Thanksgiving is a season for family and loving memories. Just this evening, I found an old photograph of my yayas and me. I was probably four or five years old at the time. My yaya Bessie was holding me on her lap, and my yaya Messie was holding my hand.
In my dream, I saw an old Indian man standing on the belly of a whale. Specifically, he stood at the end of the ventral grooves on the underside of the belly, and I stood at the opposite end near the mouth. Despite the strange position of its body, the whale was very much alive. The old man stooped down, touched the belly of the whale, and caused some invisible energy to flow within one of the ventral grooves. Then he sent several more currents, and each one forced me to change my footing.
Finally, I complained and said, “Just when I get accustomed to one flow of energy, you send me another. Is it too much to ask for some stability in my life?”
The old man said, “Who made the mountains rise from the ocean floor and fall beneath a hundred million years of wind and rain? Who caused the earth to spin on its axis and give both light and darkness to the people? Who designed the flowers to spring from the ground and then wilt beneath the summer’s heat? Who created the seasons of life and death, youth and old age? Who established all things from the beginning to the end? Did not I?”
The old man dressed poorly, with a tattered blanket wrapped around his shoulders and feathers in his hair, but he spoke with unmistakable power. He said, “I am the Creator, and you are part of my creation. It is true that you will witness many changes in your life, but do not be afraid. Did I not promise to be with you always and to send you comfort? Be courageous! You are stronger than you know.”
The Forgotten Carols by LDS songwriter Michael McLean came to the INB Performing Arts Center in Spokane. Rhonda and I went to see the show, and afterwards, she got the opportunity to meet Michael McLean. We have admired his work for more than 25 years, so it was awesome to see the show in person.
During my visit to the Kalispel Reservation yesterday, I had the good fortune to interview tribal elder Stan Bluff. He spoke about the cultural values that have guided his life from his childhood to the present day. What an honor to sit in his presence and learn from his experiences!
Yesterday morning, I drove to the Kalispel Indian Reservation. As I passed Davis Lake, it looked as though a cloud had collapsed over the mountainside. The clouds created a beautiful, haunting effect, like a smoky haze amid the trees.
In my dream last night, I traveled back in time to witness a scalp dance, like the one depicted by Paul Kane in 1847 (see above). In my dream, a recently widowed woman wailed and danced in the center of a group of other women from the community. They all sang, danced, and cried together. As the intensity increased, several of the women swooned and fell to the ground. I never saw a scalp, but somehow I knew it was a scalp dance. In any case, the feeling in the air was charged with raw, visceral emotion.
Clearly, I witnessed something powerful, but I didn't understand my relationship to the event. I finally asked my dream guide, "Why are you showing me this?"
He didn't answer. Instead, he waved his hand, and the scalp dance faded away into nothing. More than a hundred years passed in the blink of an eye, and suddenly we were standing in the exact same location, but then we saw the site as it appears in the present day. Where once there was a field, pine trees grew in abundance. A dirt logging road passed over part of the old ceremony grounds, and several HUD houses stood within a half mile of the old dance site.
Based on the landmarks in my dream, I got the impression that the scalp dance occurred near the present-day location of Elijah Road on the Spokane Reservation.
My daughter and I attended a painting class with Van Gogh and Merlot. We have attended these sessions before, but this was the first time in quite a while. Of course, we always have the chance to paint at home, but it was important for me to create a positive memory with my daughter. My kids are growing up, so I want to cherish these moments.
The college installed a board in the student lair that invites people to write a note of gratitude. The responses were varied and interesting. Some responses were religious and others comical. A few were quite poignant:
Once the weather finally turned cold, the leaves began to drop from the trees in earnest. Normally, the changing of seasons from fall to winter sends me into a deep depression, but this year is different. For some reason, the cold air gave me a rush of happiness. I can't explain it.
The aboriginal tour is coming to an end. The group will visit the Spokane Indian Reservation tomorrow, and the following day, they will fly back to Australia. Sadly, their visit has been all too brief. This evening, we all shared a final meal together, and afterwards, a small group of us got together for some amazing conversation. We discussed indigenous culture and spirituality in our respective countries, and we found that the similarities are many. In the end, our common experiences created a deep sense of mutual appreciation, understanding, and connection.
This story is only a couple months late, but I finally got to see the Mobile Murals Project on Third and Division. I was driving to work, when I suddenly recognized a painting made by Todd and Cain Benson (above). Seems like their artwork has stopped me more than once. In any case, I really love public art, but I especially feel a connection to Todd and Cain.
The community gathered recently on the Kalispel Indian Reservation to remember the life of my auntie Libby. It was a service made beautiful by traditional clothing, singing, and prayers. Many of the women wore wing dresses and colorful head scarves, while the men wore ribbon shirts. A chorus of Salish speakers sang the old Indian hymns - just as I remember from my childhood - and elders delivered prayers in the Kalispel language. The sadness was real, but the love was also real. I can't imagine a better way for my aunt to begin her journey to the other side.
A temporary marker on Libby's grave.
A view of the Pend Oreille River on our return drive.
When I woke up this morning, I was happy to see the sun shining in a clear blue sky, a surprising change from the gray, overcast days we recently experienced. I awoke with an awareness of All Souls Day and a thinning of the veil between worlds. The older I get, the more I see the turning of seasons in life - the birth of children followed by the passing of elders. Life is a circle, and if we see with the eyes of our hearts, heaven and earth come together and everything stands as one.
When I saw the beautiful weather, I was kicking myself for not having my camera nearby. Fortunately, my friend Shelly Boyd got the picture I missed. This photo credit goes to Shelly.