Thursday, January 29, 2015


Fog arrived in the late afternoon, and as the sun began to set, the upper clouds seemed to catch fire. It was a beautiful sight!


La neblina llegó a finales de la tarde, y cuando venía la puesta del sol, las nubes superiores parecían encenderse. ¡Fue una vista hermosa!


At the end of my writing class this morning, I took an informal survey of all the languages spoken by my students. It turns out that more than a dozen languages are represented in my classroom. Several of my students wrote my name in their respective languages. 

When I was living in Mexico, I discovered that the name "Barry" doesn't translate very well. In addition, the pronunciation is a somewhat strange. Nowadays, when I travel outside the United States, or when I work with international students, I ask people to call me "Moses" in their native language. My name becomes Moisés in Spanish, and Musa in Arabic. 

Once again, I love my students. It is a privilege to work with so many different cultures. 


Al final de mi clase de composición esta mañana, tomé una encuesta informal sobre todos los idiomas que hablan mis estudiantes. Resulta que hay más de una docena de idiomas que tienen representación en mi salón. Varios estudiantes escribieron mi nombre en sus distintos idiomas. 

Cuando vivía en México, me di cuenta que el nombre "Barry" no se traduce bien. Además, la pronunciación me parece extraña. Actualmente, cuando viajo fuera de los Estados Unidos, o cuando trabajao con estudiantes internacionales, pido a la gente a que me llamen "Moisés" en sus idiomas nativos. Mi nombre se convierte en Moisés en español, y Musa en árabe. 

Aprecio a mis estudiantes. Es un privilegio trabajar con tantas culturas diferentes. 

Monday, January 26, 2015


Ingrid is my former student at Whitworth University where she took a class that I teach in Native American Film. She is a Kaqchikel Maya woman from Sololá. Guatema with a passionate drive to defend indigenous rights. She always added a fiery, insightful perspective into our class discussions. Last year, she took a job in Guatemala at Cultural Survival to support indigenous radio. She was in town this week for a brief visit. 

Ingrid era mi estudiante en la Universidad de Whitworth donde tomaba una clase que enseño sobre las Películas de Nativos Americanos. Ella es una mujer Kaqchikel Maya de Sololá, Guatemala con un deseo apasionado de defender los derechos indígenas. Siempre añade una perspectiva intensa y profunda a las discusiones en clase. El año pasado, aceptó un trabajo con Cultural Survival (Sobrevivencia Cultural) para apoyar la radio indígena. Está de visita esta semana.  

Ingrid's boyfriend is Stephen, my friend who made an appearance in a previous blog post. He recently visited Ingrid in Guatemala. He sent me a gift that was beautifully wrapped in a newspaper with a Gallo beer ad. I seriously love the wrapping paper. 

El novio de Ingrid se llama Esteban. El es un amigo mío que apareció en una entrada pasada de mi blog. Recientemente le visitó a Ingrid en Guatemala. Me envió un regalo bellamente envuelto en un anuncio de periódico para la cerveza Gallo. En serio me encanta el papel de regalo que me envió. 

The gift was an Indian mask. 
Thank you Stephen. 
I love it!

El regalo fue una máscara indígena. 
Gracias Esteban. 
¡Me encanta!

A screen shot from the Cultural Survival website shows Ingrid and other indigenous people marching in defense of sacred lands. I truly admire her strength of spirit. 

Una captura de pantalla de la página web de Cultural Survival muestra Ingrid y otra gente indígena que marchan en defensa de las tierras sagradas. Sinceramente admiro la fuerza de su espíritu. 

The Open Sky

Winter in Spokane is sometimes difficult to bear, but after endless days of overcast weather, the skies finally opened and allowed the sun to lift my spirits. 

El Cielo Abierto

Los inviernos en Spokane son frecuentemente difíciles de aguantar, pero después de días interminables de tiempo nublado, los cielos por fin se abrieron y permitieron que el sol levantara mi espíritu.   

Friday, January 23, 2015


My son Dakota is living in Provo, Utah, far from home and family. It has been a tough adjustment for his parents, but we trust that he is making the right decision for himself. We got to see him at Christmas, and we communicate frequently by Facebook and by cell. 

This photograph is a self-portrait that he made during one of his insomnia nights. 

By the way, my dear friend Sister Yanet de Castillo from Guatemala has asked me to make all future posts in both English and Spanish, so I will abide by her request. No doubt, this will help us to maintain a close friendship, and will also allow me to practice my Spanish. 

This post is dedicated to Sister Yanet. 


Mi hijo Dakota está viviendo en Provo, Utah, lejos de su hogar y familia. Ha sido un cambio difícil para sus padres, pero confiamos que está tomando la decisión correcta para él. Pudimos verlo en Navidad, y nos comunicamos frecuentemente por medio de Facebook y de celular.

Esta foto es un autorretrato que hizo durante una noche de insomnia. 

Por cierto, mi hermana querida, Yanet de Castillo de Guatemala, me ha pedido que haga todas las publicaciones futuras tanto en inglés como en español, así que cumpliré su pedido. Sin duda, esto nos ayudará mantener una amistad duradera, y también me permitirá practicar el español.  

Esta entrada se dedica a la Hermana Yanet. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Kiowa Church Hymn

This church hymn was performed in the Kiowa language. I am not sure if the orthography is current or correct, but this was how it was written in the booklet that accompanied the album. It says: 

äh’ho dawk’yäee, dawk’yä täom gyă, gyă oboidaw.

According to the composer, the song translates as:

Thank you Son of God. God's help is real. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Kiowa Hymns

Sometimes people give me the most unusual gifts. I was sitting in my classroom today when an acquaintance unexpectedly gave me a vinyl record from 1972 titled Oklahoma Chants for the Classroom, compiled by Louis W. Ballard. I wasn't quite sure how to respond, so I simply thanked the individual and accepted the gift. 

My daughter got a record player for Christmas, so I had an easy way to play the record. As it turns out, the album was an instructional recording for school children. After each song, a narrator gave additional information about each tribal culture represented on the record. He also provided translations and musical transcriptions for every song. Ballard was a Cherokee-Quapaw composer with a passion for Native American music. The music seemed authentic, even if the presentation was somewhat outdated.  

The Kiowa Church Hymn impressed me as it proclaimed in the Kiowa language: 
Thank you Son of God. God's help is real.
As I listed to the record, I found myself singing along and remembering our visit to St. Louis last summer. We met some of our long lost relatives for the first time and discovered that they have a strong Kiowa connection. Now we are all connected as family.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ancestry from Kazakhstan

My mother-in-law bought me a DNA test from as a Christmas present. It's something I would have never done for myself, but I thought it might be interesting. My ancestry has been documented for several hundred years on most lineages, so I certainly didn't expect any surprises. 

Despite my expectations, my "ethnicity estimate" held one major surprise. Between nine and thirteen percent (9-13%) of my DNA comes from Central Asia! This portion of my ancestry supposedly comes from somewhere near Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, or Turkmenistan. 

To understand the significance of this estimate, my grandmother's grandmother was full Irish. That was only four generations ago, but Ireland provided only six percent (6%) of my total ancestry. The exact percentages are questionable in my mind, but if the pattern is consistent, that would mean that someone closer than four generations was from Central Asia, or that more than one ancestor came from that lineage. 

I'm not sure what any of this means. I'm not even sure the estimate is reliable, but it sure makes me wonder. 

Thursday, January 08, 2015


My memories of Kenny are inseparably tied to my father. Life was beautiful, and sometimes more than a little crazy. 

When I was a little boy, my world was so different. My mother and father were still married, and all my aunts and uncles were still alive. In those early years, I was never alone because my dad literally spent every day with his brothers and sisters. They were his best friends. Kenny, Speedy, and Marlene were like third, fourth, and fifth parents to me. 

We went everywhere together. During the early 1970s, we never used seat belts, so the whole family piled into the car - all squished together, with some sitting on laps. My Auntie Marlene used to say, "We're gonna have some togetherness," then she'd laugh. 

Up until my fourth birthday, I was the only child and the only nephew, so I was a little spoiled. I didn't know how to tell time or read calendars, but somehow I always knew when Kenny and Marlene got their paychecks. Without mentioning money, I would cuddle up to whichever one got paid and say, "I got an idea. We should go to the White Elephant (a local toy store)." They never refused me. They would just laugh with a twinkle in their eyes and take me to buy whatever toy made me happy in the moment.   

They were always laughing and teasing. I hardly remember a serious moment. 

But it wasn't always love and togetherness. Sometimes they had a little much to drink and got into fights. Other times someone would get arrested and spend a few nights in jail. It was all a normal part of living with my dad's family. 

My childhood reality was unpredictable, and often unstable, but I realize now that my Uncle Kenny, and all the others, gave me one of the greatest gifts of my life: unconditional acceptance. In those days, we never really talked about Indian culture or spirituality, and yet my father's family unconsciously embodied an old ethic of community living. Everyone had a place, and everyone got the same share of life's privileges and hardships. 

Today, when we buried my Uncle Kenny, all the sadness finally spilled over. On one level, I grieve the loss of my childhood friend. On another level, losing Kenny is like watching another piece of my father disappear. One by one, my father's generation passes away into memory. 

The Old Hillyard Center

The old Hillyard Center is finally coming down. We vacated the building last summer to make way for the new north-south freeway. 

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The Eye Glass Ritual

The following is a painful story 
about my father's eye glasses... 

On January 8, 1994 - nearly twenty-one years ago - I received a call regarding my father's death, but the news rolled out gradually - little by little. The man on the other end of the phone asked me, "How's your faith in God? Are you still a warrior for Jesus?" I didn't know how to answer. The man rambled for several minutes about taking comfort in hardship and walking close to the Lord. I simply nodded to myself and wondered when he would finally get to the point. Unfortunately, the point came at the end of a sword. 

"I hate to be the one to say this," he stammered, "But your father had a heart attack."

It never occurred to me that anything serious would ever befall my father. He seemed invincible and larger than life, so I hardly blinked or skipped a beat. "Oh, that's terrible," I said calmly, "Where is he now? Did they take him to the hospital? What room is he in? When can I see him?" 

Silence - But finally, the man said, "Barry, he didn't make it." 

Suddenly the room began to spin around my head, and everything blurred together. I don't remember hanging up the phone or saying goodbye. I only remember crying inconsolably while my friends drove me to the hospital. My face was pressed against the cold glass of the car window while streaks of January rain refracted the street lights into a thousand drops of green and red. 

My mother divorced my father more than sixteen years before his passing, but she arrived at the hospital ahead of me and greeted me at the emergency room entrance. The expression on her face will live in my memory forever. She looked almost childlike as her lower lip quivered and tears streamed down her cheeks. Her hands trembled as she opened her arms to console me. We held one another and wept. 

When I finally saw the body, it hardly seemed real. There my father lay on a table, cold and covered in a white sheet up to his bare chest. A plastic tube stuck out from his throat. 

When I left the hospital, the paramedics gave me a plastic bag filled with items my dad was wearing at the moment of his death. My face was swollen and numb from crying, but I accepted the bag and clutched it close to my body. It seemed to me that opening the bag should be a sacred event, a private ritual far removed from sterile hospital walls and the cold stares of clinical staff. 

The ritual happened later that evening with a small group of friends and supporters. I knelt on the living room floor and gently removed each item one by one: a wallet and some spare change; a shirt torn to shreds when the paramedics ripped it from his chest and shocked his heart; a pair of white tube socks with red and blue bands on the top. Every article brought a new wave of recognition and sadness, but nothing prepared me for the last item at the bottom of the bag: my father's eye glasses

Throughout his life, he always wore the same thick, black-rimmed glasses. It was the only part of his appearance that never changed, from his wildest drinking days, to his life as a spiritual leader in the community. As I held the glasses in my hands, his eyes seemed to open one last time, and like Elisha in the novel Dawn, “I saw his face, with the eyes grown large with death and memory” (Wiesel, 1961). For one brief moment, the ghost of my father looked back with a lifetime of longing and regret, and then faded into nothing. Alone with my sadness, I buried my face into my hands and sobbed.

Twenty-one years later, the ritual was repeated when I collected my uncle Kenny's eye glasses in preparation for the burial, only this time, I could not weep. After so many years, my sadness has gone numb. 


Wiesel, E. (2006). Dawn. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition. (Original work published 1961).

The City at Twilight

The city of Spokane at twilight, looking north. 

Casi Cielo

My friend Connor and I visited Starbucks this afternoon and encountered a strange piece of heaven. We each grieved our separate losses, when I looked up and saw this advertisement with the line Guatemala Casi Cielo - Guatemala Almost Heaven. Yes, Guatemala was for me almost heaven, a place filled with happy, loving memories. The words alone brought a small moment of comfort in my grief. 

Mi amigo Connor y yo visitamos Starbucks esta tarde y encontramos un pedazo extraño del cielo. Los dos lamentábamos las pérdidas distintas de cada uno, cuando miré hacia arriba y vi un cartel con la línea Guatemala Casi Cielo.  Sí, Guatemala ha sido para mí casi un cielo, un lugar lleno de recuerdos felices y amorosos. Las palabras por si solas me dieron un pequeño momento de consuelo en mi aflicción. 

Monday, January 05, 2015


My cousin called this afternoon to inform me that our Uncle Kenny passed away. During the same conversation, she also asked me to help clean his apartment and pack some his belongings. A few hours later, we arrived at Kenny's apartment, and I saw this photograph taped to the wall . The picture shows my father and me sitting at the drum with Uncle Hank - a beautiful memory from a happier time. 

Today would have been my father's 67th birthday. For me, the wound of grief is re-opened, but perhaps somewhere in the unseen world, my father and his brother Kenny are in the midst of a joyful reunion. 

Descending into the Cold

We are descending further 
into winter and into the cold. 
Sadness overtakes me. 

Sunday, January 04, 2015


The snowflakes accumulate 
on the cedar outside my front door. 
Winter has finally arrived in earnest. 

The Evolution of Kindness

Human nature is often described as selfish, competitive, and egotistical, especially when considered from an evolutionary perspective. If Darwin established the "survival of the fittest," how did human beings develop such non-competitive qualities like compassion and empathy? This video looks at compassion and kindness from a scientific perspective and invites us to re-define self-interest based on the needs of the community rather than the individual only.   

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Flames of Orange and Gold

My friend Connor is visiting Spokane from the East Coast. Yesterday afternoon, we drove to Wellpinit to see my uncle, but as we passed the petroglyphs at Riverside State Park, the gray clouds burst into flames of orange and gold. It was one of those moments that would have felt wrong to ignore or dismiss. We simply had to stop and offer our respect to the sun and the beauty of creation. 

People who follow my blog regularly will notice that I often post sunset pictures. I am fully aware that photographs never fully convey the magic of those moments; however, I am perhaps foolish enough to believe that simply pointing to the beauty will inspire others to seek out their own connection to the Divine.  

The trail seemed to lead directly into the sunset. 

The Little Spokane River. 

The fiery sky was reflected in the water. 


As an aside, I am experimenting with taking pictures in RAW format, rather than JPEG. So far, it reallly does seem to offer greater flexibility in editing things like the white balance and such. All of the pictures in this post were taken in RAW format and then converted to JPEG. 


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