My auntie Libby passed away this week. We saw one another just a few weeks ago at Richard's memorial, but now she is gone. Libby was always very good to me; she will be dearly missed.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Spokane Falls Community College is hosting a student group from Sydney, Australia. The students represent a variety of aboriginal peoples from around the country.
On Monday, I was invited to meet with the students to discuss Native American history in the Spokane area. As the discussion progressed, we discovered many similarities regarding our common history of oppression. For example, more than 100,000 Indian children in the United States were removed from their homes and sent to live in residential schools. In Australia, several generations of aboriginal children were removed from their families and sent to orphanages. These children were known as the "stolen generation." The common purpose of both governments was to force indigenous peoples to assimilate into the dominant cultures.
More importantly, we discovered our common spiritualities. Our respective cultures hold a deep respect for culture, language, nature, spirituality, and ancestral wisdom. I feel very much at home with these beautiful people.
Dixie spoke to the students at SCC regarding the "stolen generation." Many of these individuals were descendants of the stolen generation. Many aboriginal people have lost contact with their families of origin as a direct result of government assimilation policies. A major theme of their visit surrounds their attempt to reconnect to their lost heritage.
Albert has been a driver and cultural guide for the Australian students. At their presentation today at SCC, he sang a local song using an Australian musical instrument.
We also had the opportunity to visit Spokane Falls. In this photograph, Christine is standing near the main falls.
It was a beautiful day at Riverfront Park when we visited the falls.
The rapids above Spokane Falls.
Colin looked on as Albert sang by the falls.
On Tuesday, I attended the Board of Trustees meeting for the Community Colleges of Spokane. Usually, the meeting is convened in Spokane, but every so often, the board meets in one of our outlying centers. Our most recent meeting was held in the Pullman Center.
The community college holds class in the old Pullman High School.
The WSU cougar is everywhere present in Pullman, including this carving on the bridge.
The Pullman Center has a painting in the stairwell that depicts the westward expansion of the American empire. The settlers and the wagon train takes the center of the piece while the Indians watch passively to one side of the image. Disturbing.
The outside of the old Pullman High School.
The campus of Washington State University.
Sunday, October 26, 2014
wičn sxaslqs č čsaxm łuʔ sčecuweʔ.
I saw a moose near Wellpinit.
I saw a moose near Wellpinit.
That moose was looking kind of mean in this picture, but I don't think I was in any danger. My camera has a pretty decent zoom lens, so I was actually quite far away.
Saturday, October 25, 2014
This afternoon, I drove home through Tum Tum and Suncrest. As I passed the pictographs at the base of the hill, I felt the urge to stop. I've probably seen these rock paintings a hundred times, but I always feel drawn to return.
Years ago, the parks department posted a sign with the name sumix near the entrance of the site. Presumably, the name had some reference to the spiritual nature of the rock paintings. However, it was strange that they used a Colville-Okanagan word rather than a Spokane word, considering that the paintings reside well within Spokane territory. In the Colville-Okanagan language, sumix means something like "spirit power." We have a similar word in the Spokane language: sumeš. It makes me wonder who originally created the name. Did a park ranger from 50 years ago simply pick a name that seemed "Indian"? Did someone consult a Colville-Okanagan speaker to name a Spokane historical site? In short, how did a cultural site within the Spokane territory get a Colville-Okanagan name? Does anyone know the story?
In any case, the sign has since been removed.
On my drive this afternoon, I passed a beautiful tamarack tree draped in long strands of black moss. I can't even begin to describe the happiness I felt to see them. The moss seemed to say, "Where are your fellow moss pickers?"
Friday, October 24, 2014
What an awesome day! I got to spend several hours with Johnny Arlee this afternoon talking about language, spirituality, and education. Maybe sometime I'll get to share more of our conversation, but for now, I just want to express my gratitude for our meeting today. lemlmtš čoleʔ.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Yesterday, one of my students wrote: "A teacher is like a candle who burns him/herself to brighten others." When we came back to school this morning, I asked him to explain the origin of this saying.
He said that teachers are revered in his home country of Afghanistan. As a result, his culture has produced many proverbs and sayings that honor teachers.
At my request, my student reproduced the saying in its original language. He explained that the Dari language is one of the official languages of Afghanistan, and it is also closely related to Persian. The Dari language uses an Arabic script, even though the two languages are very different.
One of my favorite parts of working at the college is that I get to meet people from so many different cultures, languages, religions, and beliefs. My students become my teachers, and like the proverb declares, they brighten my world.
"A teacher is like a candle who burns himself to brighten others."
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
"A teacher is like a candle who burns him/herself to brighten others."
When our program celebrated the birthday of a fellow teacher this morning, the students decorated the classroom and wrote words of encouragement on the white board. One student wrote: "A teacher is like a candle who burns him/herself to brighten others."
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
This fall season has been exceptionally beautiful. Even as the days grow shorter, the colors have been unusually bright. In the past, the fall has often caused me a kind of sadness or depression, perhaps even a certain grief to see the dying days of summer. This year is different. The autumn colors have kept me spellbound.
Minnehaha Park in northeast Spokane holds some history for my family. When I was in high school, we lived just a few blocks away. But the history is even older: My mother went to school just down the street at Cooper Elementary, and my great grandmother Alice Meier lived in a small house on the same street. I remember visiting her when I was a small child.
On my father's side, my great grandparents lived nearby in an Indian camp.
The old stone house was a source of ghost stories when I was a kid.
The trees have all turned color.
Minnehaha is connected to a natural area with a network of trails.
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Today was a bright Sunday morning when I returned to the Buddhist temple to visit friends. As I passed the threshold, Tibetan prayer flags fluttered in the breeze.
Some years ago, I was impressed by the beauty of Tibetan prayer flags, so I decided to put some up in front of my house. However, at the last moment, I was equally impressed by my lack of understanding. For one thing, I had no idea regarding the underlying spiritual practice associated with prayer flags. I worried that my admiration would turn into cultural appropriation. Furthermore, I didn't know the meaning of the text. Since prayer seemed like a serious thing, I didn't want to send prayers without understanding the meaning. In the end, I decided to not display prayer flags in my home.
When I see prayer flags, I offer my respect,
but someday I would like to understand them better.
After I left the temple, I walked to Corbin Park to see the autumn leaves. I was impressed by the vibrant colors and the sparkling drops of dew on the back of each leaf. Having just reflected on the meaning of the prayer flags, it suddenly occurred to me that the leaves are also a form of prayer. Each leaf enables life flourish and grow.
Nature is a kind of spirituality that does not require temples,
rituals, ceremonies, or sacred texts. In fact, nature is the sacred text.
Saturday, October 18, 2014
My dear friend Francesca has dedicated a portion of her home as a Tibetan Buddhist temple. She lives in an older house with an addition that has been converted into a sanctuary. The house includes a shrine to the Buddha and a large portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
She asked me to offer a prayer as part of the dedication ceremony,
Geshe-la, a Buddhist monk from Tibet, conducted the main portion of the ceremony, reading first in Tibetan and then in English.
The service was deeply ecumenical. Father Connolly, an old family friend, participated in the ceremony.
I was also happy to see Eva. She was teasing me after the ceremony that she only gets to see my pictures when they appear on the internet. Apparently, he daughter retrieves the pictures and shares them with her. As a result, I felt obligated to post this picture to add to her collection.
Friday, October 17, 2014
My sister and I enjoyed a belated birthday lunch at Soulful Soups in downtown Spokane. Apparently, coordinating our schedules is a major ordeal, considering that her birthday was almost a month ago. But regardless of the time that passed, I was glad to finally get a chance to re-connect. The time is never enough.
My sister persuaded me to try the beer cheese soup. It was a little spicy for my taste, but the basic flavor was amazing. It's strange that the taste of beer is so repulsive to me, but beer used in cooking is quite enjoyable.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
After work today, the sun was shining again, and the brilliant fall colors returned for another visit. I took the opportunity to walk on a campus trail that follows the Spokane River.
Plants near the SCC Greenhouse.
A flower near the greenhouse.
The Spokane River just north of the SCC campus.
The Greene Street Bridge.
On the banks of the river, I was greeted by the smell of mint.
Stones in the river.
Wild flowers still in bloom.
Golden leaves reflect the sun.
Fiery leaves amid the deep blue sky.
The autumn sun.
Under the Greene Street Bridge.
The Greene Street Bridge reflected in the Spokane River.
The Greene Street Bridge reflected in the Spokane River.
The Max Snyder Building on the northern edge of campus.