Friday, October 31, 2008


After the Bioneers conference, Mary Iverson contacted me and requested a friendly meeting over coffee. She had participated in my session and wanted to discuss the issues further. We talked about spirituality and many of the essential questions of our day. We had a wonderful and enlightening conversation.

We met at the Rocket Bakery on Garland. I also got a photograph of the Milk Bottle on Garland.


The other day Rhonda and I took a two-hour hike to the waterfalls below our house. We enjoyed such a beautiful day with the many-colored leaves and the crisp cool air. We couldn't resist a picture in the leaves.

The yellow tansy turns dark brown as fall settles in.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Whitman Mission

Standing on the Oregon Trail...

After leaving Walla Walla, I had the opportunity to visit the site of the old Whitman Mission. My visit offered me a brief window into the past and left me to contemplate the implications of history on the present.

Concrete markers show the previous footings of the mission.

A restored canal much as it was created by Dr. Whitman...

The mission was established in the early 1800s by Protestant missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. They settled among the Cayuse Indians and attempted to impress upon them the virtues of Christianity and American civilization.

No doubt the Whitmans arrived with the finest intentions for the Indian people. In a letter to the missionary board, Marcus Whitman declared, "I regard the Missionary cause as based upon the Atonement, and the commands and promises of the Lord Jesus Christ to his Ambassadors and Church; and that it involve the holiness and happiness of all that may be reclaimed from Sin."

Unfortunately, the Whitmans attempted to change the Cayuse without understanding their language, culture, and deep spiritual experience. Whitman continued, "I regard the Heathen as not having retained the knowledge of the true God..."

The Whitmans began their mission with a flawed understanding of Cayuse culture and ultimately alienated the very people they attempted to save. Over the years, misunderstanding and distrust began to develop between the missionaries and the Indians.

A lone covered wagon on the old Oregon Trail...

Suspicions worsened as the Whitmans invited white settlers into the region, further displacing the Cayuse from their traditional lands. The Oregon Trail passed within a stone's throw of the mission, and the Whitmans frequently offered comfort, supplies, and aid to the foreign immigrants. Tensions reached a breaking point when one of the settlers introduced measles to the area. The disease spread quickly among the Cayuse resulting in the death of more than half the tribe. Whitman treated whites and Indians alike, but the Indians died while the whites recovered, and so many Indians believed he intentionally poisoned them to make way for white settlement.

The Indians reacted with vengeance and killed the Whitmans, along with a handful of other white residents.

The mass grave where the mission victims were buried...

This monument was erected 50 years after the killing.

As I ponder the severity of this place, I ask myself, does history really teach a lesson? Some would suggest we should forget the past rather than blame the sins of our fathers. I would suggest that we examine the past, not to assign blame, but to understand the dynamics behind the Whitman killings, and if we understand the cause, we stand at a unique opportunity to create healing in the defining cultural and social conflicts of our time.

I don't justify the killings, and at the same time, I notice something of the dynamic that created that situation. Many seek to export the ideals of one nation without fully grasping the social and cultural identity of other nations. Despite the sincerity of the Whitmans and others, this approach usually inspires more resistance than change.

Walla Walla

The purpose of my trip to Walla Walla was to visit my foster son at the prison. However, the guard informed me I arrived on the wrong day. In spite of driving three hours from Spokane, he would not let me visit my son. I left the prison visitor's center feeling like an idiot. I was angry, but I quickly decided to make the best of things by touring the local community. In fact, I enjoyed the warm, friendly atmosphere of the downtown area, the old architecture, and the vibrant tree-lined streets.

Steptoe Battlefield

I drove to Walla Walla this past Sunday and enjoyed a rather unexpected tour of the Palouse. En route to my destination, I stopped at a historical marker memorializing the defeat of Colonel Steptoe in the war between local tribes and the United States. As far as I know, it was specifically the only armed conflict between the Spokane Tribe and the US military. The tribes won the day, but their triumph soon withered. Colonel George Wright returned to avenge their losses and inflicted a heavy penalty on the Native patriots. Ironically, the victory at Steptoe battlefield hastened the end of tribal independence in the Inland Northwest.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


My children had a wonderful time making masks with plaster of paris. Dakota especially enjoyed creating a partial mask inspired by the Phantom of the Opera. As Halloween approaches, I will be happy to post photographs of his costume. It looks awesome.


Fall colors inspire warmth and joy, even as temperatures drop. The cool crisp air brings relief from the hot summer sun and begins the process of renewal.


My closest family and friends know I have a fair number of strong opinions regarding faith and politics, two very sensitive topics. However, I have worked hard to stay clear of controversial discussions on my blog. I would much rather build upon the similarities between people, rather than the differences.

Even so, I respectfully submit my personal endorsement of Obama for president.

I honor the personal beliefs of friends and family on all sides of the issues, and having examined my own conscience, I feel compelled to support Senator Obama. Colin Powell's recent endorsement reflects my feeling when he said, "...I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities... as well as his substance. He has both style and substance. He has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president.

"...he is a transformational figure. He is a new generation coming into the world — onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason, I’ll be voting for Senator Barack Obama."

This week, I cast my mail-in ballot with confidence, hope, and pride for Obama.

The Sun

About a week ago, I was driving west on Highway 2, just past Airway Heights, and I saw this amazing sunset. As I often do, I had to pull over to the side of the road to take a picture.


I've been remiss in keeping up my blog this last week, and now I'm having to play catch up.

A week ago, I presented at the local Bioneers Conference convened at Spokane Falls Community College. Specifically, I spoke about the spiritual connection between indigenous people and the environment. About 30 or 40 people attended my session and most seemed to respond very positively. Since the conference, several people have contacted me by email to request further discussion on this important topic.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wellpinit Mountain

The lookout tower on Wellpinit Mountain offers a magnificent 360 degree view of the Spokane Indian Reservation. I've seen the tower my whole life, but never stopped for a visit until this weekend. It may never become a destination in its own right, but it was worth the climb. I especially appreciate the last photograph showing a clearing in the trees otherwise known as the town of Wellpinit, Washington.


On Friday night, the elements combine to create an eerie welcome to night. The sky opened wide and clear over Wellpinit, allowing the moon to cast a mournful glimmer over all the trees, while the air stood perfectly still and cold. The Presbyterian Church recently disbanded, and now the building reminds me of a ghost with its darkened windows and pale white walls. As I stand outside, I decide this makes a great blog photograph, but then a shiver runs through my body and I quickly return to the warmth of my friends and their glowing fire.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


More attempts at fake tilt-shift photography using images from downtown Spokane. To get the full effect, click on the images to see larger, more detailed versions.


This photograph was taken from the monument at Mitad del Mundo.

Click to enlarge.


Looking toward the John F. Kennedy gravesite from the Lincoln Memorial.

Inside the Library of Congress.

Tilt-shift images produce a surreal, miniature effect to otherwise ordinary photographs. A true tilt-shift lens can be quite expensive, but much cheaper fakes exist on Photoshop and Gimp. To be honest, I don't really understand what any of this means; I simply enjoy the effect. These particular images represent my first attempt at making tilt-shift fakes on Gimp. They were taken during my trip last spring to Washington DC, and modified just today.

Click on any image to see larger version.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Yard

Standing at the beginning of our restoration project...

Sage from our yard...

Over the years, our back yard has fallen into a state of disrepair, perhaps as a result of dogs, kids, busy schedules, and just a little laziness. Our front yard is still green at least, but the back yard has never been a high priority on my list of things to do.

Recently, I developed a new interest in the back yard through a rather strange turn of events. Oddly, my interest began with an aversion to trampolines.

My son has begged me for years to buy a tampoline, but I steadfastly resisted his attempts to pursuade me. "They're dangerous," I always said, "I've known too many people who have broken their bones or suffered serious injury as a result of the trampoline." My arguments never impressed him much. The begging always continued until I finally invoked the parental end-all known as "We can't have a trampoline because I say so." That always worked.

That is, until yesterday. Somehow the topic of conversation took a nauseating turn back to the subject of trampolines. Dakota resumed his begging, but after years of valiant resistance, I finally reached a compromise. "Okay," I blurted, "If you help me restore our back yard to perfection, I will buy you a trampoline." He agreed without hesitation.

With no small amount of satisfaction, Dakota took out his pencil and paper and began to plan our new yard. Of course, things will be different this time. I told him we are going to attempt something more environmentally friendly than what we had before.

Years ago, I had purchased several indigenous plants for our back yard, including sage and wild rose. While many of our decorative plants have died, the native plants continue to thrive. This is because indigenous plants are better adapted to our local ecosystem and require less maintenance. They demand less water and make less of an impact on our local water supply.

Our new yard will still have a grassy area in the center, but it will be considerably smaller than before. We will expand the areas of indigenous plants along the edges of the yard. We will plant more roses, sage, Oregon grape, service berry, and others. I can hardly wait to see the end result.

A large and expensive project lies ahead, but it doesn't matter. Working together, we will create a new yard step by step. As an added measure of accountability, I will report on our progress from time to time on this blog. Of course, Dakota will never let me forget, because we did make a deal, after all. His drawing already includes the location of his trampoline to be.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Bus

Rhonda started school this fall and decided to take to the bus instead of driving a second car. It's a small contribution to be sure, but she made the decision based in part out of concern for the environment. When I went to school in the 1990s, I drove my car all over town to get to class on several campuses, including SFCC, Cheney, and EWU-Spokane. I'm happy for her decision, and besides, we will also save money as she makes her contribution to save the planet. As she begins to take the bus, she opens the door for more discussion about what else we can do to conserve energy.


Riverfront Park features two decorative benches near the edge of the Spokane River. One depicts the US flag, made of brightly polished metal, and the other depicts the Canadian flag potrayed in a similar manner. They provide a rather patriotic backdrop for individual or family portraits.

As I walked through the park yesterday afternoon, I felt compelled to take my own picture near the US flag. Now I look back and wonder what kind of caption belongs with these photographs. What story do they tell? What discussion might they inspire?

During an election year, I suppose people could read anything into these photographs, or take any position regarding the pressing issues of our day.

For me, the flag raises important questions about citizenship. For example, given the history of US domination of Native peoples, what does it mean for me to be an American? What is the best way to promote democracy now, and how do we balance minority rights with the will of the majority? My ancestors certainly faced these questions as they watched their sovereignty diminish before the overpowering will of the Euro-American majority. And while the specific issues may change over time, the central, enduring questions of democracy remain.

All things considered, perhaps the most patriotic act is to constantly study, question, and learn. As we embrace the difficult questions of our day, our respect for individual freedom and and dignity must increase.


Standing near the water's edge, the birds show no fear of humans. They've grown accustomed to the crowds of gawking people who throw scraps of bread or popcorn. I have nothing to give, but several geese approach almost casually, as if to request their next meal for the day. A sparrow shows only slightly more caution as it hops quickly around my feet. After several minutes they realize I offer no food, and so the geese return to their families by the water and the sparrow returns to the trees.


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