Window over Washington:

Venus rising, and Zion, too: what really matters on Columbus Indigenous Peoples Day

vol. 2 issue 49


By the time you receive this, if all goes as planned, I will be en route to visit kin out of state, something fewer of us take for granted than we did before 2020. But for now, I am typing in my office, occasionally gazing up at the bright morning star Venus, lavishing her beauty upon the lightening purple horizon, the star Regulus out of sight to her southeast; I am certain the kingly star is there, though. I checked with my binoculars, as I do every morning.

Without realizing it, over time looking to the heavens each day and night has become a ritual I observe. Even through clouds or precipitation, there is always something happening in the sky to remind me that the world is so much bigger than I am, than even are all our dramas, accusations, and remonstrations unfolding at all times here in Washington.

My first epiphany of this actually came from gazing at solid earth in Utah, some five years or so ago. There is a joke among Mormans — or at least there is according to a DC-based Morman I once met — that in Utah where the Mormans are based, they keep secret the locations of all the truly spectacular places to see, lest the rest of us come to gawk and desecrate their Little Deseret. Yet, I struggle to imagine anything more awe-inspiring than the geology of Zion, our most popular national park, in the southeastern corner of the state.

In the distance, approaching the park, the sheer face of The Great White Throne looms like a warning to be of pure heart, lest one be denied entrance into the Court of the Patriarchs, as the neighboring three sandstone rock faces are known by their European settler names.

So great is the perfect splendor of the scene, I truly felt unsure I was worthy, being as I am human and so very flawed.

Of course, the ridiculously chauvinist names are ephemeral, having been slapped upon the massive stones in the mid-1800s by one of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith’s bodyguards, as he and the rest of the deeply religious sect began to settle there along the clear waters of what they also christened the Virgin River. By then, Smith and his followers had been run out of most other places they’d tried to root, scorned for their knack of taking patriarchy too far, even for other patriarchal Christians scattered throughout the northern swath of our westward expanding nation.

And yet, the names do make sense: there is an unmistakable in extremis quality to the towering formations that reminds us of our place, which is not at all significant in the larger scheme of things.

Observing the striations of rock, it occurred to me they read like chapters in our planet’s unique story, each section demarcating a plot told in units of tens or hundreds of millions of years. Compare that to the miniscule 6 million years of humanity on earth, and only about 6,000 years of organized civilization.

How many chapters are yet to be written?

With that in mind, as the media perpetually flash scenes of our president dissembling and deteriorating, accompanied by endless streams of syllables spilling from commentators’ mouths, I perceive the end of merely a sentence, not an entire era.

As the compulsory arrogance necessary for any court of patriarchs to exist begins to shred, what becomes clear is that we are not the point of the story.

Because I live so far from those stony edifices in Utah, I hold them in my memory instead. But what I can still revere in person are the stars and the luminaries – the sun and the moon.

Although light pollution makes it more difficult, over the course of the past few years, as the avatars of our collective narcissism have sent us scurrying, demonstrating what needs purification, it has been the heavenly bodies that have reminded me of my gloriously insignificant place here on earth.

Stargazing wasn’t a habit I intended to form, but that it has become my way of worship is comforting; for me, it indicates that eventually, we all are called back to the Source, whether or not we know how or when.

It is that stream of being that is what truly matters.

Venus is gone now, luxuriating below the horizon. From my window high over Washington, the sun is spilling its liquid gold across the treetops stretching across the Potomac basin and beyond; the light is that special starry morning gold specific to Fall here in the Western Hemisphere when our globe is positioned just so.

This coming Monday is our Columbus Day, re-named by some as Indigenous Peoples Day. It makes me think: The rocks of Utah have had plenty of names bestowed upon them in the 6,000 years since we humans were introduced to the narrative of earthly time. I suppose that if we continue to misread the grander story, mistaking it to be about us and only us, we might bring about the final chapter through our ignorant and primitive ways, and even the rocks will cease to be.

Yet, my greater supposition is that in time, the rocks — and the stars — will see us out and through, indifferent to the names we or future generations of humans might give them. They don't need us to tell them who they are.

Whether by names European or Anasazi, an indigenous word for “The Ancient Ones”, the people who came to the rocks before the Mormons, it is the rocks and the stars that have always endured.

Accepting that we are a fleeting part of their existence, that they witness us, not the other way round, we can put what we are about on this earth, at this point in time, as we near our election, into perspective. And then, we can act accordingly.

We are not here to rule and dominate. We are here to regale these portals into deeper truths and to experience dominion in a world far wiser than we could ever conceptualize in our tiny little heads.

That is the story I will celebrate on Monday.

As promised, next week I am recording the next video in our docu-mental: healing the american states of mind, a look at police reform; specifically we will deconstruct “defunding the police”, and its possible ramifications in the larger context of men’s mental health and a crumbling patriarchy. My guests will be:

Sally Spencer-Thomas, PsyD, lead editor of the mental health for men series of books, Guts, Grit, & the Grind: A Mental Mechanics Manual, and the creator along with the Colorado Department of Health and others, of Mantherapy, a very funny series of videos challenging what it means to be manly and to hide emotions behind a moustache. Sally began her career studying the effect of trauma on first responders, and has been actively engaged in suicide prevention since her brother took his own life in 2004.

Chief (Ret) John Morrissey of the Kenosha, Wisconsin Police Department. After 33 years as an officer, 28 of them in Kenosha, Chief Morrissey retired from the force in 2016, but is still intimately involved in what happens on the streets of Kenosha as director of city inspections, a job he took late in 2019. While leading the police force, Chief Morrissey lost two officers to suicide in less than 6 months. Mr. Morrissey has been actively involved in suicide prevention since 2010. In 2017, he became leader of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Public Safety Taskforce. He also serves as a member of the Workplace Suicide Prevention and Postvention Committee, and is a member of the IACP National Consortium on Preventing Law Enforcement Suicide. 

John Marx, CPP, was a law officer for 23 years, 19 of them as a hostage negotiator with the Westminster, Colorado Police Department. Marx is now the executive director of The Law Enforcement Survival Institute and founder of He is the author of several books and training manuals that take a wholistic approach to law enforcement training and wellness. When a fellow police officer and good friend of his committed suicide at 38, Marx decided to dedicate his life to helping law enforcement officers serve and protect by learning to first protect their emotional needs and those of their colleagues.

Expect to see that video in your email inbox on or by next Friday!

Until then, peace.



Photos: ZION by Frederick S. Dellenbaugh - Zion Museum Collection; Venus Rising, NASA; Zion poster, The National Park Service.