Archive for the ‘Spirit’ Category

Two Old Mormons Talk About politics and Faith.

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

On the backside of summer.

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Out walking early with my good dog Ernie this morning I was reminded that summer is slipping away. I did not wear a sweater but could have. It was still quite dark at 6 am when we headed out. Orion was well overhead as was Jupiter. It was not long ago that the sun was rising at six. It still feels very much like summer once day has gotten underway.img_7105.JPG

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The long hours of late afternoon are getting shorter too and the shadows longer.

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The best thing about this time of year is the table fare. It reminds me of why I make pots and garden.

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The Spring City Bluegrass Festival was held a couple of weeks ago from noon until 10 pm on a Saturday. It was all this and more.

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About the time of the bluegrass festival the man who built this wall and carved the stone crossed over to sit with the grandfathers. Benson Whittle was as good and kind a person as I have known. Ben made art passionately all of his life working in many mediums. A few years ago Lee and I got to take Ben on the Colorado River with us. It was a high point for all three of us.
THe leaves have not started to turn yet, perhaps because the summer was so late in getting here. It will happen soon. The peaches are on and that is a sure sign.

Bodhisattva

Monday, August 2nd, 2010


Into the Wild Unknown Country

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

I remember watching the Ten Commandments as a little kid. I was maybe four or five years old. Two scenes stuck out for me. One was of the slaves treading mud and straw into bricks. I went into the field across from our house and dug a hole in the ground and poured water into it. After picking dried grass and putting it with the mud that was forming I took off my shoes and tried to tread the materials into brick mud. I don’t think I ever made anything more of it. I was excited about the possibility of forming earth into something useful. A few years later while playing with matches I burned the same field down and got in some hot water over it. Now I employ those early fascinations in making my living. Wet clay and fire are very elemental, sensual if you will. I can’t leave them alone.
The other scene that stayed in my mind’s eye was of Moses leaving Egypt to wander in the desert wilderness after he killed an Egyptian who was abusing one of the Hebrews he was identifying himself with. The image of this forty something man wandering through that landscape has stayed with me.
Friday I rose up early and went with friends into the deserts east of where I live. We went for beauty. It is physically satisfying to walk in the desert, again sensual if you will. The visuals are intoxicating in their richness and starkness. I believe as an artist that it is important to continually expose myself to beauty. It sharpens your ability to see beauty as it takes shape in the clay I am working. Hands in clay, feet in desert soil and on slick rock are parallel pleasures.
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Cane Wash in the San Rafael Swell of East Central Utah. It was a bright and relatively warm January day. The light gets best in the late afternoon when it is being reflected around these canyons. I love what water does in the desert even when it is hard. This area is only a two hour drive from my home. It is my back yard. God was having a good day when this happened.
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The San Raphael River runs from the mountains of the Wasatch Plateau (my Horseshoe Mountain is on the western edge of that area.) across the San Raphael Swell into the Dirty Devil River and canyons of the Colorado. Later this spring I’ll float those waters as they carve through the Grand Canyon.
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A long time ago, some say several thousand years, people who lived in these desert canyons took time from hunting and gathering to make art as we call it. These paintings in Horseshoe canyon in Canyonlands National Park are some of the best in North America. These figures are 8-10 feet tall. There are 61 human like figures in this panel. The figures are pocked with little chip marks. I suspect that they were ritually killed with rocks or stone tipped projectiles. I could be wrong. Most people think these are gods. I don’t know. They are amazing images.
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As I looked at these I heard Philip Glass’s theme from the Godfrey Reggio film “Koyaanisqatsi” and thought about Hopi prophecies.
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Eat your heart out Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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It doesn’t take a sleuth to figure out what is going on here. Bison and elk make for tasty groceries.

A Christ-mas story.

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

In 2002 I got a permit to run the Grand Canyon for a month. We launched on December 13 planning to be at Phantom Ranch on Christmas day so we could call our daughters Zina and Louisa in Ithaca, New York. Zina was there serving a LDS mission and happened to be stationed in the same town where Louisa lived.
Our river trip was small, four boats and nine people. As we traveled down the river I gaged our trajectory to get us to P.R. on the 25th of December.
On December 24th We scouted Hance Rapids in the early afternoon and ran it. As I floated free of the tail waves I began setting up to miss “son of Hance” by working my way right as the current was taking me toward those rapids. My then 15 year old daughter Adah asked me if I was watching the large flat and almost submerged rock we were drifting into. As I
looked to where she was pointing we ran up on it and stopped. We were not wrapped, just beached on this gently sloping rock. I was running lead so the other three boats pulled off above as we began planning strategy to get off. Luckily we had a hand held radio set and were able to converse with the rest of the party on shore. They got a long rope out to us and tried a couple of different Z-drags with no success. We worked on this for a couple of hours as my wife and the two teen aged girls on my boat got progressively colder and the sun worked it’s way behind the rocks. It was decided to try a different type of leverage. We ran the long line from my bow through a pulley on shore to the bow of another 18 foot boat that was rowed out into the current. This worked much better and with some jumping around on our part we edged
off the rock and back into the water.
By now it was 3 p.m. and we should have made camp at Grapevine or
Zoroaster, but being determined to get to the camp at Cremation Creek just above Phantom Ranch for a Christmas layover we pushed on and ran 85 mile rapids in near darkness. Ron Smith was running last and was a bit behind us as he was thrown from his boat. He had no passengers and it was a little tense as we tried to get back to him and gain control of his boat. The real hero was Shawn Dalrimple who got him in out of the water and rescued his boat. We
pulled into the lower Cremation camp in total darkness and set up camp. My wife was pretty shook up by Ron’s swim and went right to bed while we all got dinner on and decorated a tamarisk with tinsel and hung stockings from it’s branches. The day’s work was a big lesson to me in safety before all other concerns. Having a swimmer in the dark on winter trip
is a scary as it gets.
The next day Lee was feeling better. And we rowed over to Roy’s Beach and hiked down stream to P.R. for some fun at the Phantom Ranch cantina and phone calls to our girls in New York. On the way up to the Canteen I ran onto Bob and
his wife. Pam. It turns out they had heard that we were going to be at P.R. on Christmas and had called in and gotten a cancellation for a cabin there. Being the good Jew that he is Bob had brought gifts and a Christmas cake just for us. The best of all was when he offered the girls a shot at a hot shower. This was day 12 and when the
women emerged from the bath house they fairly glowed. I being a tough
old river rat had just bathed in the river every few days when I could no longer stand myself.
We invited our friends over to Cremation Creek and shared a totally Kosher dutch oven ham dinner that couldn’t be beat. Gifts were exchanged all around and it was as good a holiday as I have ever had. Later at school when Adah was asked by friends what her best gift was this year she said “A hot shower”.

Oh Come All Ye Faithful

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

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Over at the Ward House a while back they had an “Evening in Bethlehem” in which all of the ward members showed up in quasi biblical garb to pretend we were all going to Bethlehem to be enumerated and taxed. The census was easy. We just had to sign out names to a roster. For taxes we all brought canned goods for the local food bank. It was a funny evening. I enjoyed looking at various members in our community dressed as they thought first century palestinians would have.
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The Fryer family of Judea.
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Pancho Arafat?
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The happy shepherd.
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A real Jewish family
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Little angel girls.
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A little shepherd in camo bathrobe.
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Everyone brought blankets and sat on the floor to eat and watch the Christmas program.
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Men of Bethlehem.
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A Roman Centurion
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Bible Land fast food?
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Traveling peddlers of some sort.
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Angels announce the Holy Birth.
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Last but not least the Holy Family.

Death and Renewal

Friday, February 1st, 2008

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In the Medicine Wheel as it was taught to me the west road is the way of death and renewal. It is also the way of the masculine, our fathers, our emotions and air element. Over the past week as I assisted my father in his journey down the west road I was conscious of these things. It was just a year ago that I assisted Craig Marvel down the same road. As we prepared for Dad’s funeral services we got word of the passing of Gordon B. Hinkley. Though their lives were very different all three men shaped me in many ways that I am not fully aware of. I love them all dearly and am looking forward to more associations in this life and the next.
I subscribe to a world view that allows for limited contact with those who have passed beyond this mortal life. These experiences are usually brief for me but very real. People talk about a ’sixth sense’. I have felt that and it is real. To quote Bob Marley, “Who feels it knows it.” THere is usually some meaning or message associated with these encounters. Up to the week of my father’s passing I sometimes wondered if these experiences were only in my head. Things that happened in the Freeman Hospital in Joplin Missouri removed those doubts for me. Dad and I shared an experience that left me convinced that it is real. I am glad we had those moments of confirmation and that we both knew it. Death is not the end but a portal into the wonder of eternity.
As a person with my father’s condition approaches death they become increasingly hypoxic. Hypoxia as I understand it can lead to hallucinations. This would seem to make those often reported end of life visions of departed loved ones easy to explain away. I was not hypoxic or under the influence of any known hallucinogen. We both had the experience. I am satisfied of that. This was a couple of days before Dad’s last mortal breath. As he came closer to that portal those who loved him gathered from both worlds to celebrate his graduation. If there was a degree to be bestowed it would be measured by the quality of the lives of the 106 (2 more on the way) descendants he left this world. As my wife’s grandfather was wont to say of his progeny “There is not a scrub in the lot.”
I think that a big chunk of this life’s work, at least for a lot of us, is to idealize and worship our fathers/mothers, see the human failings they all possess, become dissillusioned and perhaps angry, to learn to see them as they really are, forgive their imperfections and finally embrace the whole of who they are. The operant verb here is forgive. Without that we pass through this life unfulfilled, having missed the greatest thing because a heart occupied with resentment for the very source of our existence can not embrace the creator who granted our parents the power to give us life through their bodies. It is a simple matter of the free flow of divine energy or love as we call it.
This was my course. I lived it all, at one time thinking my father was a god, an idiot, a tyrant and finally a loving man who only did for me what he thought I needed, and, in a very real way, gave me what I needed to stumble on and climb over to find myself. How can one argue with that?
The past week has been the most compressed and intense learning period of my life. I have heard others speak of the passing of a parent and wondered what that would be like. My experience was tender, powerful, faith affirming and very instructive. Dad’s last teachings for me were among his greatest. I was accompanied by a feeling of love, peace and joy that brought great comfort. There were times when I cried hard which is a good thing to be able to do, but for the most part I was upheld by a profound sense of joy to be able to witness his passing and assist him as I could. I came to appreciate my immediate family more that I already did. I was especially glad to have my three daughters there with me as we laid him to rest. This event only comes once and I feel like I got my money’s worth.
Before Dad passed I heard him say “Hoka Hey” which means in Lokota “It is a good day to die.”

Flying East

Friday, January 25th, 2008

I caught a flight to Tulsa Tuesday and drove to my parents home in SW MO. I have been spending time with my folks at the hospital in Joplin. Mother, Dad and I made the difficult decision to take him off life support Wednesday morning. Dad was against it until he was convinced that my mother would be well cared for. I could see the relief wash over his face and a calm set in. After the ventilating tubes were with drawn from his throat he slowly became stronger and brighter. Finally his speech came back and he became very much himself for a while laughing, telling stories and talking to distant family on the phone.
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Owen and Hannah Byrd.
Dad expressed a desire to go home so the cardiologist gave his OK for Dad to go home to hospice care. I went ahead to help prepare his hospital bed at home. When he arrived he was very anxious and in a lot of distress. He had been given Ativan to make him less anxious for the drive home. It had taken the opposite effect (1 in 1000 chance) making him very agitated. It was a very difficult situation. Though Dad was very distraught I felt a strange and wonderful sence of peace as I assited my father in the most difficult work of his life. It was clear that he was ready to go and wanted to but was unsure about how to do it. It is hard waiting for death when it comes in the form of suffocation from within. As I satr with him holding his hand, wiping his face and giving him ice and water to drink I had one of the peak emotional and spiritual experiences of my life. I understood that although death can be difficult it is also sweet for those who have walked in integrity as he has.
We administered morphine to settle him down and to help with the feeling of drowning in his own fluids. That is how he will eventually go as his lungs slowly fill. His heart is too weak for proper circulation.
This is a tough situation but I have felt a tremendous amount of peace over it. He is going out with a lot of dignity and courage. It is amazing to watch him do this once in a lifetime work. I am glad to be able to assist him as he passes into eternity and back to his ancestors.
Though the eagle is generally flying west he was able to head east first to be in his home with his family all around him. Life doesn’t get much better than that in the end.

Another day at the prison.

Friday, January 18th, 2008

It was bitter cold this morning, probably 18 degrees, when I started the truck and drove to Gunnison for my weekly visit with the American Indian inmates there. I sat facing south as the brothers prepared their fire and water drum. I can’t get over the devotion it must take to spend half an hour working with wet leather in those temperatures with no gloves so you can then sing and pray. I wonder if that was required how many of my faith would participate.
After the usual opening greetings, songs and prayer I asked for some time. I shared with the brothers the story of the wounded eagle and explained what has been happening with my father during the past week. THey offered to pray and sing for him. Two of the Navajo brothers, Travis Nakaidine, and Ricky Bilse, brought the water drum they had been preparing over and knelt in front of me and sang a set of four NAC songs.
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As they were finishing the fourth song a large golden eagle flew in from the east right over our circle. The bird proceeded about 100 yards beyond the circle, turned and flew east back over the fire and on toward the mountains. We all watched until he was out of sight. No one in the circle doubted that the bird was sent with a message about my father. The meaning is for me to understand. I know that he is nearing the end of his life on earth. The last time we spoke he talked of the spirit world and seeing departed loved ones soon. THe eagle’s flight west would indicate death. His turn around and easterly path may mean returning to the Creator or Christ as my father knows Him.
During the past couple of days my father has seemed to rally, but anyone who knows anything about how things go near the end for severe cardiac patients would say his time is short. I am flying out to be with the family on Wednesday. Perhaps I will see him again, perhaps not. He could go any time. I relish the time we had together in July when we stayed together for a week in Oklahoma. It was a great time.
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The Wounded Eagle

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Twelve years ago I took my oldest daughter backpacking to Coyote Gulch out on the Hole in the Rock Road. She was home on break from her freshman year at Cornel University. She had said that all she wanted for Christmas was a trip to the desert so we went.
As we bumped down the dirt road I saw what appeared to be two figures standing on the side of the road ahead. As we came along side of them I could see that they were two Golden Eagles. It is odd to be able to get close to these birds. As we came to a stop we were maybe 10 or twelve feet from them. I carefully opened the car door and got out. They still didn’t move. Looking at them closely I could see that one had a gash on its breast bone and was dripping blood onto the ground at its feet. I took a step closer and the one that was not hurt flew off to the south. The wounded eagle puffed him self up and tried to look menacing. I took a couple of more steps toward him and he jumped up and spread his wings, flying off to the east.
As Louisa and I drove on down to out trail head we remarked on how strange that had been.
We enjoyed a great hiking trip and returned home where she prepared for her journey back to New York for school.
A few days later I got a call from one of my sisters telling me that my father had suffered a mild heart attack and was in the hospital in Joplin,MO awaiting bypass surgery. It was too late to call him so I retired to bed. During the night I had a very vivid dream in which I saw a man dressed in white enter a small room with a bed with a lamp next to it on a stand. The man in white was carrying a person over his shoulder who he lowered onto the bed. The person he carried was dressed in a hospital gown and I recognized him as my father. After he as laid on the bed the man in white left and I looked at my father lying there. He looked small to me. As I looked at him he groaned and began to roll off of the bed. I leaped forward to catch him. As I lifted him back onto the bed our eyes met in a very intense gaze. He looked very small and frail. It was then that I noticed a line of blood soaking through his gown down the length of his sternum. As I observed this wound I awoke in a rather emotional state.
It was morning so I called my sister and asked her for the phone number of my father’s hospital room. When I reached him he was being prepared to go into surgery so we only had a few moments to talk. I could tell he was afraid. He had never had major surgery before. He said, “Son, they are going to butcher me.”
I had watched him butcher beef and venison many times as a boy growing up, his arms red to the elbows pulling steaming organs from the body cavity. I was fascinated with this work of taking apart God’s creatures so we could eat. He would talk to me a bout the function of each part. I never wondered about where meat came from or what its cost was.
He had seven bypasses performed that day. The heart attack had not damaged his heart muscle and the surgeon said the days work would buy him ten more years if he was lucky.
I called Louisa and told her about the heart attack, the dream and the surgery. She observed that the blood on the gown in the dream was just like the wounded eagle we had seen on the road in the Escalante desert. I had not made that connection. That evening I talked with my friend Forrest Cuch, a full blood Ute, who told me that anytime those big birds come that close to you it is to give you a message from the Creator about what is going on in your life. It seem that was the case that day on the road to Coyote Gulch.
The wounded eagle had flown off to the east rather than the west. East is the direction of life, the west road is the way to death. Dad was given ten more years with his rewired heart. It has been twelve and the reaper is back. Dad is in the ICU at a hospital in Joplin. This time there will be no surgery just drugs to keep his blood pressure up and to keep him sedated so his strength will be saved fro his weak heart and lungs. He is walking down the west road. As he waited for the ambulance to come to his home on Saturday he told my mother that he is ready to go to that other place now. He had just come in from a walk and felt poor. He knew it was time. He is 85 and has had a good life.
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