Friday, February 27, 2009

Sky People

The moon and Venus stood together in the early evening sky, just after sunset. They looked down upon us and offered their blessing as we entered the lodge. In turn, we offered up our respect and thanked the Sky People for their wisdom and protection.

The two elders raced over the horizon, and sadly, we will not see them together again for many years to come.

Devil's Gap

One of my high school students reminded me of my connection to a mysterious little place called Devil’s Gap. Apparently he lived close by for a number of years, so he was excited to learn that I pass that way every Friday. In fact, my family has traveled through the gap for many generations.

Devil’s Gap is really just a normal highway with an elusive, ghostly history where rumors abound and facts are few.

Native stories tell of spirit-like beings that frighten people foolish enough to stop in the gap by night. When I was a child, I overheard my yaya Bessie whisper about a chilling encounter with a shadow being near the edge of the old highway. For whatever reason, they stopped to rest near the gap when the creature approached the vehicle from behind. The hair on her neck stood upright as she jumped into the car and hollered at her son to “get the hell out.”

Other stories add to the sense of mystery. My student heard rumors of satanic rituals performed by early settlers in the region. He also spoke of an old Cold War era missile silo burrowed into a nearby hilltop.

This afternoon, I stopped to photograph Devil’s Gap on my way to Wellpinit while the sun still cast a warm glow over the rocks and dispelled any fears. But as I took my pictures, a sound like thunder or rattling sheet metal rumbled from the cliff wall. I searched the sky for signs of rainclouds, but found nothing. The strange sound thundered three more times before I finally decided to leave. I don’t necessarily believe all the rumors, but why stick around to find out?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

The liturgical traditions of historic Christianity are quite foreign to me. They were never part of my childhood experience, and yet I awoke this morning with a compelling need to observe Ash Wednesday. A feeling of humility and repentance stirred within me and inspired me to live more faithfully to my divine purpose. The Creator has given each person a gift; he has given ME a gift, and yet so often I find myself distracted by petty concerns.

For many people, Ash Wednesday begins a time of ritual mourning, but I see this season as a process of refinement and dedication. This Lenten season, I surrender my casual approach to divinity; I set aside my personal distractions and re-dedicate myself to the Creator's design for my life.

The congregation at Saint John's Episcopal Cathedral welcomed me into their Ash Wednesday service, which was a deeply moving experience for me. I felt the presence of God in the symbolism and the words.

As an interesting "coincidence," I met one of my readers right in the middle of the ceremony. At about the mid-point of the service, the priest invited the congregation to turn and greet those seated nearby. The people clasped hands and said, "The peace of the Lord be with you." A woman seated in the row before me turned and recited the blessing of peace, and then her eyes widened. "I know you!" she said, "I've seen your face. You're Sulustu, right? I read your blog."

We exchanged greetings and then she said she likes my blog because I write about people and their real experiences. (To you, my fellow penitent at Saint John's, if you're reading this, I bid you peace once again, and hope you will send a greeting to this blog in the comment section).

As I left the church, a downpour of rain began to wash the ashes from my face. Somehow it seemed so perfect, like a reassurance from heaven or a divine approval of my re-commitment to spirit.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


The world is changing, winter to spring; snow gives up to rain.

By early afternoon, the clouds parted and allowed the sun to paint the landscape with deep, brilliant colors. Rhonda and I walked by the Spokane River and took in the promise of spring.

This time of year brings to mind a passage I read recently:

"Close your eyes now, and then open them and look outside. What you will see is love coming out of the trees, love coming out of the sky, love coming out of the light." - The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz

In my finest moments of clarity, this is what I feel.

Looking upstream on the Spokanbe River...

In our mundane doings, Rhonda and I went to the Spokane campus of Washington State University to sign legal papers. WSU is hiring me on a temporary basis to provide educational consulting for the 2009 Ecuador Youth Leadership Exchange. Those who follow my blog know that I worked on this project last year, and I'm thankful to have a role again this year.

As we left the campus, I tried to take a somewhat persepctive shot of the university for my blog and inadvertently captured the figure of a skull in the snow. Can you see it? My first thought was that the winter is dying and a new season of my life is emerging. Any other interpretations?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Nightmares and Halcyon

I'll post no pictures again today, just a few reflections on events of the last 24 hours.

Last night, Rhonda screamed and woke me from my sleep. Still half-slumbered, I rested my hand on her arm to offer some comfort, but within her nightmare state, she lashed out and threw blind punches into the air. Her fist collided with my hand and jammed my index finger up to my first knuckle. I winced from the pain and hollered, “Wake up!” The throbbing in my hand diminished any remaining sympathy. As soon as the shrieking faded, I rolled over, cradled my wounded finger with my good hand, and went back to sleep.

By morning, she apologized for punching me, but my finger still hurts.

Later this morning, I took my eleven year old daughter to the dentist to get a filling in her back molar. She doesn’t handle trips to the dentist, especially if they require even the slightest degree of pain or discomfort. The nurse approached me with half a halcyon tablet in a small paper cup. “Have her put this under her tongue until it dissolves. She should relax within fifteen minutes.”

The terror began sooner than expected. My poor daughter clutched both hands over her mouth and shook her head in small quick jerks.

The nurse spoke in reassuring, practical tones, “This will make it easier for you,” but the longer my daughter resisted, the more the nurse sharpened her persuasive edge. “It’s better to take the pill on your own…” her voice trailed before she completed the ultimatum.

I want my daughter to feel as comfortable as possible. I certainly don’t want her to suffer, and yet I didn’t realize that tiny half tablet would cause so much worry. We couldn’t just walk away; the cavity would only worsen and eventually require more painful treatments, but I hate forcing her to do anything. I hate to cause her any fear. The dilemma tortured both her and me. Then as I held the pill between my fingertips, I had a crazy mental picture of me as a parent pressuring my child to take a drug. It isn’t supposed to work that way. Am I not supposed to protect her from drugs?

We must have argued the point for ten or fifteen minutes, until my daughter finally snatched the pill from my hand and placed it under her tongue. The nurse sighed and said, “I’ll be back for you in fifteen minutes.”

We can only guess if the halcyon had any effect at all. Every new procedure required another round of cajoling and persuasion. Even the cotton candy-scented “happy air” did nothing to alleviate my daughter’s panic. She gripped my hand as a giant teardrop dribbled down her cheek. She finally consented to the filling, but it felt like humiliation.

I know she needed that filling, but I left feeling like a horrible parent.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Dakota played in the Christian Youth Theater production of Cinderella. I'm horribly biased, but I think he did quite well. In fact, his stage presence far exceeded his previous performance in Peter Pan as he danced across the stage with confidence and grace.

Ever since the kids auditioned for Cinderella, we learned the opening number, sung by the king's announcer, "The prince is giving a ball! His Royal Highness Christopher Rupert Windimere Vladimir Carl Alexaner Francois Reginald Lancelot Herman Gregory James is giving a ball." The dozen names of the fictional prince are a mouthful, but once someone starts the list, we must sing them all to the end.

It's become a fun memory for all of us.


We all know the Cinderella story. The young, beautiful girl works like a slave to serve her evil step-mother, and suffers the abuse of her shallow, self-centered step-sisters.

Of course the fairy godmother uses her magical powers to turn a pumpkin into a carriage, and mice into coachmen. She promises to fulfill the secret longing of poor Cinderella, but the eccentric godmother offers some practical advice as well. "Do you like being a servant?" she asks, "You could easily be a servant elsewhere and get paid for it."

The fairy godmother might ask a similar question to anyone feeling burdened or oppressed by some unfortunate situation. Do we like our current life circumstances? If not, what are we willing to do to change? No magic is required to make a new choice about life.

We make the choices, and yet magic is real, activated only by love, courage, and truth.

Ballroom Dance

Dakota did not receive a speaking part in this play, but he got a role as a ballroom dancer. He wore a tuxedo as he gracefully danced the waltz with his partner. They danced right in front of the stage for all the world to see and never missed a step. He looked absolutely blissful on the stage. As I said before, Dakota has found his calling.

The Ball

Dakota stands emotionless and still in the background as Cinderalla and the prince dance at the royal ball.

A closer view of Dakota and his dance partner.

Cinderella and the prince...

If the shoe fits...

"If the shoe fits..."

Normally, people use this expression with a somewhat negative tone. For example, if a person complains about receiving judgment or criticim, others may say, "If the shoe fits, wear it." In other words, they suggest that if criticism applies, we must accept it.

On the other hand, Dakota's play made me think about this common saying in a positive light. If we find ourselves resisting our dreams, or hiding our talents, we may also say, "If the shoe fits, why should we struggle and agonize? Why not accept the higher truth about ourselves and become a force for good in the world?" Other may seek to use our dreams for their own selfish purposes, but only we hold the power to fulfill our greatest purpose.


No matter how bleak the moment, the sun always rises on a new day, and after darkness and weeping, we awaken to a brighter version of ourselves.

Friday, February 20, 2009


To all my family and friends, I have no photographs or thoughtful commentary. I only offer my heart, raw and vulnerable, with all its mix of light and dark. I'll spare myself the ordeal of confessing the details, but let me simply say that life is a perfect teacher, offering lessons in their proper season with unflinching clarity. We may hide our face from the unflattering reflection of our own creations, but the spirit of life always presents the truth with an even hand.

Let me also say, if I ever hurt or offended anyone, please tell me so that I may ask your forgiveness. I would much rather bear the wound of your truth than suffer the loss of our friendship.

Monday, February 16, 2009


2009Feb16-001, originally uploaded by sulustumoses.

Last night I dreamed of springtime.

In my dream, I cleared a trail to the mountains with a handheld show shovel. When I reached the summit, I built a fire and sang for the changing seasons. The warmth from the fire melted the snow and caused spring to appear.

2009Feb16-003, originally uploaded by sulustumoses.

In response to my dream, I hiked to the Little Spokane River for the first time in months, searching for signs of spring. The sound of songbirds gave the first evidence, followed by patches of clear ground under the melting snow, or a dry leaf holding to a branch as new leafbuds push forward.

2009Feb16-004, originally uploaded by sulustumoses.

2009Feb16-012, originally uploaded by sulustumoses.

2009Feb16-013, originally uploaded by sulustumoses.


2009Feb16-015, originally uploaded by sulustumoses.

This robin was by no means the first to appear this season, but he is certainly a welcome messenger for the return of warmth.


2009Feb16-007, originally uploaded by sulustumoses.

2009Feb16-006, originally uploaded by sulustumoses.

2009Feb16-009, originally uploaded by sulustumoses.

In my search for spring, I found a small mound of dirt exposed by the melting snow under a juniper tree. There I saw hundreds of ladybugs tending the firstborn blades of grass. They still had not taken flight, so I watched and thanked them for announcing the change of seasons.


2009Feb16-002, originally uploaded by sulustumoses.

Some of my readers know that I've decided to grow my hair again. It's an important decision on many levels, but mostly I wanted to show respect for the tradition of my father. This photograph is an update of my progress.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Message

To Oklahoma Girl, these are the words I tell you:

"Stop. Take a look around, and decide what you really want from this situation. When you get clear, the journey becomes easy."

To JenX, I saw you crying in my dreams and I heard a gentle voice say,

"Why should you cry tears of sadness? You're rich with love, and as you witness this important change, you've only grown richer. Let your tears be filled with gratitude and joy for all the good things in life."

Saturday, February 07, 2009


Well, I said I might surprise myself.

The CYT Valentine's dance interrupted my preparation for the winter dance. Any thoughts of spirituality, ancient traditions, or contemplation temporarily faded into the background as the sounds of swing filled my ears and moved my feet.

CYT creates a positive and safe environment for children of all ages. Mothers danced with sons, and fathers with daughters. Sweethearts and friends all mingled on the floor without the pressure to impress others or the fear of rejection. As my children danced and laughed with such freedom, I found myself giving thanks once again for the blessing of this organization in their lives.

Music was provided by a live band called Six Foot Swing. The lead singer has a voice with that smooth, jazzy sound right out of the 1930s. She also has the looks to match the part.

Six Foot Swing sent me back in time, but not in the way I expected when I blogged yesterday. I found myself moving to the beat and tapping my foot, even when I didn't have a dance partner.

We all had a wonderful time. Click HERE to see a video of our dance experience. Here's a link to Six Foot Swing. And another.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Spirit World

To all my friends, family, and followers, I'm going into a different state of mind in the next few days. You might say it's like visiting a different world or taking a step back in time. I wish I could say more, but you'll just have to ask.

Probably I will not post much for at least a week, but then again, I may surprise myself.

Does anyone have a request from my travels? Shall I bring back a souvenir? And if I do find some memento from the other world, what would it look like? What would it sound like? What color is it? What message would you have me deliver?

Monday, February 02, 2009


Candlemas is a little-known holy day with a long history dating back to pre-Christian times, though with many different names, depending on the culture. The celebration is most commonly observed on February 2, as the halfway point between winter solstice and spring equinox, and in Celtic culture was originally dedicated to the goddess Brigid.

After the Christianization of Europe, the day became associated with the Feasts of the Purification of the Virgin Mary, which occurs 40 days after Christmas.

In all likelihood, a combination of cultural symbolism occurred over the centuries. In Pagan times, Candlemas held a close association with the returning spring, symbolized by the flames of Brigid. In the Christian tradition, Candlemas became a feast day dedicated to the blessing of religious candles. In any case, the day serves as a reminder of light and warmth.

In celebration of Candlemas, I gave candles to my family and co-workers. In particular, my family lit a candle and spoke of our hopes for the coming spring.

For a more detailed description of Candlemas, click HERE.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


Christian Youth Theater sponsored a free swing class in preparation for a family Valentine's party/dance coming up next week.

We went as a family to learn to jockey, kick, dip, swing, and even flip. Of course, the kids loved it. After the lessons ended, their faces were still aglow with dance-adrenaline, and for the rest of the evening, I heard them singing in the background, "It don't mean a thang, if it ain't got that swang..."

We posted a couple videos on Youtube showing the kids learning to swing dance. Check it out by clicking HERE.


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