nothing changed. Nothing those people did to my family changed the love we feel for one another. Nothing they did changed who we really are to one another: A FAMILY.
From that experience, I realized the whole collection of human suffering serves a deeper purpose than I ever before imagined. If nothing real is ever lost, then all the suffering, injustice, genocide, and death of the human experience must have served a higher good. If we could see with spiritual eyes, perhaps we would see nothing but LOVE from all the ones we "lost."
Our conversation reminded me of the Ghost Dancers of the 19th Century. History tends to depict them as delusional fanatics who believed their painted ghost shirts would protect them from the white man's bullets, but maybe they embraced a deeper truth. Maybe they discovered the ultimate freedom from suffering and the absolute knowledge that nothing real is ever lost. Maybe they found LIFE through the ritual of the Ghost Dance, even as the bullets destroyed their physical form. I can't say for sure, but I have to believe they were wiser than the portrayals of history. They knew something we have yet to see.
In honor of our deep connection and yesterday's conversation, Francesca gifted me with this rock depicting a Ghost Dancer. I receive her gift with gratitude and honor.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Norma celebrating her birthday with family...
Yaya celebrated her birthday this afternoon surrounded by family and loved ones. Her actual age was somewhat of a mystery, holding miraculously at 39 for the last few years. Even so, we all had a wonderful time filled with laughter and meaningful conversation. I hope she enjoys many more.
Amanda and Crystal...
Amanda and Crystal started a huge cake war in the kitchen during Norma's birthday party. Their fight provoked huge amounts of laughter from everybody. At one point, I was laughing so hard, I had tears streaming down my face. Someone asked how the fight started and Crystal said, "Amanda looked at me." Of course, her response started another round of laughing and teasing. Someone said to Crystal, "I won't ever look you in the eye again; you might throw cake in my face."
Saturday, September 09, 2006
The night sky near Wandermere...
Earlier today, I went to lunch with Adam Wiltse to talk about his missionary experience in Guatemala. He served in the Guatemala Central Mission, and years ago, I served in the Quetzaltenango Mission. It seems like a lifetime ago.
We shared many common experiences, including meeting some of the same people. For example, he spent several months working with Juan Carlos Samayoa, who currently serves as a bishop in the LDS Church, and who was my missionary companion back in the day.
As we talked, I realized how much had changed, and how much remained the same.
The photograph above represents the Passage of Time. I left the shutter open for only 64 seconds, and yet if you look closely, you can see the stars begin to streak across the sky. For me, this photograph depicts the nature of time at its most basic level. Before calendars and clocks, we simply watched the movement of the sun, moon, and stars to measure the seasons and generations of our lives.
My daughter standing in the sun...
We took our daughter to a specialist to find out why she struggles in reading. In truth, we felt some pressure from the school to show learning gains in our daughter, as if the human mind were measurable quantifiable with numbers. Thankfully, the specialist confirmed what we knew already in our hearts, there is nothing wrong with our child. "Reading is wired into the brain," she said, "And some people simply don't connect until much later in life."
The doctor ordered all the proper psychological testing to satisfy the school, but her true diagnosis will require us to identify our daughter's strength in other areas, perhaps in music or dance. Her natural talents will eventually lead her to excel in all the other academic subjects.
Years ago, our Native ancestors never used to pressure their children to conform to some arbitrary standard of performance. If a child failed to show proficiency in certain areas, the tribal elders would set forth a series of choices. As the child naturally gravitated toward one talent or another, the elders would simply observe. In this way, education became a process of discovery for the teachers, allowing them to provide proper mentorship and guidance for the children.
As we left the office, our daughter found a glowing sun in the hall and insisted on having her picture taken. I look back at this photograph, and I see all the beauty and grace of the ancestors living in her present form. Her own unique spirit shines forth like the sun, waiting for her mentors, parents, and teachers to discover who she really IS on the deepest level. In the end, she will lead US.
Standing in my True Nature...
After taking her picture in the sun, my daughter insisted on taking my picture on the same spot. She took the camera from my hands and directed me on how I should stand.
At first, I was embarrassed.
Somewhat later, I looked at the picture and felt a little swell of vanity rising within me. I was secretly pleased to see myself standing magnificently in the sun.
Then I felt shame because of my vanity.
But when I finally peeled back all the layers, I realize my daughter gave me a gift. Her photograph revealed my spirit, and showed that beneath my embarrassment, vanity, suffering, and shame, there stands a layer of purity and truth. All the great religions teach this. We are spiritual beings; Children of God. To recognize our Divine Nature is not pride, for when we stand in our greatness, we cannot help but notice the greatness of others. And when we see the Divine within ourselves, we realize that every other person is also Holy and Divine. Only through knowing our Divine Nature is godly love truly possible.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Oh Beloved Child, I lift my hands to heaven and give you a blessing. I bless you to know the sun will always smile upon you, and love will always light your path. The mountains will bow to honor you, and the stars will sing your name forever. You are an angel from heaven. Your face reminds us of all that is beautiful, innocent, loving, and good. I honor the Light within you.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Summer is over. School has begun. We walked to the school as a family and met all their new teachers. I think they were all happy, but was hard to tell for sure. I tell you, these years are going by so fast. It's hard to see my children getting so big so fast. I think time condenses the older I get.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Sunday, September 03, 2006
This man's feathers caught the sunlight.
A teen boys traditional dancer.
I really enjoyed watching the wardance this year. I especially enjoyed judging some of the competition categories. Unfortunately, the lighting in the dance arena did not work well with my camera. I took more than a hundred photographs, but only a handful turned out. The picture of the feathers in the sunlight is my favorite from this year's powwow.
My uncle as arena director.
My other uncle was honored.
My uncle Pat worked as the arena director for the Wellpinit powwow this year. He oversees the dance floor and selects judges for the dance competition. Several times he asked me to judge some of the categories, which I very much enjoy.
My uncle Richard made it out of the hospital in time to be honored through a special veterans dance. I was very glad to see him up and around, and especially glad to see the people honor him for his service as a veteran of the Vietnam War.
The Moses Family has a dinner every year.
Every year my family has a dinner on the Sunday of Wellpinit Powwow, led by my cousin Diane Moses. Her father Sam Moses sponsored the dinner before her, and my ya-ya Messie Moses Haines sponsored the dinner before that. It has become quite a tradition.
I remember when I was a little boy, every family had a designated campsite, and all the families used to build "cook shacks," complete with pot belly stoves and all the basic necessities of a normal kitchen. All the shacks and tepees on the powwow grounds reminded me of a small, frontier town. I also remember running errands for my ya-ya when she cooked; "Barry, we need another sack of flour," I can still hear her voice giving out orders, "We need more water. Help your brother carry groceries..." It was the one time of year I didn't mind pitching in and working hard, because I knew in the end I would get a taste of my ya-ya's fry bread and stew. It is wonderful memory for me.
All these years later, I'm so glad to see my cousin carry on the tradition of our grandparents. I wouldn't miss it for the world.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Rhonda and Dakota drove to the Tacoma Dome this afternoon to see the American Idol Tour. They were American Idol junkies when the series played on television, and now they are junkies in person. Actually, this was a good "first concert" experience for Dakota. Rhonda called and said there were a lot of families with children in the audience. My first concert was Wang Chung in the Spokane Opera House; it was a surprise birthday present, and I'm sad to say, it was not very exciting. Dakota will have many more exciting stories to tell about his first concert experience than I have about mine.
Special thanks to my mom for buying the tickets and making this trip possible.
Friday, September 01, 2006
The Stick Game Hall in Wellpinit.
The Wellpinit Powwow is in full swing again, continuing the tradition of our grandparents. My little family spent the evening with me visiting friends and relatives, and making at least a couple rounds on the dance floor. This time is so important, even if we stay just a few hours. We walk the circle with dignity and show the world we are still a family; filled with grace, and stronger for our adversity.
I left the meeting with Ophelia and went downtown to visit my uncle in the hospital. Afterwards, I had the chance to take a short walk through the city and admire some of the architecture. I don't know why, but I really love the old brick buildings with faded advertisements still visible on the walls, like the one pictured above. Something about it appeals to my sense of history and time.
Ophelia Araujo-Islas from ARMS (Abuse Recover Ministry and Services) invited me to a planning session for a diversity training she is creating for her organization. She will specifically present information about the Hispanic population. It's really ironic; I have no Hispanic background whatsoever, but as Ophelia says, "It seems like you should be Hispanic." I feel quite a kinship with them.
As we concluded our brainstorm session, she and I discussed how God works to heal us from ignorance and bias. He works from the inside out. Everything we do to inspire greater awareness comes by example and deep personal reflection. Blame can never heal the world.
The photograph above is a window from Ophelia's church. It sits in the middle of a construction zone where the walls have been torn apart in preparation for major renovations. Even still, the window lost none of its beauty. It reminds me of how the Creator works in our lives. We are often surrounded by chaos, and yet we are guided by something timeless and unchanging: the human spirit.