Friday, August 31, 2007

Sky People

The Sky People paid vengeance upon the humans with a fierce wind, lightning, and torrential rains.

Unfortunately, my family is in the middle of installing a new roof on our house, and when the rain arrived, a stream of water began pouring into our main hallway. Normally I would have greeted the thunder and rain with reverence, but today I felt like cursing.

Now that the winds passed, I feel more calm, and I appreciate the beauty of the Sky People. I felt the vengeance, but in reality they gave a blessing.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tin Grin

After many years of hesitation and self doubt, I finally got braces. This probably should have happened when I was 14, but here I am. This is the most uncomfortable thing I've ever done to my teeth, but I"m excited for the eventual outcome.

When I went to Wellpinit yesterday afternoon, I saw my friend Gene and his first comment was to call me "Tin Grin." It's a little unfair, actually. I gave him the title Champion Gene, and he returned the favor by giving me the title Tin Grin. Hmmm...

Well, in a strange way I was excited for the comments. Can you imagine? If someone said that to me when I was 14 I would have been devastated. Now I feel the comments give me an experience I missed as a youth. It's all a matter of perspective, I suppose.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Panic Plunge...

Whitney's first roller coaster ride...

Family Tradition

My family makes a yearly trip to the Silverwood Theme Park in North Idaho, often furnished by the kids' reading program at school. If they read a certain number of hours, the school pays for their tickets. Of course, Rhonda and I have to buy our own tickets, but we're only too happy to celebrate our children's success.

Panic Plunge

This was the first year Rhonda and I rode the Panic Plunge. The ride resembles a tall radio tower with a round car carrying passengers upward. When it reaches the top, it drops suddenly in a terrifying free-fall only to stop seconds before hitting the ground. Actually, the scariest part was the anticipation of waiting to fall. The plunge ends in a matter of seconds, but left me breathless nonetheless.

Whitney's First Ride

Whitney rode the roller coaster for the first time. She clung to Rhonda the entire time, but she liked it enough to ride again three more times. We definitely got our adrenaline rush for the day!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

McIntire Wedding

This morning and afternoon I had the privilege to photograph the wedding of Graham McIntire and Kayleigh Derby. The families gathered at Manito Park and Duncan Gardens for pictures, and later witnessed the marriage ceremony at the Spokane LDS Temple.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Riverfront Powwow

Riverfront Powwow

My family went downtown this evening to watch part of the Riverfront Powwow. In fact, most of the photographs were taken during Grand Entry; Steve Small Salmon carried the American flag. There's something special about this powwow because of its close connection to our ancestral land near the falls.

I haven't danced "officially" since my father died in 1994, but every time I stand by the sidelines, the power of the drum pulls me in. My daughters and I danced three songs, and once again I sang with the Hall Creek Drum. What a wonderful feeling to hear the songs, visit friends, and feel the connection to our living tradition.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Last of Dean

Hurricane Dean finally ran its course, and much to the relief of people on the Yucatan Peninsula, the storm made landfall in a sparsely populated area. Even then, damage was relatively minimal given the hurricane's strength as it reached land.

The morning after landfall, I checked weather reports for Cancun, and they were already reporting sun. The photograph above shows a scene from Cancun immediately after the storm. In fact, Dean affected them like a heavy rain, and then simply passed. Damage was almost non-existent; a little sand washed up onto the streets and a handful of trees fell. Otherwise, Cancun is open for business.

My family is back to feeling excitement over our upcoming trip.


I read in the news this morning, something like 10 or 12 people died on mainland Mexico after Hurrican Dean made landfall a second time. I can't imagine the grief the families must feel at this moment. I prayed for the storm to spare my vacation, but someone prayed for the storm to spare their lives, or the lives of their loved ones. The inequity of human suffering is staggering and profoundly humbling. Maybe that's why we're always taught to simply give everything over to the will of the Higher Power. Who among us can decide the best course for world events to take?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hurricane Dean: Update #5

Image courtesy of the National Hurricane Center.

Hurricane Dean made landfall more than 150 miles south of Cancun in the early morning hours.

According to the BBC this morning:

"Major tourist resorts were spared a direct hit as Dean came ashore near the Mexican town of Majahual, about 170 miles south of Cancun.

"The hurricane has weakened to Category Three, with winds of 125mph as it crosses land.

"The eye of the storm made landfall at 3:30am in a sparsely populated part of the coastline. It lashed low-lying communities and ancient ruins."

A BBC correspondent said, "In the resort of Cancun further north people are breathing a sigh of relief. It feels more like a rainy day than a serious storm, and people are out walking in the streets."

Retrieved from on August 21, 2007.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hurricane Dean: Update #4

A near miss?

Hurricane Dean rose to a deadly Category 5 just as it approaches the Mexican coast, almost 200 miles south of Cancun. It seems almost certain the resort city will avoid a direct hit, but may yet receive tropical storm level winds. Current wind levels in Cancun remain under 30 miles per hour.

More to come...

Hurricane Dean: Update #3

Image courtesy of the Weather Channel.

Projected Landfall

My family continues to watch Hurricane Dean with great interest. As the storm moves west from the island of Jamaica, the projected landfall once again nudged southward; however, Cancun remains under hurricane warning.

Increased Interest

As I've reported on the developing storm, my blog has become the focus of increased online interest. As a result, visits to my website have increased considerably within the last day. Web trackers indicate the majority of visits were made by others seeking updated storm information.

Memories of Hugo

As we anticipate the possible loss of our hotel accommodations in Cancun, I'm reminded of Hurricane Hugo back in the late 1980s. An organization on the Virgin Islands had agreed to sponsor my family as part of a cultural exchange. We had planned to perform Native dances, but Hurricane Hugo destroyed the island and the exchange was scrapped. All these years later, I'm here wondering what will become of this trip in the face of another powerful storm.

More to come...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hurrican Dean: Update #2

Click to Enlarge Image.
Infrared satellite image showing current location of Hurricane Dean.

Click to Enlarge Image.
Most recent track prediction for Hurricane Dean.

Storm Over Jamaica

The most recent satellite images of Hurricane Dean show the storm making a direct hit on the island nation of Jamaica. Current news reports indicate thousands of people, including foreign tourists who could not depart in time, are taking shelter away from the battered coastline.

Prediction Track

Updated projection tracks show Hurricane Dean making a likely landfall about 100 miles south of Cancun, though Mexican officials have issued a hurricane watch for the entire eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. About 60-70% of the time, hurricanes fall within the predicated area, but an exact line is difficult to foresee with complete accuracy. The storm can still veer north toward Cancun, or move south. In any case, Cancun will still suffer hurricane force winds within the next 48 hours, though if the tourist zone avoids a direct hit, damage may be minimal. We're still taking a wait-and-see attitude as the storm barrels closer to our vacation destination.

We also continue to pray for those living within the hurricane track.

More to come...

All images courtesy of the National Hurricane Center:

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Berg Wedding

Brett Berg and the former Renae Cronk.

The groom and I watch as the bride arrives.

Sean, my co-worker from the college, also attended.

Brett and Renae

This afternoon I had the distinct honor and privilege to officiate the wedding of Brett Jonathan Berg and Christine Renae Cronk.

We originally met through my niece Rachel, who currently studies massage therapy under Renae. The couple had been looking for an officiant, and Rachel suggested they contact me. We had the chance to meet a little more than a month ago and made plans to perform the ceremony.

The wedding was beautiful, and of course, I got to see it all from the most unique perspective. I'm thankful they trusted me to perform this sacred honor.


This year I officiated 3 weddings, and each time I saw people I did not expect. During this wedding, I saw Sean sitting among the congregation. He works in the tech department at the community college. We used to see each other fairly often when I worked in Colville, and ironically, now that I'm working in Spokane, we hardly ever cross paths.

Anyway, it's fun to see people I know, especially when it happens unexpectedly.

Hurrican Dean: Update #1

Hurricane Dean Stays the Course...

Hurricane Dean continues its destructive course toward the Yucatan, alternating between a Category 3 and a Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. By some accounts, the storm could reach a Category 5 by the time it reaches Cancun, with winds in excess of 155 miles per hour. Local authorities already began evacuating foreign and domestic tourists from the region.

Only 2 years ago, Hurricane Wilma struck the Yucatan Peninsula, causing extensive damage.

As we wait for Dean to make landfall, all vacation plans remain on hold. Our travel agency has advised us to take a "wait-and-see" attitude. By Tuesday or Wednesday, we should know if the Cancun airport, local hotels, and other tourist facilities will be operational. At this point, no one can say if the hurricane will change course, decrease in severity, or worsen.

Ironically, my wife and I have planned this trip for 17 years, and with less than 3 weeks to go, we're watching helplessly as nature quite possibly destroys our destination.

Thankfully for us, the travel agency will either change our destination or postpone the travel dates if conditions warrant. On the other hand, people living near the Yucatan coast may not be so fortunate. My prayers continue to reach out toward those who live within this terrible path of destruction.

More to come...

Hurricane Dean

Click on the image to enlarge.

Hurricane Dean

Less than three weeks from our Cancun vacation, and Hurricane Dean threatens to devastate the entire region. Currently the storm churns over the Caribbean, and recent reports indicate Dean will make landfall at Cancun as a category 3 storm by Tuesday morning. The diagram above shows the storm's likely course.

We're on stand-by, waiting to see if Hurricane Dean will actually hit where expected, and how much damage will occur. We may end up going some place completely different. I hate to lose our vacation, but even more, I pray for those who live in the path of this disastrous hurricane.

More to come...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Canada Trip, Part 12

Crossing the Border

I had lunch in Cranbrook, then proceeded south toward the border. The crossing took much longer than expected. At least 50 cars had backed up behind the American check point, as well as 20 semi-trucks full of cattle. Each vehicle took almost 5 minutes to cross, so you can imagine how long we waited.

While waiting, I got the chance to photograph the Canadian flag overlooking a large swath cut in the trees demarcating the border. It's an imaginary line, but it retains huge implications for the people, as Native American nations were literally cut in half by the 49th parallel. Such a strange thing, really.

When I finally got my chance to cross the border, the officer questioned me for about 5 minutes. He seemed somewhat tense and nervous. Someone told me later they had been looking for drug smugglers. Who knows?

I finally crossed and drove home.


Canada Trip, Part 11

The highway passes through Frank's Slide.

Near Crowsnest Pass.

Frank's Slide

Frank's Slide is an amazing sight to behold. Some time during the early part of the 19th century, a mountainside collapsed and buried the town below, killing at least 70 people. The massive boulders are still visible on the valley floor, where a highway now carves through the field of rocky debris. It's worth the stop to feel the enormity of that once catastrophic event.

Crowsnest Pass

I'm about half way home by the time I reach Crowsnest Pass, and I stop to photograph the mountains. It's one last chance to show off the magnificent beauty of western Canada.

More to come...

Canada Trip, Part 10

An abandoned building at Leicht Collieries.

The highway passes nearby...

Leicht Collieries

Driving west toward British Columbia, I stopped at an historic site known as Leicht Collieries. At one time, it was closely related to the coal mining industry, but went out of business after World War I. Of course, I love old buildings, ruins, abandoned highways, and forgotten places. I always try to imagine what the world was like when those places were at their height. I also wonder, if we walked away from our cities today, like the Mayans did a thousand years ago, what would the ruins look like in 100 years? Or even a 1000 years from now?

More to come...

Canada Trip, Part 9

Looking south toward Waterton National Park.


My visit to Cardston came to end, though I wish I could have stayed longer. I drove west through Waterton National Park and then north toward Pincher Creek. A light morning fog settled over the gentle rolling hills. I think a piece of my heart stayed behind...

More to come...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Canada Trip, Part 8

Mary First Rider.

The Blood Reserve, the Indian hospital is visible on the right.

The Blood Reserve

During my visit to Cardston, I had the opportunity to visit the Blood Reserve. It's sort of an unusual arrangement, really. Only a single line separates the city from the reserve, where the Indian homes face the non-Indian homes directly across the street.

My aunt took me to visit a Blood tribal elder, Mary First Rider. She welcomed me graciously into her tidy little house and told me one story after another regarding her tribal customs. She talked about learning her language as a child, learning to identify sacred plants, the boarding schools, and recent efforts to revive her culture. We laughed a lot too. At one point, she paused and spoke to me in her language. I didn't understand, so she translated. She said, "You are a real person," meaning someone with a big heart, humor, and respect. I felt honored to hear those words.

We stayed several hours without even noticing the passage of time. I feel fortunate to have met such a knowledgeable elder, and I sincerely hope to see her again some day soon.

More to come...

Canada Trip, Part 7

The Cardston LDS Temple at sunset.

Standing in front of the temple.

The Temple

Many Mormons I've known over the years occasionally display some rather odd idiosyncrasies, like trying to convince me their faith is the only true religion, and yet they remain among my dearest friends. When all is said and done, I find most Mormons are honest, thoughtful, and endearing.

I recently had a discussion with an Evangelical Christian who claimed Mormons are not Christian (and presumably destined to hell). While I also disagree with Mormons on many points of doctrine, I know from personal experience they are Christians indeed. How insane to suggest differences of opinion would make someone non-Christian! How could anyone believe God would be so narrow and cruel as this man tried to suggest?

My faith differs from the Mormons in so many ways, and yet I feel the magnetic pull of the temple every time I visit. I accept the temple as a universal symbol of unity with the divine, a place where the earth aligns with heaven, and where humans practice holiness.

May the temple inspire all people to walk closer to the divine regardless of our religion or belief.

More to come...

Canada Trip, Part 6

Mounties in their red coats.

Horse riders pass the local Dairy Queen.

Hutterite children catch candy from the parade floats.

Okan Hungry Wolf rides past the LDS Temple.

Heritage Days

Cardston celebrates the yearly Heritage Days with a parade, drawing together three distinct cultures. While Mormons established the original Cardston settlement, other people already inhabited the region. The Blood Tribe occupies a federal reserve only a few blocks from the temple, and German speaking Hutterites created communal farming communities on the surrounding plains.

All three cultures live side by side, and yet they seem partially invisible to one another. Whether in the grocery store or passing on the street, people from the respective social groups seemed to rarely cross cultural lines. They reminded me of three parallel worlds, seeming to hardly touch.

Yes, Cardston makes for a strange contrast of cultures. As the parade marched past the quiet grounds of the LDS Temple, the familiar twang of country music blared over the loudspeaker: "I found Jesus on the jailhouse floor..." It seemed ironic and strangely out of place. Rows of Canadian flags fluttered in the ceaseless wind where scores of spectators lined the streets. A radio announcer wearing a yellow cowboy hat stood on an elevated platform and spoke to the crowd. He spoke from an obvious LDS bias, despite numerous onlookers from other cultural groups. At one point he said, "We're broadcasting today in front of the seminary building..." without explaining to non-Mormons that it was the LDS Seminary building. When a Native man rode by on a horse, he said, "We thank them (the Natives) for the culture they provide us..." But when the LDS missionaries walked by, he urged the crowd to sign their dinner calendars without even explaining who they were. It was clear whose crowd the announcer claimed as his own.

Of course, I'm not suggesting any culture is bad. In fact, I would not give a negative characterization to any one individual I encountered, but my experience did provide an interesting insight into group thinking and outward perceptions. I would hope all cultures would see these examples and use them as an opportunity to examine who is the "us" and is the "them." We might surprise ourselves by the answer.

More to come...

Canada Trip, Part 5

Historic marker outside the temple.

Home of Charles Ora Card, now a museum.

Canadian flag outside the temple.

Mormon Heritage

Mormon culture dominates Southern Alberta. In fact, visitors to Cardston will find evidence of Mormonism at every turn, from the imposing granite temple overlooking the town, to the dozens of LDS chapels dotting the countryside. Southern Alberta might easily resemble the Utah of Canada.

Charles Ora Card founded Cardston as a haven for those escaping persecution in the United States. He had been arrested under anti-polygamy laws, but escaped and traveled north across the border to establish a new colony for the church. The primary settlement still bears his name and continues to prosper as a Canadian hub of Mormon culture.

More to come...

Canada Trip, Part 4

Lester Leavitt in downtown Cardston, Alberta.

Historical marker near Leavitt, Alberta.

Lester Leavitt

My trip to Cardston took a surprising turn when I got to meet Lester Leavitt. He recently gained some media exposure when he criticized the LDS Church for the way it treats gay and lesbian members. Ironically, Lester hales from a rich Mormon heritage. His ancestors left Utah to escape government pressure against polygamy and founded Leavitt, Alberta (my aunt lives in the same town). He married in the temple, became a husband and father, but finally realized he was gay. Now he travels the country as an activist.

In a strange coincidence, Lester returned to Cardston for a high school reunion on the same day as my trip. We met for breakfast, but I fear Southern Alberta isn't ready for an open dialog regarding same-sex issues. A woman sitting at the next table overheard our discussion and looked absolutely pallid. Another man looked on with red-faced anger and pounded his fist on the table as we walked by.

Regardless of what people believe on matters of morality, I hope Lester's work will increase understanding and compassion for those who experience feelings of same-sex attraction.

More to come...

Canada Trip, Part 3

Spirit of Alberta

My aunt met me at the East Glacier station and brought me right away to lunch in Browning, Montana. We then drove north, crossed the border into Canada, and went to her house near Cardston, Alberta. Actually, she lives on the edge of a horse farm in the tiny hamlet of Leavitt, en route to Waterton National Park. The surrounding country is beautiful, with its tall grass, rolling hills, and mountains rising in the distance. The spirits of that land speak through the open spaces and make me wish I could stay longer than the weekend.

More to come...

Canada Trip, Part 2


Traveling by train began as a convenient means of transport, but ended with an unexpected sense of adventure. Unlike planes or buses, trains offer a totally different experience. Passengers walk the aisles freely, visit other portions of the train, and mingle with other travelers. More than anything, I felt an unusual sense of freedom as I watched the wide open spaces of the American west.

After witnessing the sunrise, I made reservations in the dining car and waited for them to call my name. Unlike restaurants on the ground, reservations for those dining alone are grouped together at the same table, giving passengers an opportunity to befriend people they wouldn't normally meet. In my case, the waitress seated me at the same table as Markus, a tourist visiting the United Stated from Germany. We enjoyed a wonderful conversation for the better part of an hour. We finished our meals, and walked together to the lounge car, where we got an even more spectacular view of the passing landscape.

Unfortunately, we didn't get more time to visit, but I will always remember the excitement of traveling by train. Hopefully our paths will cross again.

More to come...

Canada Trip, Part 1

Leaving Spokane

I returned from Canada yesterday afternoon and finally enjoyed a good night sleep. Now that I'm rested, I can write about my trip.

The train left Spokane at 1:15 in the morning. In fact, the only time trains ever leave Spokane is in the early morning hours. The crazy schedule obviously caters to the convenience of more "important" places on the route like Seattle or Chicago.

After finding a seat, I watched the city slowly pass my window from a totally different perspective than normal. Spokane resembled a massive industrial wasteland without a tree in sight; only gray concrete, crumbling brink, and steel trusses passed my eyes. When we finally left the city, I nestled into my pillow and tried to sleep.

Before I left, I prayed I would awake right at sunrise to greet the new day from the train. Right on cue, I opened my eyes and saw the magnificent sun rising over the Rocky Mountains. The view startled me because of its amazing beauty. In that moment, the world seemed bright, clear, and timeless. Of course, the photograph above doesn't do justice to the sight I beheld.

Shortly thereafter, we stopped for a brief rest in Whitefish, Montana; I got to go out, stretch my legs, and take this second picture.

More to come...

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Some of my regular readers no doubt wonder why I have not posted in several days (I'm thinking mostly of you, Michelle). As it turns out, I've made somewhat of an unexpected trip to Cardston, Alberta, Canada to help a relative in need.

My visit to Cardston has given me a number of memorable experiences. For one, I got to visit a tribal elder on the Blood Reserve and learn about her culture and spiritual experiences. I also visited with others, but I'll post more later when I return.

Lots of love to everyone!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Kalispel Powwow

My family attended the Kalispel Powwow this weekend. To be honest, I've fallen off the powwow circuit some years ago, but I sure enjoyed our time together. We camped, ate funnel cake, watched dancing, and sang. In fact, Rhonda and I sang with the Hall Creek Drum, which was the first time we sang together in more than 10 years.

Afterwards, we went huckleberry picking in the mountains, but I'm sad to say the berries were almost non-existent this year.


Some time over the last 24 hours, my blog received its 10,000th hit. Who would have thought?

Friday, August 03, 2007


Yesterday, I put up a tent on the Kalispel Reservation powwow grounds for their yearly celebration this weekend. I realized it was the first time in almost 20 years I've been there. When I was a kid, I used to love camping at powwows, but I since drifted away from it. As I set up my tent, some of my old excited returned.

The photograph above shows the buffalo on the Kalispel Reservation.


Related Posts with Thumbnails