One scene, two visions

A housebound escape

This doesn’t have anything to do with reading.

Even though reading is the best escape I can take without leaving the house.

No, this is about losing myself on my laptop in a way that doesn’t involve writing.

I’ve been learning how to use Photoshop, trying to get better at this art called photography. Back in May, I spent a day on the Palouse with a helluva photographer named Chip Phillips. He taught me about exposure bracketing and left me with a video that teaches how to merge two or more frames for a high-dynamic range photo (HDR).

Yeah, yeah … if you’ve ever seen me rant on Twitter about bad HDR photography, you’re shaking your head. No, really, click that link and see how bad it can get.

Hence my nervousness when I asked a new, local friend to show me how she does it. I can watch all the videos in the world but, unless someone is doing it step by step in front of me while I write those steps down, I don’t quite absorb it.

Like a good book.

She helped me create the above photo that Chip helped me take.

A lunch escape

My friend taught me photo-editing software has gotten so much better at helping us create HDR that it’s fairly easy.

Sure, tell that to my dog-tired eyes after I spent five hours working on one image yesterday, starting over twice.

spokane bridge autumn

The learning has inspired me to get out more often with my camera, hauling my gear to the office and heading out to beautiful spots nearby.

Guardian of the Columbia

It distracted me from my ultimate mission — an afternoon with Maremma sheepdogs.

I was driving south on a rural road on the Colville Reservation and spied it out of the corner of my eye. Of course, my new friend Kaila warned me about it. She said “there’s a beautiful abandoned church near our homestead.”

Excited by the prospect, I thought I’d have to keep my eyes peeled, but there was no missing it, even though it hid behind several large trees.

It stood there, soaking up the morning August sun. So beautiful and, seemingly, so lonely.

A sentinel standing watch over the Columbia River.

catholic church


Some churches have been maintained in a manner similar to the Roger’s Bar church: the one so lovingly cared for in Retlaw, Alberta, and the now restored churches in Dorothy, Alberta.

This one’s history is honored in the foyer, with some details typed onto letter-sized paper, protected by Saran wrap and pinned to the wall.

catholic church history

Whomever wrote the story revealed this church was built in 1934, dedicated one year later by Bishop White. Charles Owen was the pastor. It replaced the St. Ignatius church built “somewhere around Roger’s Bar” in 1907.

The Colville Tribes website says this church was named the Sacred Heart.

Father Caldi and other priests of St. Francis Regis Mission visited here occasionally on their rounds of the Indian settlements (House Dairy 1906). Caldi estimated the population as about ‘twenty Columbia and Spokane Indians.’

abandoned church colville

Pastor Owens lived in log cabin 100 feet away from the church. Louie Pichette, at one time the oldest living man on the Colville reservation, also lived in a log cabin near the church. Neither building — if they were separate buildings — is no longer there.

The church was used semi-regularly until 1966. Bill Kima assisted on funerals. The last service, according to the history on the wall, was a wedding.

But no one can remember who got married.

Restoring the past

The paper on the wall tells the story of a summer that a group of high school students from Tacoma and kids from Gonzaga Prep joined some local students to clean out 20 years of bird and bat “droppings.”

They were led by Don Eugene, a painter who died in a motorcycle accident just one week after the project began.

It was 1988.

“Birds, bats and bees had been its only congregation” for quite some time.

Over two summers, the students and members of the community built a new porch, installed new windows, stained the outside and inside, and sanded the hardwood floor.

  • Dutch Monaghan stained the windows
  • Lynda Smith worked on the window in front of the steeple
  • Kay Hale restored the last remaining pew
  • Ilene Stansbury worked on the foyer
  • An old carpenter named Andy built four cathedral windows
  • Don Aimebury supplied the glass and installed most of it
  • Violet Trudell donated an old bell to replace the one that was stolen years ago

inchelium church abandoned

They changed the church’s appearance “dramatically” and the church was renamed “Christ of the Columbia.” The community held a dedication ceremony with potluck in October of the unknown year.

No signs of life

It’s a quiet, rural road.

The church is unblemished by graffiti and destruction in the way so many historic buildings on busy roadways fall victim.

It stands perfect, a testament to its original construction and the restoration that took place.

A 2007 blog post by Christy Woolum showed up in a Google search. She visited the church in 2007 and, at the time, learned it was still used twice a year and for special events.

She writes:

When you peak in the windows you can see Christ of the Columbia carved into the altar, but the statues and pews are covered with protective tarps. I loved the rich hue of the elderberries hanging from a branch at the entrance of the church. It is obvious parishioners take great pride in this building. It has been maintained beautifully. It was the location for our picnic lunch as we took a break during out road trip.

The doorknob turns in the hand and, when the door creaks open, there are no signs of life.

No signs of the love that embraced this church in 2007 or the undated restoration.

No signs of weddings or funerals or services where the community comes together.

Are they all lost forever?

On the job

I love this breed.

So damn much.

When Shep came into my life in 2004, I had never heard of a Maremma sheepdog. When my friend who connected us told me the breed name over the phone, I heard “Miramichi dog.” For those not in the know, the Miramichi is a region of northeast New Brunswick and not anywhere you really want to visit.

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A new friend

And one angry, worried husband.

I can’t really say that I blame him.

My adventures have gotten me into trouble. There was the time I blew a tire (hey, where did all the pictures on that post go?) and there was the time I backed into a deep ditch of snow.

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Rebuilding the past

“Hey, did you hear about the brothel?”

“The what?”

“We found what we think might have been a brothel, upstairs from City Hall.”

“That’s pretty cool.”

“Do you want to see it?”

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The Rocklyn rabbit hole

Editor’s Note: The Rux homestead is on private property. The owner, whom you can learn more about in the comments section, has posted No Trespassing signs. Jerry is a great guy and more than willing to cooperate with photographers, provided they seek permission.

I get lost in detail sometimes.

When I got home from a road trip last week, I sat down to research the area I explored and the houses I found.

That’s when I fell down the Rocklyn rabbit hole.

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Healing time

It’s a beautiful, blue-sky day in Eastern Washington.

Part of me wants to hit the road and go somewhere fun.

Today, however, my beautiful Bella is recovering from surgery. It was time to get her spayed and add on a prophylactic gastropaxy (a procedure in a which her stomach is attached the chest cavity to prevent bloat and torsion).

That means we’re grounded for a few days or a week. No matter, we still haven’t shared our story about the first great road trip since moving to Spokane.

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Two photowalks, one week

November?!?!? November was the last time I wrote about an adventure?


What’s worse is how much time I have on my hands these days. In late January, Bella and I packed up a U-Haul and moved to Spokane, Wash., to join Our American in our Happily Ever After.

And I’m not allowed to work.

There must be time for adventure.

There is.

Last week, Bella and I set out for two photowalks.
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Do you see enough?

I try to take a 360-degree approach when I’m out exploring and taking pictures.

I take some shots of what I see, then turn and turn and turn, making sure I don’t miss anything.

Some places draw me back for more. Dorothy, the Atlas Mine and Rawley are my Alberta favourites. I’m keeping a mental list of Washington spots.

Sometimes I get home, look at my pictures and think, “I didn’t quite get that right.”

Or maybe, no matter how many times I turned around, I know there’s more to see.

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