This blog began as a way to stay in touch with family and friends, but my purpose has expanded to include indigenous cultures, spirituality, nature connection, and family history.
My blogging is sustained by a few guiding values. First, my blog should add value to the world. Second, much of what I write points back to simple things like spending time with loved ones or connecting with the earth. Finally, I prefer to write about my own first-person experiences. My greatest contribution to the world is to live courageously and to always speak from my heart.
Sulustu is pronounced: soo-loo-stoo, (with emphasis placed on the last syllable).
"Take away all doubts, all fears, and only your spirit remains: pure love; that is as close to our Creator as we can be." ~Ed Moses
"It is the same for all men. None of us can escape this shadow of the father, even if that shadow fills us with fear, even if it has no name or face. To be worthy of that man, to prove something to that man, to exorcise the memory of that man from every corner of our life—however it affects us, the shadow of that man cannot be denied." ~Kent Nerburn
"The first thing I learned was respect for all things, because everything has a spirit." ~Ed Moses
"My religion starts from the heart." ~Ed Moses
"Songs made from dreams hold their power forever. Any power given in a dream is a gift from the spirit to help the people." ~Ed Moses
"When you hear the music, own it and let your body move in whichever way it takes you. Dance your life. Trust your spirit the way you trust the music." ~Rhonda Moses
"Happy marriages begin when we marry the ones we love, and they blossom when we love the ones we marry." ~Tom Mullen
"Until you have a son of your own . . . you will never know the joy, the love beyond feeling that resonates in the heart of a father as he looks upon his son. You will never know the sense of honor that makes a man want to be more than he is and to pass something good and hopeful into the hands of his son. And you will never know the heartbreak of the fathers who are haunted by the personal demons that keep them from being the men they want their sons to be." ~Kent Nerburn
"What I wanted most for my daughter was that she be able to soar confidently in her own sky, whatever that may be." ~Helen Claes
"A daughter is a gift of love." ~Author Unknown
"My Daughter has made the darkness in my heart light up brighter than I ever thought possible. My Daughter gives me a reason to live and try each and every day. I cannot thank our Lord enough for blessing me with her. And as blessings come, so do disappointments. There are trials and rewards throughout everyone's life. My Daughter had helped me through the most difficult times of my life. I can only pray she will allow me to be there for hers." ~Georgene Maciolek
"Never cease loving a person, and never give up hope for him, for even the prodigal son who had fallen most low, could still be saved; the bitterest enemy and also he who was your friend could again be your friend; love that has grown cold can kindle.” ~Soren Kierkagaard
"It is not flesh and blood, but heart which makes us fathers and sons." ~Friedrich von Schiller
My daughters dressed up as princesses this Halloween; a favorite theme for them. They were absolutely radiant this year, thanks in large part to my mom, who sewed the most amazing dress for McKenna. I love my daughters with all my heart. They are indeed princesses in the kingdom of my little world.
Oh... my kids are getting so big. We still do Halloween and all the "kid" holidays, but as I watch them grow, I see faint glimmers of who they'll become. For example, Dakota dressed up as a doctor this year, and looked like he could really fill the part some day in real life. My daughters are also turning into young ladies. They're not babies anymore. Where did all the years go?
So I spent the last few days in Salt Lake City and the Seattle area. Rather than detail everything I did during that time, I want to highlight a few of the people I met.
I met Percy only a few months ago, but since then we've had a few great visits. We seem to share many common interests and philosophies. He's someone I could see becoming a great friend. In the photograph shown above, he's playing a drum at a park in Salt Lake.
My friend Seth invited me to attend LDS services on the campus of Brigham Young University. The best I can figure, I usually attend LDS sacrament meetings about 4 times a year, so I dedicated a full 25% of my church attendance to Seth. Pretty amazing. For as much as I stay away, I have to say I enjoyed the meeting very much.
Afterwards, we spent some time photographing a variety of scenes around campus. It was really a lot of fun. We had some pretty deep conversation too.
Warren and I met when we both staffed Nick's Level II training at the Great Life. We hit it off pretty well, and since conversed several times by telephone. Most recently, we staffed once again and had some pretty amazing conversations about life. Man, we even cried together; that's how real it was. Pretty cool, don't you think?
And then of course, I got to meet his amazing wife Marilee. It doesn't get any better than this.
Several colleagues and I went to a conference in North Bend for college educators. The town of North Bend is about an hour east of Seattle, at the base of Mount Si. There's not too much to see by way of popular or cultural events, but the natural surroundings are breath-taking. A trail near the lodge passes through a rain forest; incredible.
When it rains, it pours. It seems like we haven't had visitors in quite some time, and tonight we had more than I knew what to do with. Grandma great is visiting from Arizona, and Glenda's friend Diane is visiting from southern California. Well, Diane's daughter and son-in-law dropped by. Then Rhonda's brother Paul, his wife Angela, four of their children, and their exchange student from Jordan were here for dinner. And then our friend Jordyn and his new fiance made an unannounced visit to tell us of their upcoming wedding in Las Vegas. At one point during the evening, we had 19 people in our house. If that wasn't enough, I also received three phone calls (two of them long distance) from people I have not spoken with in several weeks or months. And to think with all this excitement, I didn't get a single photograph...
As many of you know, Rhonda and I were foster parents for six years. Our oldest foster son is now 19 and has more than his fair share of struggle. I've never talked about him openly in this context; I've always used euphemisms, but I was so moved by my experience this morning, I think people deserve to know. Of course, it's no secret my son went to jail recently. The charges will remain confidential, but his current residence is fairly common knowledge.
When I visited him this morning, we sat inside a cell the size of a broom closet, and spoke to each other through a thick glass window. I've seen him this way before, but something about him seemed entirely different. His facial features appeared softer than I've seen in many years, and his eyes regained some of their youthful sparkle. When he spoke, he smiled and looked directly into my eyes. I wish I could have taken a picture; he looked like the son I've been missing for quite some time.
As the minutes passed quickly by, we shared experiences on a deep, heart-to-heart level. I saw qualities in him I had only hoped for in previous years. He showed insight, empathy, truth, responsibility, and love. For example, at one point he said, "Sometimes I sit in my cell and I tell lies to myself. Sometimes I think I shouldn't be here, but then I catch myself, and I tell the truth: I deserve to be here." He showed concern for the other children and sincerely apologized for being a negative influence in their lives.
Like I said, I was deeply moved by his growing maturity and insight.
Just before the officer ended our visit, he said, "There are lots of so-called friends in my life who will kick it with me if I ask, but they're not here for me like you and Rhonda." As he said those words, his eyes welled up with tears. He put his hands on the glass and said, "I love you..." Then he turned and walked back to his cell.
As I left the jail and drove home, I felt my own tears welling up inside. It grieves me to see my son in jail, and yet I feel such deep gratitude and joy to witness his open heart. For one brief moment, he achieved a freedom more real than any release from jail; he achieved a freedom of the mind.
We spent the morning taking family pictures at Pine River Park. We posed for all different kinds of shots, but this was the one I liked best.
Afterwards, I attended sacrament services with Rhonda and the kids. One of the hymns we sang had the following line: "It may not be on the mountain height, or over the stormy sea; it may not be at the battle's front, my Lord will have need of me. But if by a still small voice he calls to paths that I do not know, I'll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine: I'll go where you want me to go," (I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go, by Mary Brown).
As we sang those words, I looked over and saw my daughter Whitney smiling up at me. I remembered all the times I felt lost or burdened by responsibility, and in that moment I felt it all melt away. The only thing left over was the love I feel for my wife and children, and the knowledge that I'm right where GOD wants me to be.
During the meeting, the speaker addressed the topic of consecration. While I do not necessarily agree with placing so much emphasis on consecrating ourselves to earthly institutions, even churches, I do believe in consecrating our lives to God. As I see the light in my daughter's eyes this afternoon, I know my consecration belongs to her and to all my family.
Treaty Rock is somewhat of a minor historical site in Post Falls, Idaho, conmemorating the transfer of land from Chief Seltice of the Coeur d'Alene to white settlers. There's not much to see, except for a rocky hilltop surrounded by freeways and modern development.
The last time I saw Treaty Rock was some time in 1990; Rhonda and I were driving back from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho with our friends Rick and Missy. We stopped because we wanted to see something historical related to Native Americans. We had always noticed the signs on Interstate 90, but we weren't familiar with the significance of the site. When we arrived, we noticed black rain coulds gathering overhead. Missy and Rhonda decided to stay in the car, but Rick and I decided to brave the weather. Well, we went outside long enough to read the historical marker, and then get drenched in the rain. We ran back to the car laughing. I miss those days.
Shingo Nagaoka visited Wellpinit and Spokane this week to re-connect with old friends and acquaintances. We first met more than a year ago when he attended the Riverfront Powwow and my uncle's sweat lodge. He teaches American Literature at a university in Japan, and became interested in Spokane Tribal culture from reading Sherman Alexie books. I find it very interesting, actually.
He and I took a brief walking tour of downtown Spokane, including a short visit to the Davenport Hotel. We followed our tour with dinner, and enjoyed sharing pictures of our respective families. We had a great visit.
My wife and I attended a dinner on the Spokane Reservation dedicated to the prevention of domestic violence. It was very moving to hear the prayers, words of inspiration, and traditional songs. The keynote speak was a young man from Oklahoma by the name of Chance Rush. He had some very good words to say about faith in God, prayer, believing in yourself, and having a winning attitude in life. He also has a pretty sharp website:
Xibalba, terror of the underworld, you relinquish the souls of dead men, to walk a little season under the living sun before returning to the Shadow House. And while the spirits visit once again, they become our guests. I'm not afraid to hear their cries, because I know they're not that different than my own; and when they laugh, I know they see a deeper irony to my existence.
The newly released "Man of the Year" with Robin Williams may provoke criticism from certain segments of the political sphere, especially those on the defensive about the Bush presidency, but I also hope it inspires sincere dialogue between political parties. The film raises controversial issues regarding electronic voting, stolen elections, special interest groups, big money, and political dissent. These are all important issues, no matter which party controls government at any given time. For example, whether or not voting fraud allegations during the 2004 presidential election hold any validity, I am sincerely troubled by a voting system without a tangible paper trail. I also liked what he had to say about rising above the whole red-state, blue-state paradigm and returning to our roots as the United States.
These are issues above partisanship.
Of course, it's no coicidence this film appears on the American scene just a few weeks before an important election. I just hope people pay enough attention to address the issues rather than continue the venemous political accusations of the last six years. Dissent really is patriotic and essential to our continued freedom in this country. Can we ever achieve our patriotic ideals without demonizing those who disagree on important moral or philosphical issues?
I went to see this film hoping for a good laugh. Well, I found plenty to laugh about, but I also found enough to keep me awake at night wondering about the future of our democracy.
They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and a photograph never lies. I believe the first part, but in the age of digital photography and editing software, the latter portion no longer holds true. A photograph may also speak a thousand lies.
Even so, photography still reveals a truth where words sometimes fail.
For me, photography opened doors of exploration I never thought possible. In my effort to find the perfect shot, especially when I exhaust my previous subjects, I learn to see the world more deeply. Rather than simply look for tired, over-used, or stereotypical compositions, I look for the hidden details and the subtle stories behind each photograph. Sometimes I can't even articulate the story; it's just something I feel on an intuitive level. In any case, I find myself interacting with the world on a whole new level as I decipher my own secret creativity.
What about the photograph posted in this blog entry? Actually, I don't see very many untold stories in this shot, except to say I like the way the industrial colors interplayed with passing rain clouds this afternoon.
Beauty sometimes shows up in unlikely places; maybe that's the story.
In the end, I actually go outside more with my camera than without. I talk to people. I listen to their stories more. I look deeply where once I passed by unawares.
Tony and Susan had a special dinner at their home this evening with members of our family. I helped cook salmon on cedar planks and a gas grill, even though it was pouring down rain. No day is too wet or cold to cook salmon. In any case, we had a very enjoyable time visiting with friends and relatives.
Dakota helped me find a certain medicinal plant on the Spokane Reservation. We drove out to the woods and spent about half an hour identifying plants. I had found it once before, in the sping, when the leaves were young and green. Now that everything dried up it was much harder to find. With some effort and a little experimentation, we finally found the right one.
Later on, I took this picture standing near a road. Something about this picture seems to capture my son's attitude in life; he's always moving and learning. He's a powerful soul.
My friend Candace recently told me about something she read regarding invisible threads connecting us all together. People come into our lives, sometimes through mysterious means, and bring important lessons. I feel that way about Candace, Francesca, Edward, and Nate. Of course, Andy and Melody arrived most recently, but are no less significant. Each one brings a spiritual offering; I'm richer for knowing each one.
Hillyard has a conflicting personality; on the one hand, economic hardship rides heavy on many local people, and reflects in the tired-looking homes, and graffiti-strewn alleys. And on the other, Hillyard retains a certain charm from its former glory days, still visible in its "Main Street" store fronts and antique shops. I love to explore the old buildings and imagine what they might have been, and what they might become with the proper vision and financing.
My family has a long and varied history in the Hillyard area. Up until the mid 1950s, my great grandparents lived in the pine-covered hills overlooking the town below. They essentially lived a traditional Native lifestyle just beyond the view of a quickly modernizing world. They came off the hill and took up residence in the town of Hillyard in 1956, shortly after my great grandfather passed away. My grandparents generation and my father's generation grew up in Hillyard. Many of their descendants still live nearby.
When I was a small child, I used to visit my coopyaya's house near the train tracks, east of Market Street. Her name was Lizzie Homer Moses, and she was my great grandmother. I don't remember much about her appearance, except for her pure white hair and the cane she used to help her walk. My auntie Marlene used to scare me by saying coopyaya would hit me with that cane if I misbehaved, but fortunately I never got to see that side of her personality. Coopyaya was magic in my childhood eyes. She could burn rocks (she had a coal burning stove) and if someone needed anything, she could probably find it in one of her many storage boxes. By the white man's standards, I'm sure she lived in poverty, but to me she was rich. She had everything.
Sadly, her old house is gone now.
I don't remember if coopyaya ever spoke to me directly, but somehow I knew she loved me, even if she was kind of cranky and mean at times. She died in 1976 (I was 5 years old), but sometimes she comes back in my dreams and gives me guidance and protection. Many years later, I walk the streets of Hillyard, and I remember her powerful influence on my life. Her spirit lives now in my memory.
There are no accidents in the universe; the message of forgiveness returns to instruct me again and again. Here are some recent examples:
When Rhonda and I attended couples training a few weeks ago, we learned about healing judgment through the power of forgiveness. Then we all witnessed the horror of the Amish shootings, followed by the amazing offering of forgiveness by the families of those who died. Yesterday I met a colleague who discussed the power of radical forgiveness; and today I saw a man who offended me many years ago, and who I did not fully forgive in my own heart.
If that wasn't enough, I also received a letter from an inmate at the county jail who feels he has done so much evil he will never receive forgiveness, or as he stated, "My soul is stained for all eternity." I wrote a letter and assured him he is forgiven, and suddenly I realized I was writing to myself. I was even writing in behalf of those I have yet to forgive.
I started work today at the Hillyard Center of the Institute for Extended Learning. My first day was fairly uneventful, but I did meet some very friendly people who I will work with. I also spoke with a colleague about something called "Radical Forgiveness." I will write more about that later.
By the way, the photographs above were taken in the surrounding community of Hillyard, Washington.
Last night, my wife and I attended the baptism of Courtney Elizabeth Shea at the LDS Church in Cheney. She received the ordinance of baptism from our good friend Adam Wiltse (he was the one who served an LDS mission in Guatemala). It was a beautiful service.
Some time before the service started, I chose to open my heart and use this experience as a way to receive communication from God. He speaks to us every day, but we often fail to hear the message because we get distracted by disbelief, doubt, fear, anxiety, or judgment. When I choose to receive communication from God, I consciously place my distractions to one side and focus on the current lesson for my life. Then I listen for his teachings in the environment around me. Sometimes he speaks to me through a religious service, even services from other religions; or maybe a line from a song stands out above all the rest; or maybe a friend calls and says exactly the words I needed to hear, or maybe I simply catch a comment from people passing by on the street. God speaks in so many ways.
God spoke to me last night through several people during the baptism.
Sister Watkins is an LDS missionary who grew up in a devout Baptist home. She joined the LDS Church only two years ago, but even before she told her story, I guessed her religious heritage. When she spoke, her voice rang with Baptist conviction, and she frequently used phrases I remember from my childhood when I attended a variety of Evangelical churches. For example, at one point during her testimony, she said, “We are cleansed by the blood of Jesus.” She spoke the words “blood of Jesus” with special emphasis, passion, and the ring of Gospel truth. It was beautiful to hear. And sure enough, when she gave her life history, she confirmed her parents were indeed Baptist preachers.
As she spoke, Sister Watkins emphasized the love of God and quoted two scriptures from the Bible: “I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you,” (John 14:18), and “…ye have not because ye ask not,” (James 4:2).
As I received these words into my heart, I knew God was speaking to me directly. I reflected on all the times I felt comfortless in my life; all the times I felt abandoned and alone. Why did I feel that way if comfort is so readily available from the Father? The answer is simple; I did not have the comfort I craved because I did not ask for it. As a young man, and even into adulthood, I was afraid to ask for comfort and support from my friends, but whenever I did ask, they always responded with abundance. What a powerful reminder to always ask for what we need.
After the baptism, Courtney gave a testimony of her conversion to the LDS faith. Like me, she spent much of her childhood in the Assemblies of God and heard many distortions and outright lies about the Latter-day Saints. But God guided her path. She said, “God is a mighty worker in my life.” Those words reminded me of all the ways God is a Mighty Worker in my life.
Finally, our friend Madonna Wiltse gave a testimony where she said, “Remember who you are…” Yes, I remember now who I am. I remember the grace given me by a loving Heavenly Father, the Creator of all things. I do not share the LDS faith, but I felt uplifted and inspired by Courtney’s baptismal service. For one brief moment there were no boundaries of culture or religion; only brothers and sisters, children of one God, sharing the light of spirit.
Andy Nygaard recently re-appeared in my life after more than 7 years. Back in the day, he was a high school student in the Spokane Second Ward of the LDS Church, and I was the seminary teacher. Our paths crossed again when he asked one of our tribal offices to pass a message along to me.
It's been fun to get re-acquainted, and to meet his new friend Melody.
The three of us went to a sweat last night on the Spokane Reservation. It was absolutely amazing; perhaps one of the most intense spiritual experiences of the last 10 years. They each arrived at a place where they want to make some important changes in life. I sincerely hope we will continue this journey together.
As we were leaving Wellpinit, we observed the night mist rolling over the meadow, and shining brightly in the moonlight. In fact, the moon was bright enough to allow this photograph; it almost looks like a day shot. The moonlight, the fog, the cold night air; it all worked together to heighten the sense of a spiritual presence watching over us.
I usually record my dreams in a separate journal, but some dreams deserve special mention.
My yaya Messie visited my dream last night. She's been gone for almost 20 years, but she looked younger and more vibrant than ever. She was sitting in a large room with her daughter Norma and other members of the family. In fact, Norma was sitting on her right, and I was sitting on her left. I don't remember all the details, but she was telling jokes and had us all laughing so hard we were almost crying.
At one point she noticed some hidden pain behind my laughter and said, "What's the matter?" After some hesitation, I finally told her about all my troubles and misadventures from 3 and 1/2 years ago. "I made so many mistakes," I said, "I did so many bad things. I'm just worried my problems got me off track from everything I'm supposed to do in life."
She placed her hand gently on my arm and said, "Don't you worry about that anymore. It's all taken care of."
"But have you seen the plan for my life?" I asked, "Am I still on track?"
She responded firmly, and with a tone of authority, "You don't get to see the plan. You just get to trust. You're right where you need to be."
I'm not really a music critic, but I really enjoyed the performance. It made me appreciate the warm, exciting atmosphere of college life. It seems colleges always have something going on, like music, art, lectures, rallies; everything.
In other college "news," I just received a transfer to the Hillyard Branch of the community college. I'm a little disappointed to be away from one of the main campuses because I'll miss out on some of the cultural events I just mentioned, but I'm excited to have my own classroom again. This will be a great opportunity.
Ryan, Cassidi, and Chesney had dinner with us this evening. Chesney injured her eye with a toy gun; hence the bandages. Even so, she's still as beautiful as ever. Chesney is my brother-in-law's granddaughter, so in the Indian way, she would also be my granddaughter. As the daughter of my niece, I suppose that makes her my grand niece.
Some time during our tour of Spokane Falls Community College, we saw a strange group of people wearing shiny red pants and walking across campus on stilts. They stopped in front of the library and gave a mythical performance about an ancient power struggle for the control of fire. I took several photographs of the stilts, but none of them captured the sense of drama I felt. Rather, their faces mesmerized me. They seemed to truly embody something from the age of mythology, gods, spirits, and heroic deeds.
The performers belong to a group called the Carpet Bag Brigade. Their website appears below:
Our student group toured the campus of Spokane Falls Community College and got acquainted with all the facilities and services available to students. The tour brought back many happy memories from when I attended that SFCC more than 12 years ago.
We stopped by the science building and observed the pendulum. The sign reads:
"After centuries of debate, in 1851 Jean Bernard Leon Foucault was the first to prove the motion of the earth. The massive pendulum attempts to move along a linear path, but the earth moves, causing a small deflection to the right each swing."
An interesting series of events converged over the last few days, bringing together at least a half dozen people I have not seen for many years. I spoke with several people from my Spectrum training, including Tawna, Tresa, and Doug. I also received a call from my old friend Gary who asked me to perform his wedding (which he has not yet proposed for; yes, it is rather interesting). Then there were several others... it is all so odd. My life feels like a river of calm water, but beneath the surface I feel invisible energies moving. There are forces bringing people and events back into my life after many years of dormancy.
The sun, the trees, the water, all of nature; the Spirit brings healing to my life whenever I walk amid their company. I was feeling angry and discouraged, but the sun brought light into my soul again.