Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tree Removal

We removed a ponderosa pine from our back yard.

Several months ago, the tree closest to our back window began a slow transformation and turned more brown than all the others. Eventually it died and left behind a tangled mass of withered branches and dried needles.

The dead tree attracted the attention of passing salesmen hoping to reap the benefit of our misfortune. One stopped by unannounced and said, "Your tree is visible from the street. For a thousand dollars, I'll remove it." A thousand dollars? No, thank you! A few days later, another salesman knocked on my door. He quoted me $700 and quickly added that his family was desperate to find work. I would love to help, but even at a substantial discount, almost any amount was too much. This economy has affected us too.

The tree also attracted the attention of a pileated woodpecker with a beautiful red crest on its head. He generally appeared in the mornings and peeled the bark away from the trunk of the tree. In a few short days, the woodpecker managed to strip more than half the tree and leave a pile of discarded bark on the ground. Our family was somewhat entertained by the unusual appearance of this bird, until someone informed me that the woodpecker was eating beetles, the same beetles that killed our tree.

We found ourselves in the dilemma of needing to remove the dead tree but without much money to do so. I finally offered to pay a friend $100 a month for several months if he would cut it down. He refused the offer, but instead showed up to remove the tree at no cost.

My friend climbed the tree and removed the limbs one by one. Meanwhile, I stood on the ground a simply prayed that he wouldn't slip or fall.

After removing the branches, he cut the main trunk into sections. He connected a rope to each section and had me pull them to the ground, thereby directing the direction of their fall. Despite my anxieties, everything landed without a hitch.

Once the tree was on the ground, we found the first concrete signs of the infestation. The inner bark was riddled with the carved channels left by the beetles.

At the very end, we even found a few beetles that managed to escape the woodpecker. Hopefully we stopped the infection of the other trees in our neighborhood.

As a side note, my kids counted 102 rings of the tree stump. It's hard to think this living thing has stood on this place for 102 years.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


The CYT tradition continues in my family as the kids auditioned for yet another show: Bye Bye Birdie. The cast list has not been released, but whatever the outcome, I am very proud of their hard work, talent, and dedication.

If you haven't seen their audition videos, you can see Dakota, McKenna, and Whitney by clicking on the links.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Whitney gave a talk in church last Sunday. Actually, I am quite amazed at the confidence and poise she demonstrates in social situations. I'm not sure that I ever possessed that level of self-assurance, especially not at her age. Without question, her faith and her experience in theater have been the two greatest factors in creating trust in herself.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Dakota and Jessica went to this year's prom at Northwest Christian. He's not even a senior, but this is Dakota's second prom.

Our friend Laura came over to help them get ready. She gave Dakota a new haircut and then styled Jessica's hair. While this was happening, Rhonda played all the greatest songs from the 80s while everyone sang along and laughed. It was a wild time, enjoyed by all.

Of course, I got recruited to take a few pictures.

As Dakota and Jessica drove away, I got to thinking how short their childhoods have been. In a few years, our kids will grow up and move away. It's a bitter-sweet thought, for sure.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Sweet Child of Mine

This year, I sang "Sweet Child of Mine" by Guns 'n' Roses. The vocal quality was not the best, but I had a great cheering section and ultimately won first prize. You know, I don't think I ever came in first for any contest. In any case, we had a wonderful time. It was a great day!

Salish Conference

The Celebrating Salish Conference is gathering Interior Salish speakers from all over the Inland Northwest for a week of celebration, storytelling, music, and laughter. As always, the conference is renewing my commitment to continue learning the language.

Young actors portrayed traditional stories in the Kalispel Language.

Once again, I sang in the Salish karaoke contest.
A video will be posted shortly.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


Several days ago - I think it was last Friday - I was driving home from Spokane Community College, when I saw a pair of sundogs or parahelia on either side of the setting sun. Perhaps it's odd to say, but I feel a certain excitement when I witness natural phenomena in the sky. I might even say that I feel a sense of purpose or kinship from the signs above us.

This event got me to thinking, "Is there a Salish name for sundogs?" Sure enough, Father Giorda's Kalispel Dictionary of 1879 says that the Kalispel word for sundogs is: sololágani.

As I have mentioned before, the priests used a different phonetic system than we use today, which sometimes creates ambiguity around the true pronunciation of old words. This is especially true if the words have fallen into disuse. Short of finding someone who might remember, we are left to speculate regarding the true pronunciation and etymology.

In my attempt to discover the pronunciation and underlying meaning of sololágani, I looked for other words in the dictionary that begin with the same prefix "solo." I found only two: sololímalks and sololominch. Both words have reference to iron, and in particular, the second word refers to an iron weapon or a gun of any kind. This gave me a starting place for a possible pronunciation.

In the Spokane Language, a gun is called: sululminč, so if the same pattern holds, sololágani would be written sululáx̣ni.

This creates several possibilities with regard to its meaning or literal translation.

The first possibility might have some relationship to the same root word as iron. It is my impression that iron gets its Salish name from something that burns - hec ulpmi. This would probably have reference to the process of smelting iron. Also, -ax̣n is a suffix that makes reference to the arms. Therefore, the name for sundogs might indicate something with burning arms or a burning fire near the arms of the sun. Very often sundogs do appear as two smaller suns at the sides (or arms) of the true sun.

Other possibilities probably exist, but as of this moment, this explanation is my favorite candidate. But then again, maybe someone will tell me otherwise.

In any case, this leaves me with one final question. What did sundogs mean within our traditional stories? What did they mean within the cultural stories of Europe and elsewhere?


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