Thursday, March 29, 2012


Have you ever read a treaty signed by the recognized government of the United States and native tribal leaders?

Shortly before midnight on Wednesday, May 30, 1792, British Captain George Vancouver anchored his ship the Discovery off shore of a point of land native Americans used as winter camp, mukl-te-oh.  On Monday, January 22, 1855, territorial Governor Isaac Stevens (1818-1862), met at Point Elliott with 82 Native American leaders including Chief Seattle. In the presence of many tribesmen, a treaty was signed by which native inhabitants ceded their lands to the United States government in exchange for relocation to reservations, retention of hunting and fishing rights, and a specified amount of cash.

 Treaty of Point Elliott, 1855

Articles of agreement and convention made and concluded at Muckl-te-oh, or Point Elliott, in the territory of Washington, this twenty-second day of January, eighteen hundred and fifty-five, by Isaac I. Stevens, governor and superintendent of Indian affairs for the saidTerritory, on the part of the United States, and the undersigned chiefs, head-men and delegates of the Dwamish, Suquamish, Sk-kahl-mish, Sam-ahmish, Smalh-kamish, Skope-ahmish, St-kah-mish, Snoqualmoo, Skai-wha-mish, N'Quentl-ma-mish, Sk-tah-lejum, Stoluck-wha-mish, Sno-ho-mish, Skagit, Kik-i-allus, Swin-a-mish, Squin-ah-mish, Sah-ku-mehu, Noo-wha-ha, Nook-wa-chah-mish, Mee-see-qua-guilch, Cho-bah-ah-bish, and othe allied and subordinate tribes and bands of Indians occupying certain lands situated in said Territory of Washington, on behalf of said tribes, and duly authorized by them.


The said tribes and bands of Indians hereby cede, relinquish, and convey to the United States all their right, title, and interest in and to the lands and country occupied by them, bounded and described as follows: Commencing at a point on the eastern side of Admiralty Inlet, known as Point Pully, about midway between Commencement and Elliott Bays; thence eastwardly, running along the north line of lands heretofore ceded to the United States by the Nisqually, Puyallup, and other Indians, to the summit of the Cascade range of mountains; thence northwardly, following the summit of said range to the 49th parallel of north latitude; thence west, along said parallel to the middle of the Gulf of….


In consideration of the above cession, the United States agree to pay to the said tribes and bands the sum of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, in the following manner - - that is to say: For the first year after the ratification hereof, fifteen thousand dollars; for the next two year, twelve thousand dollars each year; for the next three years, ten thousand dollars each year; for the next four years, seven thousand five hundred dollars each year; for the next five years, six thousand dollars each year; and for the last five years, four thousand two hundred and fifty dollars each year. All which said sums of money….

In 1855 between Washington DC and Olympia, Washington, the capital of the state of WA, our less than 100-year-old country still boasted miles of grasslands, herds of antelope and buffalo. Streams gathered mountain snow meltoff into white water rapids as they tumbled into wide rivers, challenging steelhead trout and salmon to fight back to their spawning grounds.

That scene changed with the advent of settlers (1850), the transcontinental railroad (1866), and the invention of barbed wire (1867). Spines of mountains still create geographical weather systems as they collect clouds from the Pacific Ocean, winds from the north and south, their altitude separating lush valleys from deserts. But as for the people seeking opportunity and a good life on this land, the scratching of pens on paper resonated across the miles and changed the land irrevocably.

The winter camping grounds of tribes and native families became a saw mill and a harbor named Mukilteo.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Visiting with a neighbor up the hill this morning he described his mother sequestered in her room in a retirement community. He said she was experiencing beginning Alzheimer’s and knew she repeated herself. To spare herself embarrassment she avoided social contact.

We wish each other a “Good Morning” at every meal until we get the time straight. We ask the same question multiple times knowing that we probably asked before. But so goes social conversation. We repeat stories around our kitchen table.

“I know I’ve said this before, Maxine. There was a bank robber in the 30’s. What was his name?”

“Derringer? No Dillinger. Derringer was the gun.”

“Whatever. When they caught him they asked him why he robbed so many banks. His answer was, ‘that’s where the money is.’”

My neighbor loves to work on his vintage truck. He without doubt has more truck stories than I do. But even a truck-lover’s stories are not limitless.

Everyone has one or two dog stories that get repeated with a change in social settings. Like, “you might not want to get too close to Fido today. He tangled with a skunk last week.”

“We have skunks in our neighborhood?”

“I didn’t think so and now we have one less.”

And then we say, “I know I’ve told this story before but it is so funny. There was a bank robber and when they asked him why he robbed so many banks, he said, ‘that’s where the money is.’”

At least once a week Mae West is quoted. “Come up and see me some time. Wednesday is amateur night.”

Every April my husband’s grandfather, a retired dairy farmer, would tell of putting away his sleigh and harnesses and changing to the wagon to deliver milk. On April 10 perhaps in 1915, a foot of snow was dumped on the roads from his farm and town. He was forced to get out the sleigh and reinstall the harnesses. Every April the story of the late snowfall was repeated. I’m telling it to you early this year because we had snow fall Monday night.

When we eat Reuben sandwiches for supper we review the five and dime stores with excellent lunch counters: Kress and Newberry’s and Woolworth. The nickel root beers. The Seahorse restaurant on the Mukilteo waterfront.

“Did I tell the story about the bank robber? What was his name?”

So many stories tucked away, waiting to be told again. Perhaps minutes later.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Polyrhythms have so far bested me at the piano and in other areas when life demands I move in one direction while my mind plods steadily on its course. Or I may be marching along only to be distracted by the downbeat someone else is enjoying.

Picture fast, intentional walking with another person. You may need to accomplish half again as many steps as your partner. But you start together and together you end at the same spot. You are each walking alone together.

Hear a large group of people clapping rhythmically together to bring something about. They share the same downbeat. Let’s say one clap every four beats. Now insert a section of the auditorium clapping together but at a slightly different rate, say every three beats. In the following illustration with the accent on the first beat, there is a set of beats when both groups will clap in unison. But mostly they are working against each other. The downbeats are different but the result reverberates with interesting, complex and multi-faceted sound.

1    2    3    4    1    2    3    4    1    2    3    4    1

1    2    3    1    2    3    1    2    3    1    2    3    1

This intrigue with polyrhythms came to me while we were listening to Lang Lang play “La Campanella” from Grandes √Čtudes de Paganini, S 141/3. His mastery of the intervals reached by the right hand (two octaves and a second) and even larger with the left are amazing.

The complex rhythms and musical themes written by Stravinsky have always fascinated me. A favorite is Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Sacrificial Dance of the Chosen One.

Polyrhythms lead me to consider the differences in people. As we transition throughout life we meet people vibrating and bobbing to a different beat. They look at us and see the same. Their movements may be complex and difficult to understand. As long as our conflicting downbeats follow basic rules and we agree to accept the variations, we create harmony despite the tension.

Many roads lead from here to there. The footfalls vary, but harmonious companionship can be enjoyed and the variety appreciated when we accept differences. We may be pleasantly surprised by the goal we achieve.

Friday, March 2, 2012


Rhonda Skillings had told both Mr. Waterbury and Mary Ingersoll that her brief conversation with Katherine indicated there might be something going on between Tyler and his married housekeeper. She told Mary and Mr. Waterbury that it was certainly important—for the time being to hold the information in the strictest of confidence. But Mary Ingersoll went home and told her husband, except that didn’t count—he was her husband; you can tell your husband anything—and soon she telephoned a friend.  “Don’t tell anyone,” she said, and believed the assurance she heard, because this, after all, was an old trusted friend. After that, with the sense of facing a box of chocolates and thinking—Oh, just one more—she called another friend.  “Don’t tell anyone,” she said.

Elizabeth Strout.  Abide with Me.

In the late 1950s, Tyler Caskey ministered to the church in West Annett, Maine, a drab, small town whose residents failed to bring color to their dour lives. He and his five-year-old daughter, Katherine, struggled to survive the death of his young wife and Katherine's mother. They centered inside themselves, each in their own way as they tried to make sense of the family’s tragedy.

When his wife became ill the congregation hired Mrs. Connie Hatch to perform light housekeeping duties. An older woman who had expected to have children but never did, she shuffled through her days. Memories of past sins did nothing to help her order her thoughts. The minister’s small expectations matched her abilities.

In the year following the minister’s wife’s death, the congregation’s previous enthusiasm and acceptance dissipated into dissatisfaction and gossip.

He straightened his shoulders. The mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.

Gossip constructs a tower of Babel, thoughtlessly elevating itself to God’s position of all-knowing. The odd-shaped bricks and boulders are words neither placed by mercy nor mortared with compassion, but dry stacked rude and graceless. The sniggers, asides, prayers and speculations emanating from Babel merge into a shock wave of sound falling short of heaven, as chilling as it is unmelodious. 

And so the news had gone around that Tyler might be mixed up with his housekeeper. It was the most dramatic news since Lauren’s death—more dramatic, in a way, because it wasn’t entirely clear. In any event, it provided the townspeople with the chance to complain without guilt about their minister, who had increasingly disappointed and puzzled them. He was secretive, when you thought about it. And where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

On the ground around Babel the sibilant whispers sweep away logical obstacles to the lies and rumors. The whisperers bolster their sinning in clusters of like-minded communicants. They know who doubts their babbling. Their shoulders shrug as if the doubters may themselves be hiding secrets. To quote Tyler, it’s the kind of thing that happens in a small town, when people are bored with their own lives and needing some excitement.

He prepares what he thinks must be his final sermon in West Annett.  It is your job to ask, in every thought, word, and deed: How can love best be served? God is not served when you speak with relish of rumors about those who are poor in spirit and cannot be defended; God is not served when you ignore the poverty of spirit within yourselves.

Pride is the essence of idolatry, of gossip. Sometimes I like the practical solution Tyler’s manipulative mother offers us. But it won’t reform the harmonics of gossip.

Sometimes I think our ancestors had the right idea by putting liars in stocks and pillories, right in the center of town, where people could jeer at them.