Monday, August 30, 2010

Bird Sit

Yesterday my friends introduced me to the practice of bird sitting.

No, it's not like baby sitting. Basically, a group of people get together to watch birds, but they do so in a methodical and controlled way. The people select a location, like a meadow or a pond, where birds are likely to congregate. Each person sits in a different spot and quietly makes note of all bird activity. A timekeeper makes a crow-call at about every ten minutes to assist the others make a more accurate observation of the birds.

My fellow bird-sitters sat with note pads and binoculars, but I sat with my camera. For my part, I noticed a number of species, but mostly the Steller's jay.

Afterwards, everyone convened in the house and made a large map of the area. Each person placed himself or herself on the map and then recorded everything they observed. We identified each species of bird with a different code. We also used different colored markers to indicate when each bird appeared on the scene.

This practice helps people to become more aware of bird behavior and the natural environment. I had never done something like this, but I'm interested to learn more.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

San Andreas Fault

The San Andreas Fault marks the boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. Just south of San Francisco, the fault is visible in the form of a long, north-south trench that has been filled with the waters of Crystal Springs Reservoir. In spite of the obvious danger, human beings continue to develop the land surrounding the fault. Bridges and freeway overpasses stand within a stone's throw of a moving continent, while a dam actually straddles both sides of the fault. It's difficult to imagine how these developments will be affected the next time the earth decides to move.

These cars are driving directly above the fault line.

A car driving above Crystal Springs Reservoir.


Jon spoke to a parent group about the difference between nature connection and nature education. Authentic connection occurs when people immerse themselves in the outdoor experience. On the other hand, education is often guided by a system of prescribed rules and curriculum outcomes. Education certainly holds a valid place, but people crave genuine connections with nature and other people.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Honor System

Just after midday, we took a break and visited an organic strawberry farm where we got to enjoy a delicious strawberry shortcake and a strawberry lemonade.

But the most incredible part of the farm is that people pay using the honor system. Every item is labeled with an appropriate price, but no one collects the money. A cash drawer sits unattended on the counter with a handwritten note reading, "You Pay Yourself." During the brief time of our visit, at least four or five people deposited money into the cash drawer. I was both delighted and surprised to see this.

When I took this picture of the cash drawer, a fellow customer turned to me and said, "Isn't it wonderful? It makes me so happy to see that the honor system still functions in the world."

A sign in the store reads: "Make art, not war."

I was inspired to see this organization operating in a way that makes the world a better place by promoting community values and respect.


A student group practices tracking and cultural mentoring with Jon Young.


During the afternoon, we met with a program that teaches nature connection and cultural mentoring. A group of young adults had just returned from an extended period of isolation and self-reflection, so we all sat around the tepee fire and listened to their experiences. Each participant in his or her own way expressed a sense of renewal and personal transformation. By the end of the evening, we all felt totally connected and alive.

The tepees under the moonlight.


From the San Francisco airport, we drove directly to the lighthouse on Pigeon Point. It's a beautiful place where the fog rolls in from the Pacific and covers the world in a damp chill. As we waited to meet another group of people, I had the chance to explore the beach, the tidepools, and rock formations created by countless ages of water and wind.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


This afternoon, a simple observation caused me to reflect upon the deeper mysteries of life.

Perhaps some background information will prove useful.

Normally I teach the night class, so when I leave the Adult Education Center at the end of the evening, the sun is already setting or completely gone. As I exit the building, I often observe the sunset or notice the passing cars. Only rarely do I ever pause to consider the building across the street, mostly because it faces away from the western sun, and thus remains partially obscured by a shadow. Before today, I would have described the building as an old, brick structure with little or no color.

These last two days I have worked the morning shift instead of the evening. At about midday yesterday, I walked outside and noticed the old building across the street as if for the first time. The colors appeared so much more vibrant than before; the bricks were actually red, not gray, and the trim was green. Who knew? In the big picture, the building lacks much distinction or special beauty, but for one fleeting moment I stood in deep appreciation of the newly observed colors.

This simple event got me to thinking.

How many years have I worked at this location without truly "seeing" the colors of the next-door building? Of course, the logical explanation is that I've never seen the place at that particular time of day or under those connections. But this makes me wonder how often we "know" something mundane or familiar only to discover some surprising characteristic hidden in plain sight. If anything, this experience deepens my willingness to consider other viewpoints and perspectives.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


The Garland District is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Spokane because of its cafes, shops, and artistic feel. It's like a small island of community within a larger city. Just the other day Rhonda and I had desert at Ferguson's Cafe and then saw a movie at the Garland Theater. We ran into friends and had a very enjoyable evening together.

An alleyway on Garland features a painting by Daniel Kytonen. His website:

Unity in the Community

Dakota staffed a booth for Christian Youth Theater at the Unity in the Community gathering in Riverfront Park. This event joins people from all religions and backgrounds for a day of mutual appreciation. Local organizations from a wide idealogical spectrum set up booths throughout the park. When I arrived, a group of young people from the Hmong community were performing a traditional dance. I truly enjoyed seeing so many different people coming together for one event.

Queen of Munster

Dreams give us the power to travel across time and to visit mythical places.

Last night I dreamed of the Titanic as it crossed the Atlantic Ocean. The ship sailed heavy with the arrogance and vanity of those who lacked respect for the dangers of the ice and sea. After the ship sank, the lifeboats drifted among the waves, while the survivors huddled together and stared into the horizon with weary faces.

We all know the tragic story up this point.

But in my dream, the story changed. A woman arrived from a distant country to rescue the survivors from the freezing water. She gathered them together with great tenderness and cared for their every need; she fed them and covered them in warm clothing.

At the end, the woman sat upon a throne and smiled. When I finally saw her clearly, I noticed that she was slender and very beautiful. She wore flowers in her hair and an elegant, sleeveless gown made of flowing silk.

“Who is this woman?” I asked.

One of her attendants was a man also dressed in elegant clothing. He heard my question and pointed to the inscription above the woman’s throne. There in gold letters was written the title “Queen of Munster.”

The queen arose and said, “I have compassion on all the survivors of this great tragedy. Therefore, by my proclamation, I welcome you. All those who survived may come and dwell freely in my lands.”

The people stood as though they did not know how to respond. A few of them thanked the queen, but most simply walked away and hobbled back to their homes. I did not sense any disrespect in their actions, only the shock of those who survived an unthinkable terror. But sadness overshadowed the woman’s face as she said, “So few have returned.”

That was the end of the dream.

After I awoke this morning, I was haunted by the face of the woman. “Who was she?” I asked myself. Then I remembered the golden inscription above her throne, “Queen of Munster.”

“What a strange name,” I thought, but I decided to do a Google search and see what responses I could find. Much to my surprise, I found many references to a Queen of Munster in the mythological history of ancient Ireland. For example, one such reference stated:

Áine — (AN-yuh or AW-ne) from Old Irish aine "brilliance, wit, splendor, glory"; "joy", "brightness", "fasting", "praise", or "radiance". In legend, Aine was the daughter of Fer I (Man of the Yew) and the traditional name of the queen of fairies of south Munster, an important and varied role in Celtic mythology; was believed to dwell at the place now called Knockany (Cnoc Aine, "Aine's Hill"). Also used as an Irish form of Aina, Anne, Ann.

Quoted from:

Other references named different individuals with similar names. One source indicates that Aeval is a Celtic goddess of sexuality. Another source states, “Cliodna is tributary queen of Munster, and rules from a sidh near Mallow in County Cork, while under her again, are Aoibhinn, queen of the fairies of North Munster, and Aine, queen of the fairies of South Munster” (From ‘Celtic Myth and Legend, Poetry and Romance’ by Charles Squire and Wilkie Collins).

In all references, the Queen of Munster is associated with the fairies of Ireland.


I am surprised that my dream mentioned such an obscure name from the mythological history of a distant country. Perhaps I encountered this name sometime before, and perhaps my dream simply retrieved the name from my subconscious during a random firing of neurons. I’ve never had any interest in fairies, and I know very little about their place in traditional folklore, but now I’m left wondering what meaning this dream holds.

Any interpretations or impressions? I welcome all comments.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Northwoods Park has become a desert.

Normally, the county maintains the park in a beautiful state of well-irrigated green space. However, the hot summer sun and the current recession have combined to deprive the park of its usual supply of water. It would seem both the water and the money are all dried up.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Sun

The Idaho sunset cast beams of light through the mist.



Wildflowers bring joy to our mountain visit.

Devil's Club

As Rhonda and I drove back down the mountain, she told me stop to photograph a red flower she saw near the ditch. Upon closer examination, we found that the flowers were actually the red fruit of devil's club. I had always wanted to see this plant, so our unexpected stop became a great opportunity.


I had hoped to find huckleberries during our visit to Priest Lake, but they were just pitiful this year. Or maybe we arrived too late. I don't know. In any case, we found thousands of huckleberry bushes, but only a small handful of berries. After more than two hours, we picked less than a pint. Sad.

Or maybe we had to compete with the animals. Rhonda and I stood just a few feet away from a chipmunk that climbed into the bushes to gorge himself on huckleberries. The little animal paid us no mind whatsoever, even as we got almost close enough to touch it.

Priest Lake

Over the last few days, my family stayed with friends in a cabin near Priest Lake, Idaho, far away from cell phones and internet connections, and closer to the wonders of nature. We spent a relaxing time together as a family.

The cabin sits on the edge of a narrow canal that connects to the lake.

The mountains near Priest Lake are amazing and beautiful.

Trees growing out of a cliffside.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


A couple nights ago I had an interesting dream.

In my dream, I was flying high above the South Pacific, looking down from the clouds. Meanwhile, my daughter Whitney was swimming thousands of miles from shore on her way to South America. She was perfectly calm, though it would seem impossible to find a child in the middle of the ocean.

I hovered above the surface of the water and said, "Whitney, you're going the wrong way. We have work to do." Hand in hand, the two of us flew to Easter Island.

When we arrived, a group of indigenous islanders greeted us and asked us to assist with two projects. First, they asked us to help re-forest a portion of the island. Second, they asked us to help restore an ancestral ceremony that had been lost. For a while, the people appeared somewhat lost and confused as they stood around looking at one another. But after a short time, their genetic memory began to function beyond conscious thought to re-create the ancient movements. The men and women stood on opposite sides of a field and danced. As they moved toward the center, they sang of words that had once been forgotten.

Monday, August 09, 2010

To China

My sister-in-law is taking two of her children to China for a study abroad experience in the coastal city of Qingdao. We're all stunned by the news, but my family wishes them many happy adventures. This afternoon we paid them a visit to wish them well.


Rhonda, Whitney, and Dakota have been taking Zumba classes at the Y.

I resisted going, mostly because so few men participate in the class, but Whitney convinced me with her sad, puppy-dog eyes. Once I attended, I found the music is contagious, with an exciting combination of salsa, merengue, and even some Bollywood.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


This afternoon, my family and I took a short drive toward the north side of Spokane. My wife and children were quite delighted to see this fawn and its mother standing by the roadside. The mother paused and seemed undisturbed by our presence. She then led the fawn back into the woods and out of sight.


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