Blog Post #2
Sorry for the delayed posting – internet is a bit dodgy here but I’ll try to maintain routine blogging!
We’ve only been here since mid-August but our group is already settling into our routine. After attending the Omak Stampede, Fr. Jake, the pastor at St. Joseph’s Parish here in Omak, took our group to see petroglyphs. These pre-historic paintings (pre-historic in the sense that no-one alive knows their origin) are located on the side of a rocky cliff. After walking down a wide dirt road, Jake suddenly turned off into a grassy field, leading us through overgrown sage brush, up rocky terrain, through fields of decomposing logs, and past prickly cacti. After traveling off the beaten path (literally) for about 30 minutes, we looked up to the steep cliff and suddenly saw four or five of these paintings – a stylized man holding a stick, an animal, and a few other symbols. These brownish figures were fading away and Jake noted that even during his time in Omak the figures have slowly changed from inclement weather. As we made our way back down the hilly terrain and brush I kept expecting to see a snake. Rattle snakes, I’ve been told, are a common sight in this part of the state. And even though the Western variety is apparently quite skittish and afraid of humans, I spent half of the hike terrified that we would come across one hiding under a log or curled up in the brush. Thankfully we did not encounter one on that hike, and I have still yet to come across one.
After the hike, as we made our way down the dirt trail back to our car, we stopped by an old abandoned apricot orchard, which was brimming with bright, ripe, golden orange apricots. One of the things that I love about Omak and being in this part of the state is the abundance of fruit and other fresh produce. We’ve picked apricots and bing cherries for free, received bags of freshly-picked peaches, and have been given tomatoes, cucumbers, and giant zucchini from neighbors’ gardens. Our group has barely been able to finish all of this free and fresh produce. We’ve made jam, dried cherries, assembled an apricot and cherry crisp, and frozen peaches. We have plans to bake up a storm of zucchini bread this weekend. We’ve also been told that apple season will soon be upon us and I can hardly wait to try all of local varieties!
As I mentioned before, Fr. Jake (who prefers us to call him Jake) is the pastor at the local Catholic parish. After missing the student masses at the Santa Clara Mission, I am happy to report that Omak’s St. Joe’s is probably the friendliest Catholic parish I have ever attended. I feel lucky to have found this parish and to once again feel a sense of fulfillment in going to mass. All of the parishioners have been so welcoming to all of us and there is a distinct sense of community at this parish. It is interesting to see how native spirituality has been incorporated into this church. The first mass we attended was held at the powwow grounds. During the blessing of the Eucharist, a smudge, which is a traditional Indian blessing with smoke, was used to bless the bread and wine and everyone present, which was very moving. At the beginning of each mass, all of the parishioners greet one another and move about the church to say hi. Fr. Jake always introduced newcomers or visitors at the beginning and it is evident how the parishioners make an effort to make everyone feel welcome. During mass this past Sunday, when it came time to do the prayers of the faithful, Fr. Jake suddenly looked at me and motioned me to come forward. I suppose the person who was assigned the prayers of the faithful that week didn’t show up and so, in the middle of mass, Fr. Jake motioned for me to come forward, showed me what to read, and had me go for it. What I really appreciate is how casual it all was. While there is still a sense of reverence, this parish doesn’t take itself too seriously. Everyone participates in the mass and everyone is treated equally. For a Catholic parish, there is not too much pomp and circumstance around the rituals.
I’ve been working for about three weeks now at Okanogan Behavioral HealthCare. While initially this large facility was more than a little overwhelming, I feel like I’m finally settling in and learning the ropes. I’ve gone from not even being able to find my way around the building to calling clients, making notes in charts, and being able to greet everyone by name. This facility is pretty impressive – it’s very organized and very streamlined. The staff is great and everyone has continually offered me support. I know I’m going to learn so much during my year there!
Love from Omak!