Ghost Ranch

After saying goodbye to our friends in Fort Defiance, Arizona on the Navajo Reservation we spent a long rainy day in Gallup. It was good to have a day to catch up with ourselves. The next morning was still windy and storms threatened but we drove down to Zuni Pueblo for a short visit. It was muddy, there were no tours for the day and the tribe discourages people from wandering around the pueblo.

At the visitor center we learned that Zuni was the point of first contact with Spanish explorers, who thought they would find there the legendary seven cities of Cibola (streets paved with gold?). We had a long conversation with the expert at the center and realized that there are many, many stories in Zuni but our path led on that day. Our Navajo friends had suggested that sometime we go to Shalako, a Zuni ceremony that lasts all night so we bookmark that as a place to return some day.

Passed by here in the year of the faith 1709 on the way to Zuni, Ramon Garza Guido

On our way east we stopped at a famed oasis, a pool at the base of the majestic rock called El Morro, southwest of Grants. What is now a national monument was once a way station for Spanish Conquistadors and American emigrants, which provided the only reliable water through the arid plateau. Long used by Indians, too, as a place of rest and residence (the ruins of ancient dwellings remain on top), the walls around the pool are covered with petroglyphs.

El Morro

Both the Spanish and Americans also carved their names on the rock as they passed through leaving a record of thousands of years of travelers, now called Inscription Rock. Some of the most famous Spanish explorers carved their names with a dagger in the soft stone under the phase, “Paso por aqui,” or “passed by here.”

A man from Baltimore carved a very elegant signature in 1866, I think.

Our last experience in Indian Country was to have been Acoma and Laguna Pueblos. In all the years we lived nearer to Acoma, we had never visited the village, so we booked a couple nights at the casino hotel just for this visit. As we were checking in we discovered that both Acoma and the village of Laguna were closed for ceremonies.

As Laguna reservation is made up of six villages we decided to go over and scout out the churches to see if we could attend worship the next day. We found the church in Casa Blanca on Saturday. They were holding a grocery bingo event to raise money for Erica Poncho who was about to leave for India with a Presbyterian Women’s group. They were delighted to see us and asked if we were part of the group from Taos and Ranchos that had visited a few weeks before. They were still talking about how pleased they were to get a visit from the Taos and Ranchos churches.

The pool at the base of El Morro has been an oasis for travelers for centuries.

Presbyterian worship in Laguna rotates between churches in three of the villages, so after getting the time and place figured out we came back Sunday morning for worship at the Casa Blanca church. We got there in time for Bible Study led by our long time friend, June Lorenzo, a leader in the national church and attorney for the Laguna Tribe. Worship was small but sincere led by Wayne’s friend and colleague, Rev. David Preininger, a “retired” minister in our Presbytery who is providing pastoral care for all three churches. As the service ended Rev. Judy Wellington arrived to participate with them in their session meeting. She reported that the August retreat for our congregations back home, which she had co-led, had gone really well.

We are now at Ghost Ranch, near Abiquiu, pulling our thoughts together before re-entry. The leaves on the cottonwoods are turning and up on the flanks of the Pedernal Mountain the aspen are putting on fall colors, too. As we drove here through Jemez Springs, the Valles Caldera and Los Alamos, we could see all the snow on the Sangre de Cristos and were filled with a longing to be home. Fall is our favorite time of year in Taos Valley, all those crisp, sunny mornings and evenings filled with stars.

After all the friends and family we’ve visited on our journey, we welcome the return to our dear friends and community in northern New Mexico.

It will take a long time to pull the threads of meaning out of the fabric of this experience. We are humbled and grateful for the opportunity and hope that it will serve as inspiration for many years, not only for us but for our congregations. As for the blog, our travels are over for now though we found many places we’d like to return to and many people we hope to remain in relationship with. The Listening Path goes on and so will the blog as we continue to sift through the stories and pictures we didn’t include here.

Our days at Ghost Ranch, near Abiquiu, have been golden.

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What’s New in Our Old Haunts

After our short visit to Hopiland we crossed back into Navajoland.

When we drove into Canyon de Chelly that morning it was smoky because of a control burn on the nearby Fort Defiance plateau..

We wanted to revisit Canyon de Chelly, a place we rode horses into years ago, and used to visit frequently when we lived over the mountain in Fort Defiance. The canyon was the stronghold of the Navajo and there are more stories than we can tell here about invasions of both the Spanish and later the Americans under Kit Carson.

Our guide was Andrew Henry, who grew up in the canyon and agreed to take us to see his little house near Spider Rock. As Henry deftly handled his RV through the deep, red sand, crossing and recrossing the stream that runs through the canyon we talked of his childhood, his education in the government boarding school, how he feels about Christianity, (positive) how he feels about Tony Hillerman, (negative) his children in Phoenix, and his efforts to restore his wife’s place in the canyon. (Navajo men traditionally move in with their wives’ families. The hogan where Henry grew up belongs now to his aunt. He and his wife Bessie are restoring her grandfather’s property deeper in the canyon.)

Andrew Henry used to play around this hogan door in Canyon de Chelly.

Henry called the canyon “my playground.”

“We didn’t have nothing to do but run around and play all day,” Henry said. “All we had to do was take care of the sheep. That’s it.”

Henry said despite the fact that his grandparents didn’t think a white man’s education was necessary, he and other children his age spent the winters in government-run boarding schools where paddlings were not unusual. Henry completed high school but his own children are getting college educations. We saw a number of horses in the canyon but only a few sheep. Henry said that only a few families live there anymore.

White House Ruin

Years ago, Henry was part of the excavation teams that helped catalogue and shore up the ruins of the Anasazi (ancient pueblo people who preceded the Navajo) in the numerous caves of the Canyon. As we drove past ruins and petroglyphs he told us that he knows where huge ancient pots are and where the human remains lay undisturbed. He and the researchers who studied the ruins left everything as they found it, Henry because of their sacred nature and the researchers in the best interest of science. Henry will never return to any of the ancient sites because working around them makes him ill, what the Navajos call “ghost sickness.” He said he spent almost everything he earned paying for traditional Navajo cleansing ceremonies.

Andrew Henry at the house where he and his wife Bessie hope to grow corn again someday.

College groups and church groups have helped the Henrys build a little house and other improvements at the old homestead of Bessie’s grandfather. They are thinking of spending their summers there again when they retire so they can plant corn and maybe even sheep.  Andrew travels all over the country to show his jewelry and Bessie sells jewelry at one of the overlooks all summer.

We had seen Spider Rock from the overlook many times but Henry took us to a beautiful place at the base. We couldn’t stop thinking about our three girls, who like all Navajo children, used to believe that this was the home of Spider Woman. She taught the people to weave and play string games but would sometimes take bad little children to her lair on top of the rock and eat them there. That’s why the top of the spire is bleached white from the bones of all those children.

The next day we worshiped with the congregation at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Chinle, led by Rev. Constance McIntosh. We were thoroughly impressed by the honesty and intimacy of the congregation. Clearly, Rev. McIntosh has won their respect and trust. She has made a lifetime commitment to her ministry and from what we can see has brought a lot of stability, wisdom and innovation to a troubled neighborhood. McIntosh is a minister with rare gifts and has plans to turn some of the old church buildings into shelters, offices and a retreat center. We hope to stay in touch with her and her work in Navajoland.

When our girls were little they called these the King and Queen rocks. They are by the road between Fort Defiance and Window Rock.

From Chinle we went to the Fort Defiance/Window Rock/St. Michaels area near the Arizona-New Mexico border to visit with old friends for a few days, some of whom we had not seen in years. It was great to catch up and reconnect in person (some of them reminded us of things they remembered about our family when we lived there, while we got to see how their own families had grown and changed over the years).

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A Short Visit to an Ancient Land

Floating above a sea of Navajos, their traditional enemies, the Hopi make their homes on three high, improbable mesas that look out on seemingly the whole world. Like the Taos Pueblo, they have lived in these stone and adobe aeries in the sky while tending their corn, squah and sheep below for nearly a millenium.

We didn’t know any Hopi in the area but had visited the village of Old Oraibi many years before and thought we would wander around there. At breakfast in the Hopi Cultural Center we asked our waiter if there was anything going on and he told us about a women’s dance at the small village of Shungopavi, on Second Mesa.

We drove into the village, just a loose assemblage of mostly cinder block houses and a few old-time stone houses arranged in short haphazard streets.  A few women in ceremonial regalia were getting out of their cars near a kiva ladder and showed us where to park. It was very quiet. Two men were standing over a fire they had built in a barrel. No photography is allowed in any of the villages so Carol had to leave her camera behind.

Nothing seemed to be happening yet so we walked around, feeling conspicuously Anglo and touristy. We could hear voices in the houses but the streets were empty. As we wandered past another kiva out toward the edge of the mesa, a girl came running to tell us we were not allowed in that area.

“The dance will be on the next street,” she said. “You can go up on the roof.”

We followed her back through a narrow path between cement block walls to an empty plaza.

“You can go up there,” she said, pointing to a broken down set of stone steps along a wall on the other side of the street. It looked as if we would have to hoist ourselves up onto the roof from the last step which was about three feet below the roofline.

It was hot and we were dubious about going up on the roof of one of those ramshackle buildings so we sat on a banco for awhile until someone told us the dance was going to be one more street over.

All this time, there was almost no one around and certainly we were the only Anglos in the neighborhood. We passed through another narrow alleyway past a broken down wall to the next street where we found a group of schoolchildren gathered and along the wall in the shade, three adults sat on cinder blocks. These turned out to be two teachers who had brought the children, fourth through sixth graders, from a nearby school. The last person was a very old man, named Augustine, who was dressed in a jaunty red silk baseball jacket and baseball cap. He was hard to understand because he had no teeth. He told Wayne once that he was 89, then later that he was 85, and that he still tended his field of corn below the Mesa about a mile away.

While we waited for the dance, Augustine regaled Wayne, perched on a cinder block beside him, with stories of his life (including the healings he performed as a traditional medicine man) while Carol talked with the teacher named Gabe, a Navajo who had married a Hopi. A group of kids sat in the sand and we noticed that they were fashioning a little kiva of sticks and stones.

“Is it a feast day?” Carol asked Gabe.

“Sort of like that,” he said, “but not like in the Pueblos of the Rio Grande because we don’t have churches, we don’t have Catholic saint days. In fact, our biggest holiday is Rebellion Day, when the Spanish were thrown out in 1680. The schools all let out and we have a big celebration.”

We never found out what the dance was called or what it was about exactly but being the end of August we figured it had to do with the harvest. After waiting a long time,  about 75 festively-dressed women filed out and formed a circle before us. They had no drums or rattles, they just sang and moved in a slow sideways step around the circle, raising and lowering two decorated paddles with a sheaf of grass, that looked similar to wheat, attached.

After a little two women came out to join the circle. One seemed like an escort for the other whose face was covered by a headdress with long fringes. Before joining the circle these two set down in the middle of the circle two baskets holding apples, oranges and grapes.

The song continued until two more women came out wearing the same black and red woven mantels but also fox fur and feather headdresses perched high over their heads on triangular frames. As the other women continued dancing their circle, the two picked up the baskets of fruit and began flinging the fruit out beyond the ring of dancers. They did this with absolute stone faces, never looking to see where the fruit landed. At a cue from their teacher, the boys ran out and scrambled with each other to catch the fruit. When it was all gone, the women finished their song and filed back down the alley.

As we dusted off our bottoms and got up to go, Augustine’s nephew came to fetch him. He told us that it was supposed to be a real battle for the fruit and that anyone could try for it.

“Yeah,” he said, chuckling, “there used to be some real good fights.”

We found out later on the internet that the Basket Dance, performed by the Women’s Societies, marks the end of the ceremonial year. The dance we watched should have been full of chaos and competition but there were hardly enough men there to create that atmosphere. We wondered if the basket dancers would have thrown the fruit out if there had been no one there to catch it.

The village looks like a poor barrio from any country in Latin America but we were privileged to see a piece of an ancient culture that somehow persists today. Aside from the schoolchildren and Augustine, we were the only witnesses.

The Hopi do not allow photography in any of the villages but I took this shot from across the ravine of the ruins of a Mennonite Church that was destroyed by lightning in 1942. There are no Christian or Catholic churches in the Hopi villages today.

It was still early in the day so we drove back to Third Mesa to visit Old Oraibi, supposedly the longest continuously inhabited village in North America. Wayne said he thought that 20 years ago there were more houses made of flat red and golden stones. Now, many of the houses were made of cinder block.

Everywhere we went in Oraibi people were friendly. Many were selling arts and crafts from their homes. Carol bought a little painted rain stick and some blue, red and deep purple ears of corn drying in the sun to plant in Taos next summer.

We had some really great conversations in Oraibi. People were open and interested in dialogue especially about the big topics, things like prophecies and religion, about tradition and progress, about tearing down and building up. Stay tuned, we’ll be unpacking these conversations in our preaching and writing for a good long time to come.

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Monuments, Mesas and Canyons

Sunrise at Totem Rock.

Our time in Monument Valley was magical, though the ironies of selling mostly foreign tourists equal parts Navajo and John Wayne culture were never lost on us.

Every evening at our hotel they projected old John Wayne movies onto an outside wall for guests. We sat playing cribbage one night on the balcony outside our room and couldn’t help but overhear the music from “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon.”  The soundtrack was full of cavalry tunes alternating between cheerful fife calling them into battle and mournful bugle for the dead. John Wayne had his own heroic music so even if you weren’t looking you knew when he was in the frame but so did the Indians whose presence was always noted with a tom tom rhythm. We wondered where those “Indian” themes in Hollywood ever came from.

We knew that Navajos had played the part of Sioux Indians in these films so we asked our guide into the valley, Bobby Atene, the next day how they felt about these films as we drove past John Ford point.

Atene is a young man who was trained as an electrician and lived some years in Phoenix, but when the housing market crashed and there was no more construction work, he came back to the “Rez” with his wife who works for the schools. He still does some electric work and works for a tour company while studying for a degree in kinesiology. He told us that the names used for many formations now, names like Totem Rock, Ear of the Wind, Hidden Arch, Hogan Arch, etc. came from the movie industry.

John Wayne filmed several commercials with this tree as a backdrop.

They used these place names to orient themselves and their crews while filming. A twisted, dead cedar is known as the John Wayne tree because he shot several commercials there. In one of those, his horse was tied to the tree. The Navajos simply called the valley of astonishing buttes and mesas that range between 400 and 1,000 feet, “Light Within the Rock” which refers to the pale limestone that streaks through the red sandstone.

It was because of the movie industry, Atene said, that the valley became famous and provides a living for so many people in their homeland. He didn’t see the movies as a source of resentment but as a source of income the Navajos could exploit to their own advantage. There were only a few families still living in the valley in areas closed to the public without Navajo guides and just a few sheep.

“Having sheep was the way to success for our grandparents,” Atene said, “but now we have to have an income.”

Modern day Kokopelli, Bobby Atene, plays his flute in Monument Valley.

At a beautiful place called Hidden Arch, Atene played the flute for us, a song he wrote to commemorate the Long Walk of the Navajo. Bobby played the flute at the Hidden Arch.

On our way back to the hotel after four hours of astonishing views Atene told us his version of how the Merrick and Mitchell buttes got their names.

“When Kit Carson came to clear out the Navajos from this valley a few survived by hiding on the mesas.” He pointed to a large red stone butte to our left. They say there are two hogans on top of that mesa. On the back side there is a gradual slope and a rope hanging from the top. It is still there. They say that the men would come down at midnight to get water for the others on the mesa. Kit Carson tried to prevent this by killing one of his own horses and throwing it into the spring to poison the water. Finally, most Navajos had to turn themselves in.

“Carson had only 14 days to drive the Navajos to Fort Sumner (in Southern New Mexico) so those who fell behind, the very old and the very young, were killed on the spot. Some of the soldiers under Carson noticed that the Navajos were wearing silver and turquoise and wanted to know where the silver came from. When an old man fell behind, rather than shooting him they forced him to make a deal, they promised that he could ride a horse if he would tell them where the silver came from. Supposedly, the old man drew them a map, a treasure map you might say. Later, they came back here, to the place on the map and that is where they found their silver. The Navajos let them go the first time, warning them never to come back. When they did come back they were killed for their greed.”

The Navajos were driven out of Monument Valley by forces led by Kit Carson in 1864.

We heard some more Kit Carson stories as we toured Navajoland. To them it was as if Kit Carson himself were everywhere and had a hand in every action. Needless to say, the reputation of Kit Carson is one thing in Taos and quite another here.

It was hard to leave Monument Valley where we had seen the most incredible sunrises amidst the majestic red rock spires but we looked forward to a visit to the Hopi villages and on to the other side of the Navajo Reservation to visit old friends from our five years in Fort Defiance.

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Turning Toward Home

Big Trees, Little Guy

We next headed down the coast from Carol’s mother’s in Waldport, Oregon, passing through the California redwoods to rendezvous with our three daughters near San Francisco. We took our girls on a tour of San Anselmo (Marin County) where they were born while Wayne was studying for the ministry at San Francisco Theological Seminary lo those many years ago now. SFTS is a wonderful old set of stone buildings on a hill, often referred to by the locals as “the castle.”

Wayne graduated from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1989.

A view of Marin County from San Francisco Theological Seminary with Wayne, Nate and Emily, Holly and Aileen with her Dylan

Our girls were very little when we moved to Wayne’s first ministry among the Navajos in Arizona so they didn’t really remember the place, with one exception. The twins thought they remembered the central parking lot/courtyard area of our student apartment building where they used to ride their trikes.

As we strolled past the church in San Anselmo where Wayne did his internship (and led a youth group on a mission trip to the Ute Mountain Ute reservation which became the inspiration for Native American ministry) we noticed a service going on, even though it was Saturday. It turned out to be a memorial service for the husband of one of Wayne’s colleagues. It was like we had never left: we knew the whole cast of characters there, all except the pastor who is of course always the one to move on eventually.

When it comes right down to it, a church is its members; pastors come and go. They are only there to help the congregation do ministry. On this trip we saw a number of churches in fact that are still being churches even though they have no pastor. In Indian Country as in northern New Mexico, little churches that don’t lose heart keep on worshiping, praying, meeting together and serving their communities.

The boardwalk at Santa Cruz had already closed for the season when we visited.

After touring Marin County and having some time just to hang out with our kids we all went to visit an old friend of Wayne’s. Rick Laubscher and Wayne became friends at UC Santa Cruz where Wayne got his undergraduate degrees in history and literature. Rick later lived with Wayne’s family in New Jersey while he attended graduate school, so he is like a brother in the Mell clan. He was the Best Man at our wedding 26 years ago. We had a great meal with our kids, Rick and Nicole and their daughters and other “old” college friends on a beautiful golden California afternoon.

We left the coast behind us after one last spectacular drive through alternating fog and sunlight along Highway One from Monterey to San Luis Obispo, California. Our family visits were done, and as we turned east toward Bakersfield, baking in the dry heat of an Indian summer, we could feel that we were turning home.

From Bakersfield we drove a long day to reach Death Valley, skirting Owens Valley near Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the continental U. S., and then a steep descent over to Death Valley, the lowest point on the continent at hundreds of feet below sea level. We were instantly transported to our Yuma days, surrounded by salt cedar and palm trees in the 117 degree heat.

“Are you American?” the housekeeper with the New Hampshire accent asked as we sat eating our cereal in the porch rockers the next morning before the heat became intolerable.

“So, why did you come here?”

Surrounded by the accents of German, French, Italian and Chinese tourists, it seemed like a reasonable question.

“We’re on our way home to New Mexico.”

“That’s what most people say,” she said, confirming to herself that no sound American would visit Death Valley while it was still in the thrall of summer heat.

Joshua tree on the way to Death Valley

The next day was another long drive to radically different climate and terrain, as we ascended to Bryce Canyon, Utah, which sits at about 7500 feet, with nighttime temps in the mid 30s. Nearing Bryce we crossed a high pass with aspen just beginning to turn golden. We felt ourselves relaxing, to be in the mountains again. Maple saplings were already glowing red in the ravines. We were glad that fall hadn’t yet passed – in Yuma we used to miss autumn most of all the seasons -and we were back in the southwest to see our favorite time of year.

At Bryce City we also heard smatterings of many languages, mostly not English. About the only language that was familiar was that of the enormous black ravens strutting around the overlooks where excited tourists hovered. In the restaurant, a welcome was given in four languages. English was there but not Spanish, though we did hear a little Spanish from Spain out on the trail.

Bryce Canyon was stunning – red spires thrusting up toward a sky so blue and velvety you could touch it. We took a morning to do a hike down amidst the pines and the red-walled ravines. Here the word awesome really does apply.

Then, after another long day’s drive we got to Navajoland where we hope to do some sightseeing in places we never explored while we lived there (like Monument Valley), see some old friends, and visit with present-day ministries.

The last phase of our journey will take us to Laguna and Acoma pueblos near Albuquerque, and then a final week at Ghost Ranch to collect ourselves for the plunge back into Taos, a homecoming that we are more and more anticipating.

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Straddling Two Worlds at Church of Indian Fellowship

Church of the Indian Fellowship is a Presbyterian Church on the Puyallup Resevation in Washington State

After a whirlwind time with family in Seattle, we wanted to blog a little about our conversation with a young native leader in the Presbyterian Church and Native American ministries, Irv Porter, pastor of the Church of Indian Fellowship in Puyallup, Washington. His own ancestry is a blend of Pima, T’hono O’odham and Nez Perce. On the Nez Perce side, he descends from Twisted Hair, who guided Lewis and Clark, and whose offspring were original founding elders in the Presbyterian mission church in Idaho.

First of all we were surprised to see hoops, feathers and other Native symbols in the church. These were introduced gradually by church members, Porter said, and have been controversial. Also present on the communion table was a set of beautiful vessels from Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico.

Porter has had to do a lot of hard balancing between the church and the tribe as well as between different generations in the congregation. He is posititioned at the crossroads of a church in transition, a church that faces a difficult and challenging future because of the loss of denominational funding, a situation that many of the Jicarita Cluster churches of northern New Mexico also know firsthand.

Porter has his hands full but the church is growing and has a number of active young people.  We enjoyed our conversation with Rev. Porter, who had keen insights into how to honor tradition while opening pathways for new forms of expression and worship.

One of his ideas resonated strongly with us, since we’ve seen it operating in northern New Mexico: that the church must increasingly rely on elders in these times when professional clergy are harder to come by. He views them as having a key mentoring role for youth, from whose ranks future leaders must come, and believes we must be focusing energy and resources on elder training (again, something already strongly underway through the commissioned lay pastor program in our area at home).

He also empasized the importance of listening attentively to hear what people may truly be seeking in church, so that the church can more faithfully and effectively address those yearnings out of its store of gospel wisdom. This is of course right at the heart of what our journey is about, and we hope there will be future opportunities to build upon the friendships we have made and what we have heard from Irv and others along our path.

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At the Edge of the Continent

Wayne's grandson throws a touchdown TD.

We flew back to Seattle from Alaska for some family time and just plain old vacation.

With Wayne’s brother and his wife we visited Pike’s Place Market with the original Starbucks, cruised Lake Washington in his brother’s boat and had dinner on their condo building rooftop with the Space Needle, Mount Rainier and the Olympic mountains as a stunning sunset backdrop.

The Labor Day weekend began with a Saturday morning football game in a suburb east of the city featuring Wayne’s grandson Dexter, a 12-year-old superstar (!) quarterback coached by his dad, Wayne’s son Jared, who paced the sidelines with the focus and intensity of a Vince Lombardi. Coach Jared was ably assisted by John Martin, Wayne’s son-in-law, Marine combat veteran and all-around motivational spark plug for the team. (We discovered around the campfire later that one of John’s hidden talents is doing a knockout rendition of the Cowardly Lion’s “If I were King of the Forest” from the “Wizard of Oz.” This is sure to become a campfire tradition.)

Jared, Dexter and John

We all cheered and stomped the bleachers in the Seattle heat, yes heat, as Dexter nailed two touchdown passes. For us, it was a rare opportunity to share in the everyday lives of our children and grandchildren, the kind of experiences we miss living so far away in New Mexico. With our own girls’ hearts anchored in New Mexico we talked yet again about how we have led a kind of dual life. Whatever it means, we love and have roots in both the NW and the SW.

Here we are at Lake Cushman, Washington

After the game,  Wayne’s brother and his wife hosted a family gathering at their cabin at Lake Cushman on the Olympic Peninsula, which included Wayne’s son Jared and daughter Jaime with their spouses and children–quite a crew of 13! Our campfire and guitar sing-alongs lasted well into the night.School and work siphoned everyone else back to Seattle so we had a few days to swim and kayak around the lake and hike in the Olympic National Park, where we were enthralled by the rain forest and Carol and her camera had to halt every two steps for another shot.

Sunset over the Astoria, Oregon bridge over the mouth of the Columbia River. This spot is very near the end of the Lewis and Clark trail. They spent the winter here in 1805.

As we packed up to drive south, down the coast to Astoria, Oregon, where we watched the ocean going ships come up the mouth of the Columbia River during a spectacular sunset, we realized that we were now starting our journey home. We talked about how a labyrinth represents a journey and how different the energy is going in and coming out. It’s a bittersweet feeling to leave our families, but we’ve had our moments of homesickness and traveling back toward the southwest felt like we had a fresh wind at our backs.

After a day with friends who drove out from Portland to see us in Astoria, which included a hike out to the literal end of the Trail where Lewis and Clark looked out from Cape Disappointment at the mouth of the Columbia River, we drove down the coastal highway to Waldport. There we enjoyed a reunion with Carol’s family at her Mom and step-Dad’s house with her two brothers and some of their families. We walked the cold but fantastic beaches with waves crashing over the rocks, relished home made delicacies, (nobody cooks like Mom), and walked out to a Lighthouse.

Carol's family gathered in Waldport, Oregon

One evening Carol’s Mom and her husband invited a group of their friends who are involved in community and human rights issues to their house for several hours of conversation about our journey. Their keen interest made for lively and challenging interaction. The group included a retired Methodist pastor and his wife, an immigrant from Chile, and an immigrant couple from Mexico. He heads a local organization that assists Spanish-speakers who have come to work on the central Oregon coast in recent decades.

To the Lighthouse

Over the next few days, we’ll continue our rambles down the coast of Oregon and California to rendezvous with our three daughters in the San Francisco Bay area. We plan to show them the hospital where they were born and San Francisco Theological Seminary where we lived when they were little.

In the next few days we’ll post another blog about our meeting with Irv Porter, pastor of the Church of the Indian Fellowship in Puyallup, Washington and a leader in the Native American Consulting Committee of the Presbyterian Church.

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