Monday, December 31, 2007


My children attempted to stay awake for the passage of New Year, but each one fell asleep before the stroke of midnight. I can only assume their exhaustion stems from their recent illnesses. In this photograph, McKenna is asleep on the sofa. I suppose we'll welcome the new year together after a good night's sleep.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


The last several days my children have suffered intermittent fevers, rising just enough to make them uncomfortable, falling, then rising again. Whitney feels the worst, but she managed a darling little smile just before she drifted off to sleep again. Hopefully they'll recover after one more night's rest.

Winter Hike

Emerging once again from self-imposed hibernation, I set out for a mid-winter hike, across the windswept snow dunes, and into the valley near the Little Spokane River. That place is my sanctuary. It clears my brain of all distractions and renews my strength for coming days. As I reach the lowest point of the trail, the sky begins to turn color, and for the briefest moment, the setting sun casts a strange orange glow over the snow. A minute passes, and the color changes again, growing deeper; the sky-fire turns to a cold winter blue.


My dog Bobo accompanied me on the mid-winter hike to the Little Spokane River. He practically danced on the trail, rolling through the snow, and barking happily, but when I stopped to take his picture, his demeanor changed completely. His frisky, happy glow drooped into an expression of pure punishment. He looked absolutely pitiful! When my family saw the picture later, we all laughed so hard we almost cried. How does he understand the camera anyway? And why does he always look punished when I try to take his picture?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Of course, the children woke us up at the crack of dawn...

McKenna and Dakota in the insane mess of Christmas morning...

Whitney and her new monster doll... :)

Christmas Day

The morning came too early for an old man like me, but not soon enough for three excited children. They were delirious with anticipation and could hardly hold still long enough for me to take our first photograph of the day. There were gifts to open, wrapping paper to destroy, and candies to eat.

The holiday goods were somewhat smaller than other years, but everyone was happy with their plunder. Dakota got his legendary Wii (he paid for half), while the girls got the art sets they really wanted.

Rhonda got a bunch of movies, and ended up providing the entertainment for the rest of the day. All the movies were from the 80s, Little Shop of Horrors, The Gods Must Be Crazy II, and the original Hairspray with Ricki Lake.

In any case, Christmas Day was a time to recover from the trauma of Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve

I had high hopes for Christmas Eve. My family arrived for a beautiful turkey dinner I worked to prepare all morning. My sisters began to catch me up on the events of several months apart, and our children played noisily in the other room.

Just as we were about to eat, I burned the sweet potatoes for the second time in one day. I should have taken that as some kind of sign to slow down, but I charged ahead and tried to salvage the blackened mess.

Just then, we heard a scream in the other room, and then my nephew ran in holding his mouth, blood dripping onto the kitchen floor. "What happened?!?" we all shouted together.

"The dog bit him!" my sister cried.

Unbelievable! In five years my dog has never even growled at another living being, much less shown enough aggression to bite. I was dumbfounded, but they said my nephew had gotten into his face and teased the dog to the breaking point.

My mother held a wash cloth over my nephew's mouth; blood was still dripping to the floor. "We better look at it," someone said. She slowly pulled her hand away and I saw a hole in his lower lip the size of a nickel. "Oh dear God," I thought to myself. "He better see a doctor..."

Mom got a determined look on her face and said forcefully that she would take him to the ER personally and demand a plastic surgeon. She's a registered nurse, so I knew it had to be serious if she was making that kind of demand.

So my mom carted my nephew away, while my sister, her husband, and daughter followed close behind. Our festivities fell completely flat and never regained their strength. The remaining guest ate Christmas Eve dinner with a much more subdued tone than before. Of course, I forgot about trying to save my sweet potatoes. Later we even tried to start a rousing game of spoons, but we quit after only one round.

Well, my nephew got 38 stitches in his lip. and hopefully he learned never to tease animals.

Hopefully he had a much better Christmas. For my part, I'll be glad to recover from our collective trauma.

Feast Day

The contents of my stocking...

Well, it's Christmas Day and all diets are off. Since June I've lost 45 pounds through a combination of counting calories and exercise, but none of that today. It's a feast day, and it only comes once a year. Though I have to admit, I've gotten used to eating less sugar, so I'm feeling pretty sluggish today; it's a little sugar overdose. Oh well, I'll be back on the wagon tomorrow... :)

Sunday, December 23, 2007


My kids began construction of an igloo this evening when the snow started piling in our front yard. They were so excited for the prospect of a white Christmas. Of course, I always think they're the cutest kids. Don't you agree?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Tree

Driving home from Moses Lake, the weather became quite treacherous amid the fog, freezing rain, and icy roads. Conditions on Intestate-90 forced us to travel much slower than usual.

When we finally returned to our neighborhood, we passed my favorite tree in the LDS Church parking lot (at the Spokane North Stake Center). For those who remember, I've posted several pictures of this tree before, probably because it seems to capture my attention no matter what the season. This time, we found the tree covered in glittering white ice, set against a deep blue sky. I had to stop, for I think it a grave error to pass by such beauty and not pay the proper respect.


Of course, no Merchant event is complete without noticing the relationship between my girls and their cousin Sadie. Whenever we all get together, Sadie is the center of their world. They play together unceasingly and cry when they have to leave. I'm so happy they will have these wonderful memories with their cousins.

Merchant Siblings

Mandee, Brindy, Bailey, and Sadie.

Cassidi, Mandee, Brindy, Bailey, and Sadie.


Well, these photographs sort of evolved over the course of about 20 minutes. It started with just Mandee and Brindy, but then the other sisters slowly joined until we finally collected everyone. All the Merchant sisters were represented. We tried to find Tucker, but he was outside someplace and didn't answer when we called. Unfortunately, they couldn't hold that position long enough for Tucker to return. I had to get his picture later. It was fun anyway.

The Generations

Grandma Great Glenda at the Christmas dinner...

Dixie on a sugar overdose...

My family joined Cassidi's family for Christmas dinner in their new home near Moses Lake, Washington. All Cassidi's siblings also attended the event, including little Tucker and Sadie. For those who are less acquainted with our family, Cassidi is the oldest daughter of my brother-in-law Steve.

Visiting Cassidi, her husband, and their two adorable children gave me a sense of time and age. I don't feel OLD per se, but I do feel the passage of time more keenly that before. Up until recently, I felt relatively young, as though I were still a twenty-something guy, but for the first time I REALLY feel the difference. I'm definitely not 25 anymore. I mean, I remember when Cassidi was a baby, just learning to walk with her tow hair flying all crazy on her head. Now she's married with a family of her own, and yet to me she still looks like a baby. How is it possible?

The point really came home for me when my mother-in-law Glenda was holding Cassie's baby Dixie. She kept calling herself grandma, but suddenly we all realized she wasn't really Dixie's grandma; she is in fact Dixie's great grandma. That means Dixie is my grand-niece, and in the Indian way, Dixie is also my granddaughter, (as the granddaughter of my wife's brother).

Again, I ask, how is it possible? It feels unreal to me.

Friday, December 21, 2007


This evening, I received a copy of an old family photograph, showing my grandmother Minnie Moses Cannon (left), her sister Bessie Moses Andrew (center), and Bessie's husband Andy Andrew, Sr. (right). Once again, the resemblance between my yaya Minnie and my sister Kim amazes me. I may even remember my sister wearing a similar fur coat a few years ago.

Andy and Bessie were the parents of my auntie Iva, auntie Darlene, and my uncle Andy "Junior." They were also the parents of an aunt Mary, but I'm not sure if I ever knew her when she was still living.

Unfortunately, this photograph was not dated, so I'm not sure if my father had been born yet (which happened in 1948). Perhaps other clues will reveal an approximate date, such as the clothing or the model of the car. A more reliable method may require me to find out when Bessie and Andy were married, which would at least give an estimated time frame. They still look fairly long in this picture, perhaps courting, or recently married. Any other guesses?

Cold Sun

Looking north toward Riverfront Park.

The Spokane County Courthouse.

A detail view of the courthouse.

Cold Sun

Yesterday, my errands forced me up from hibernation and into the cold winter sun. The bright blue sky brought cheer to my dark mood from the dreariness of previous days, but the absence of cloud cover robs the day of warmth. The wind would blow the cold humid air, and I would feel an involuntary shiver run down my back.

We've reached the end, you know. After tomorrow, the days will slowly lengthen and hasten the return of summer.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

In the News

The moose lives on...

My readers may remember several weeks ago I posted a photograph of a wild moose running on my street. We know the people who live in that house. They were quite surprised when I called to tell them of their rather large visitor.

I also forgot to mention KREM 2 News in Spokane posted my photograph on their website. When you click on the link below, you can see my photograph, along with several others taken by folks in the neighborhood.


Monday, December 17, 2007

The Nativity

The Nativity holds a certain magical power, inviting people to put aside enmity and embrace a new life. Every year the world seems to forget, and every year the Nativity returns to remind us of what's possible. The baby grew to become a Prophet of Peace, who taught us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. Who among us truly follows this demanding path?

This is true religion in its simplest form, to love deeply and powerfully, even those we would rather not see. Especially them.


Christmas lights shine brightly in the trees.

The moon is constant in the sky.

I can't imagine the electric bill.

After caroling, my family stopped to see the Christmas lights at a house near Monroe Street. From a distance, it looks like the whole block is alight with brilliant Christmas colors. We've admired the lights in previous years, but this year the trees caught my attention more than the actual display. The trees and all of nature seem so constant, no matter the season, and no matter how the human world changes.


My family went caroling this evening, singing traditional Christmas hymns and giving out cookies. There was a time I would have loved this, but I have to admit, I was kind of a grinch tonight. I went along mostly because it was the family thing to do. Maybe next year I'll find more Christmas spirit for singing.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


I needed a break more than I realized; working two jobs, being a parent, driving to Wellpinit every week for my spiritual practice. It all adds up. The last few days, I hid myself away in my house and scarcely ventured out for any reason at all. My hibernation has rewarded me with new strength, but I need to get back out and put some time in with a few important projects. If for no other reason, I need to get out and take a few more pictures.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Note

My son provided me a wonderful parenting moment last week.

Rhonda and I were visiting in her office when we heard Dakota pounding on something under the bathroom sink. "What are you doing?" Rhonda called through the door.

"Nothing," he said in a bright, cheery tone, though it sounded like something much worse than "nothing."

Suspicion finally motivated us to check in. As it turns out, he had literally dismantled the pipes under the bathroom sink. He totally disconnected the drain and left the pipe open. I heard Rhonda start to yell, "What were you thinking?!?"

Dakota meekly approached and said he was panning for gold out of a plate full of dirt from the yard. The dirt clogged the sink, and he attempted to fix it before anyone noticed. Well, it's true Dakota and I had once panned for gold, but we used a bucket, and didn't clog the sink.

I have to admit, I was furious, but I was late for work and didn't get a chance to yell.

Once I arrived at work, I had time to think about my reaction. The broken sink was in effect "water under the bridge," and no matter how upset I might feel, Dakota would never be able to fix the drain.

Rhonda said he did attempt to fix the sink by propping the pipes up with boxes and tying them together with rope. He cried about it for several hours in a futile attempt to repair the damage.

I'm not sure what settled over me, but I arrived home feeling gentle and calm. Rhonda had advised Dakota to avoid me, but I came home and simply fixed the sink without a word. Dakota was obviously surprised, and peered cautiously around the corner. When he finally realized I wasn't about to destroy him, he ventured to help me fix the broken drain.

That was the end of it, so I thought.

A few days later, Dakota handed me the neatly folded piece of paper you see above. It reminded me of the notes junior high students pass to each other. I opened it and read his simple message, "Thank you for not getting mad when I broke the sink."

His little note now goes into my collection of sacred documents.

The story lives on. He used this experience as the basis of a talk in church. He had the entire congregation laughing at his misadventures in a way that made me look like a great parent, or at least a tolerable one. More than anything, it reminds me how important it is to hold my temper and remember kindness.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


After my amazing hike two days ago, I felt compelled to share my experience with Rhonda. The following day we walked together, explored the same trails, and appreciated the same beautiful surrounding. The earth renewed our relationship, just as it rejuvenated me the day before. Nature is our teacher, counselor, and therapist.


During our hike by the waterfalls, we passed a lone tamarack. Unlike other conifers, the tamarack turns color in the fall, and fades into a soft yellow hue. The needles fall to the ground and form a bright covering around the base of the tree. To me it looked like the color of happiness.


For one brief moment, the sun shone through my bedroom window and cast a soft, shimmering glow upon the wall. The imperfect reflection of light on dust-covered paint still carried a hint of the sun's full brilliance. In one breathless instant, the light interrupted every mundane concern and cleared my mind of mental debris. Even within the clutter of my existence, beauty remembers me and calls my name in reverence.

Wall Street Diner

Yesterday morning, my co-worker invited me to breakfast at the Wall Street Diner, where I must say the atmosphere was quite pleasant. Dark wood paneling throughout the dining area provides an air of warmth, and antique portraits from the late 19th century create a sense of community and family. Of course, the food was good too. I'll definitely return and recommend the diner to others.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


My hike by the river drew together two separate events in my life.

When my family made cattail dolls a while back, my friend Steve gifted me with an amazing bow and drill set. He personally crafted the bow from a hardwood walnut, inlaid with another light colored wood. The handle was also made of wood, with an inlaid bear design. It was quite spectacular, to say the least.

For those who may not know, a bow and drill is a traditional method of lighting fire without matches. Essentially, a person twists a spindle into the strong of a bow, and spins it against a board until the friction produces a live ember. The person then places the coal into a bundle of tinder.

I once made my own bow and drill set when we visited Anthony at Anasazi. Unfortunately, I seem to have misplaced it.

After he gave me the bow, I resolved to collect my own tinder and build a sacred fire. This morning during my hike, I found the stump of a dead cottonwood tree and carefully pulled back the thick outer layer. Underneath the outer bark is a thin layer of papery fibers that make an excellent tinder when dried. In keeping with my traditions, I sang for the tree and then removed enough fibers to create a bundle of tinder. I wrapped the fibers in a white handkerchief and carried them home. It was such a simple act, but once again, I felt so close to nature and the spirits. I feel these simple tasks are sacred work.


When I saw the temperature this morning, I thought to myself it was another crazy weather day in Spokane. Just a week ago, the thermometer dropped below 15 degrees, and then the sky dumped a ton of snow. This morning, the temperature rose to a balmy 58 degrees under a warm unseasonal breeze. Of course, I had to go outside and experience the beautiful weather more fully. I took the dog for a run to the waterfalls near the Little Spokane River. I can't explain the amazing peace I felt to walk amid the wonders of nature. The sun was shining brightly in the sky, casting a warm yellow glow over the dried grass. Two hawks circled overhead, while Canadian geese continued their migration in the characteristic v-formation. I felt close to the earth and every living thing. By the end, I lost track of time and came home much later than expected. It was worth any potential sacrifice to my time. I came home refreshed and reconnected to my spirit.


Carole Parks is my co-worked at the Adult Education Center and recently invited my family to her home for dinner. She prepared a wonderful lasagna and baked gingerbread cookies for my kids to decorate. Of course, they loved it; the project was both enjoyable and edible. Of all my children, McKenna is a very creative soul, but she struggled to control the tubes of frosting on the gingerbread. After several attempts, she resorted to a more "modern art" approach. In the end, we laughed and said her creation resembled Andy Warhol cookies.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Reason

These people are the reason for my celebration this Christmas season. They are the reason I continue living and the reason I feel connected to LIFE. Thank God for the blessing of children.

Ghosts of Christmas

After setting up the tree, my kids and I decided to experiment with my camera. I had them stand very still for three seconds while the camera shutter was open. The camera sat on a tripod, and then they ran away at the very last moment. This action created a rather ghostly effect. This proved to be a wonderful ending to a perfect day.


My family decided to purchase a Christmas tree this year. We found a beautiful noble fir for a reasonable price. My daughters promptly named the tree Timothy.


Sledding made me feel like a child again, while the white snow gathering on my hair foreshadowed my eventual old age. What a beautiful day!


Dakota has had all kinds of name in his life; Buddy is just one of many. I sure enjoyed seeing his happiness sledding down the hill. It makes me thankful to be a father.


Minnie Mae on a freezing day. She's getting braver in baby steps; slowly taking the bigger hills. There was a day she would not have tried sledding at all.


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