May 18; Moms and Mountains

May 18. Lots of memories associated with this day, most of mine having to do with mom’s birthday and one birthday in particular when Mount Saint Helens blew her top.

May 18, 1980. It was my moms birthday, and my husband and I were in the old truck with mom and dad driving up in the hills past Trout Lake. We saw the column of Ash, and thought at first that it was a fire, but quickly figured out it wasn’t. We drove up to a place we could see a little bit better and watched for awhile. Then Jerry and I drove back home to La Center, and drove up back roads into the mountains on the south west side. We were sitting on a cliff all night watching it blow and you could feel the ground shake. Red tail hawks and eagles were soaring overhead.

10 days later on May 28, we were up in north eastern Washington seeing ash everywhere. While we were there the mountain blew again, to the south west this time. We couldn’t go home back down I-5, and had to travel through Yakima on the east side of the Cascade mountains back down to the Columbia River gorge and then west along WA-14. When we got to our trailer in La Center, there were several inches of ash piled on the roof.

Mom was fascinated by the mountain blowing in her lifetime, and thought it was a pretty interesting birthday present!

May 18, 2019. This year for Mom’s birthday, she gets another of her children, Roger, joining her in the spirit world. I’m pretty sure she’ll put him to work right away. Roger Black passed on May 16, 2019.

Mom, you are Missed, and Loved forever! I remember you talking about how strange it felt to be almost the last one left of your siblings. Now I understand all too well. You raised us to believe in the afterlife, and family being together forever; gratefulness fills my heart.

Mount St. Helens and me, in recent years. Taken at McClellan Viewpoint in GPNF

This is posting only now because for some reason my mobile app has not been uploading posts like I thought it was.


Stronger than Cancer part 2

UPDATE 5/10/18:

Last night Erica and her mother were interviewed for KGW Channel 8 by Christine Pitawanich/KGW. The interview was aired on the late evening news.

Meanwhile on another front, our local Mt. Adams Chamber of Commerce executive director had emailed her connection with the Seahawks, Mike Flood. Mike replied saying they can’t really send a player out to take Erica to prom, but he is offering some other perks such as some tickets to a game. He is also coming this way later this month for other business and plans to bring Erica some official Seahawks swag.

– Darlisa

News Story from KGW channel 8 aired late evening on 5/09/2018,

following interview with Christine Pitawanich/KGW.

Original story below on the blog post, at this link:

“Stronger than Cancer”

Also Erica and her mom Elsa Spence could really use some financial assistance. Donations can be dropped off or mailed to:

(Make checks out to Elsa Spence. )

“Stronger than Cancer”

Donations For Erica Kuneki

Umpqua Bank

PO Box 67

White Salmon, WA



To the SEATTLE SEAHAWKS, esp. Earl Thomas the third:

“I Am Erica Kuneki:

I am Stronger than Cancer! I Will Survive!

Will you go to Prom with me on June 2, 2018 at 8:00 PM?

Columbia High School, White Salmon, Washington. Please?”

Erica just turned 18. She also just had a total knee replacement as a result of bone cancer. She is a fighter, and her motto has become “Stronger than Cancer”.

She also has a dream, for a gift of time from the Seahawks. Senior prom is June 2 and she has no date. Can you help us reach out to Earl Thomas and the other Seahawks to see if any of them could help by escorting Erica to her prom?

Also Erica and her mom Elsa Spence could really use some financial assistance. Donations can be dropped off or mailed to

“Stronger than Cancer”

Donations For Erica Kuneki

Umpqua Bank

PO Box 67

White Salmon, WA


The full story of Erica Kuneki and her battle with Cancer is posted on my blog along with a lot more pictures.

Thank you!

Darlisa Black

Stronger than Cancer

Updated April 2, 2019


The Story: “Stronger than Cancer”. Erica Kuneki, a young Native American girl currently 18 years old, is fighting Osteosarcoma, bone cancer.

NEWEST UPDATE: April 2 @ 2 pm

Erica Kuneki, whose story is told below via updates (newest first) is at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland with her mom and dad. This morning she was more spunky, gave her mom a hard time (Believe me that’s a good thing). Erica has found some relief from the pain and other problems, is able to move her legs more easily.



April 1,2019 @ 10:35 pm

Many people, family and close friends, came and went all day on Monday. Folks from many faiths and cultures were praying and singing for Erica. Friends from school and the neighborhood were making her laugh, and vice versa, or crying with her mom, Elsa Spence .

Erica just now headed out on the ambulance to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, with her mom following. They’re going to try to help her get better control of the pain and other problems, and it’s in Gods hands next. He knows the bigger picture, whether it’s better to take Erica back to heaven so she’s out of pain, or bring her a miracle and heal her. I was totally humbled by how many different people came; different colors , languages, cultures, and ages but all with the same prayers from the heart. This girl not quite 19 yet has touched so many hearts in her short life. She was always looking out for other people, especially those who would forget to take care of themselves. Even today, she spoke very few words and two words were to remind someone else to eat.

Erica will be 19 on April 5.

There were some powerful prayers spoken or sung on Monday and in at least five different languages. Whether it be for a miracle healing or for comfort and ease of passing, the prayers were all from the heart.


There are 3 ways people can help by donating.

1. If you live anywhere near an Umpqua Bank, go in and tell them you want to donate to an account called “Stronger than Cancer” for you are using a check, make it out to Elsa Spence. Or, mail a check to Elsa for “Stronger than Cancer”.

“Stronger than Cancer”

Donations For Erica Kuneki

Umpqua Bank

PO Box 67

White Salmon, WA



Bank Located at 73 NE Estes St in White Salmon


2. Anyone that wanted to send a personal card and/or donation to Elsa Spence and her daughter Erica Kuneki (she is 18 by the way, and turns 19 April 5). Elsa also just had a birthday in late March.

Send it to :

Elsa Spence

Erica Kuneki

Po Box 778

Bingen, WA 98605


3. Elsa set up a GoFundMe account, originally to get Erica money for a trip, but with her health going downhill the trip is possibly not happening. This will put the money directly into their bank account.

************ (GoFundMe)


Updated January 10,2019


The Story: “Stronger than Cancer”. Erica Kuneki, a young Native American girl currently 18 years old, is fighting Osteosarcoma, bone cancer. A few months ago when it seemed like the cancer was doing better, it jumped to soft tissue and new tumors showed up. More rounds of chemo and radiation nearly killed her, and she took a long rest from treatment. Recently, however, inflammation showed up in her bones again and she became very ill. They opted to do a weeks worth of radiation therapy. Now, As of the fourth day of radiation she started feeling quite a bit better so we are feeling hopeful again. In fact, she sounded remarkably energetic over the phone tonight, laughing at a funny movie.

Unfortunately, while at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital at OHSU in Portland this week, someone broke into Elsa Spence’s car in the parking garage. The girls had just gotten there and were already stressed and accidentally left Erica’s wallet in the car. She had all her Christmas gift money in the wallet, so it was a mighty big blow emotionally.

Erica had saved up her money for a trip to New Jersey that will be provided by the Make a Wish Foundation. She wanted to be able to buy souvenirs or special treats. All of her money was taken and the wallet was left laying somewhere on hospital grounds. Someone turned it in to the security.

Elsa made this Facebook live video:

I keep dreaming that someone with a little extra money would help sponsor this local Native American girl, whose family lived in the valley for many generations fishing on the river. While theoretically the tribe helps people in situations like this, the truth is people this far away from the reservation often slip through the cracks.

❤ ❤

DONATIONS: There are now several options for helping financially. See list above under newest update.


Original post May 2017


I would like to tell you a story about a girl named Erica Kuneki. She’s a very special girl, one that has always watched out for others. And she LOVES the SEAHAWKS! More on that soon ❤️😀. Erica and her parents are from the Klickitat tribe, part of the Yakama Nation. Their family is from the Husum, WA area, and her grandmother Elsie Thomas used to make the traditional split cedar root huckleberry baskets that are so prized in museums now.

Erica at her 8th grade graduation

Erica with her uncle

Erica at school

And in Drama, she was in a play in Hood river.

Last November, 2016, Erica started having severe pain in one leg. She was very athletic, involved in several sports. After much testing, she was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, A cancerous tumor in the bone below the knee. She was very quickly started on aggressive chemotherapy, which took a toll on her body. Often very nauseous, she lost weight and had a very tough time keeping up in school. With the help of teachers at the Cancer Hospital in Portland, she kept up with her schoolwork as best she could. Early this year, they did a total knee replacement including a length of bone from the leg below the knee. For a while there was a break from chemo while she recovered from surgery, and during that time Erica was able to go back to school here in White Salmon. One of her coaches was very supportive, as he himself was a cancer survivor, and when Erica returned to school he and the team honored Erica in an assembly, making her an honorary team leader.

Erica with her Coach Don

Recently chemo started back up again, along with the struggle to keep eating and hold food down. Occasionally the weekly hospital stay lasts longer when her body isn’t ready to get up and go home. Chemotherapy will likely continue up to a year total, perhaps less if all goes well.

Mom and Daughter at sports event

Through this whole experience her amazing mother Elsa Spence has been right by her side most of the time, and if she has to be working then generally Erica’s father Leon Kuneki spends the time with his daughter at the hospital. They never leave her in Portland at the hospital alone.

Dad and Daughter times

Elsa is a caregiver by trade, working for Klickitat County Seniors. She helped take care of my sister Nora for several years. Her boss Norma Pickett has been so good with her, scheduling work around Erica’s medical appointments, as much as possible. Norma also helped run a fundraiser to get Elsa a working car after her old one broke down. Various bills are still a struggle, between lost work hours and the long drives to Portland. Elsa is the primary wage earner of the household, and I know from personal experience that caregiving in rural areas is a low paying job.

Through all the struggles with cancer, these Gals have done an amazing job of keeping their chin up and moving forward with a positive attitude.

Erica has frequently cheered up and encouraged others in the cancer ward and at home. Erica has a wise old soul, while also young and silly. She and her mom laugh together over so many things, and their laughter is contagious.

At the same time, both of them can be very serious, have a great deal of respect for their elders, and often reach out to help others. Both Elsa and Erica are very empathic, often sensing when those around them are troubled or in pain. Recently, A young patient at the cancer center passed away in a nearby room. The mother’s cries of loss carried through several wings, and Erica left her own room to go out and give hugs to the family. She brought them tissues and encouragement.

A year earlier, after I had lost my own sister, Erica would often stop by my house after school to check on me and make me laugh.

She never fails to brighten my day when I see her. Tonight i was on the phone with Elsa, and I could hear Erica in the background making us both crack up with laughter, and she had just come home from the hospital after more chemo.

Recently on two separate occasions, Elsa and Erica ran into KGW Channel 8 newscasters out on a mission. They talked each of the reporters into a photo, never even mentioning the cancer to the reporters!

Erica is really rocking all this!

TO THE SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: One thing that Erica is sad about is that no one has invited her to her senior prom which is June 2, at 8:00 pm. . Her cousin Shaneeta Bly came up with the idea of trying to reach out to the Seahawks, especially to Erica’s favorite player Earl Thomas, to see if he or any of the team would be willing to help fulfill the dream of a cancer patient. Erica just turned 18, and will hopefully be graduating soon from Columbia High School where she has participated in several sports including her personal favorite, basketball. She and her family are long time hard core Seahawks fans, with the Seahawk emblem painted on her father‘s truck and several birthday cakes that have had the Seahawks written on the cake.

Dad and Daughter, on Erica’s 18th birthday in April. There was no money or energy for a birthday party this year, but great hopes and plans to save money and have a combined birthday/ graduation/ end of chemo party in a few months.

Seahawks thru and thru!

Any acknowledgement from the SEATTLE SEAHAWKS team would be bound to uplift Erica and her family unimaginably, and an actual escort to prom, especially from Earl Thomas, would bring over the top joy for Erica. She also loves wrestling, her favorite wrestler is Dean Ambomore, and her favorite singer is Lil Pimp.

Please share this and help bring joy to this amazing young lady and her family!

My Erika Kuneki: I am Stronger than Cancer! I Will Survive! Will you go to Prom with me on June 2, 2018 at 8:00 PM? Columbia High School, White Salmon, Washington. Please?

“Stronger than Cancer”UPDATE 5/10/18: Last night Erica and her mother were interviewed for KGW Channel 8 by Christine Pitawanich/KGW. The interview was aired on the late evening news. Meanwhile on another front, our local Mt. Adams Chamber of Commerce executive director had emailed her connection with the Seahawks, Mike Flood. Mike replied saying they can’t really send a player out to take Erica to prom, but he is offering some other perks such as some tickets to a game. He is also coming this way later this month for other business and plans to bring Erica some official Seahawks swag.

And then to make it even more fun, Elsa realized that Mike was the same person that saw her sitting in Leon’s truck that has a Seahawks logo, two years ago, and gave her the blue towel that Erica was holding in the video interview. It is a small world!

– Darlisa

News Story from KGW channel 8 aired late evening on 5/09/2018, following interview with Christine Pitawanich/KGW.

Above: Christine Pitawanich/KGW and Erica Kuneki


Update 5/22/18: Erica was thrilled to get a visit from a Seahawk rep who came to her home and brought a bunch of Seahawk swag. He was so touched by her story and by seeing the huge scar from the knee and leg bone replacement that he cried and gave her a big hug. Now that is a real man, in my opinion!


❤️ Prom pictures! June 2017

❤️ Graduation photo June 2017

MUCH THANKS to any an all who contribute to this lifesaving operation!!


Thank you,

Darlisa Black


Here are the rest of the updates, oldest first:


Update 6/08/18. Erica had another unexpected trip to the hospital this week due to a fever. She is ok and home again and her mother Elsa says to tell everyone how grateful she is for the donations that have been made to the bank account. She had no gas money but there was money in the account and she was able to fill up and make the trip to the hospital.


❤️6/16/18 Update)

For those following the story of my adopted niece ⭐️Erica Kuneki ⭐️, who is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer: A huge thank you to various people who have already helped with the money donations at the bank and paid the water bill!! Thanks to you Erica had a cap and gown for High School graduation. Elsa was able to buy her Protein powder to help her with weight from chem. She was also able to get a new “hair” in time to use it for prom and graduation. You can’t begin to know what a relief all of that was for Erica and her mother! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!


Erica was able to go to prom and dance with her friends, although none of the Seahawks were able to actually come and go with her due to scheduling conflicts. Nevertheless the Seahawks honored her with a visit and phone call. We didn’t really expect they would be able to come for prom but it was fun to ask, and as a result of asking they have chosen to honor her in other ways! Erica and her Family have been given tickets to a Seahawks game August 9, where they will honor Erica by giving her a complete tour. There was hint of another surprise as well 🙂. I think I mentioned earlier that the family received a visit from someone in marketing, who brought her all kinds of Seahawks swag to add to her collection. In spite of not having her date for prom she went anyway, with her family, and had fun. After being so sick for so long from the cancer and the chemo, it warms the heart to see her looking healthier and happy. She was also able to walk with her class at the Graduation, and there will be another post about that.


8/08/2018 new Update on

😍*~*Erica Kuneki*~*😍


“Stronger than Cancer”


Erica is heading to Seattle with her family to see the Seahawks game, With tickets and a hotel room complements of the Seahawks as well.

🌈🌹 Erica Kuneki is doing pretty good, still getting through her chemo treatments. Recently she had a fall however that gave her a spiral fracture in her back bone. It’s not too bad as long as she’s careful and she still able to get around. She’ll need to wear a brace for sitting or walking long time.


August 10, 2018

I dream of finding some wonderful person who likes to donate regularly to charity who would take this Native American family on and sponsor them for a while until this cancer stuff is cleared up. Erica has bone cancer. They need some help badly with gas, food and utility bills. I will add more info in comments. Erica is at Chemo today, and her mom Elsa needs gas money.

Erica was honored last week by the Seattle Seahawks. She and her family were given tickets and a hotel room so they could go see the preseason game last Friday! Oh my gosh that perked This young lady up so much.



New Erica Kuneki update August 2018, the prayers helped! THANK YOU!!! The good news Is that the bone scan did not light her up like a Christmas tree. It only does that when there’s active cancer in the bones, so things are looking good right now! They’re going to stop chemo, and give her time to get strong again and build her platelets back up.

The bad news is that the compression fracture in her back may have damaged a disk. There’s also a mystery spot they have some concerns about, near the spine. So we’re not celebrating yet but happy the bone cancer look good.

Keep the prayers coming, there will be many more Visits to Portland coming up to research this new mystery. Erica has been such a trooper through all this!


UPDATE October 9, 2018

Erica has more tumors, and after going through a strong focused Chemo and radiation treatment last week she is back in the hospital in Portland. A high fever and low platelet count knocked her flat for the moment, and her mom Elsa is not leaving her side much.

A Native brother has brought me fresh meat and fish from the forest, so i can make soup to take the girls at the hospital. Many prayers are being said by people all over for this brave young Native American girl, barely a woman.


Erica and her family had a good holiday season, with improved health. She stayed home through the winter to enjoy life and try to build up her strength. As appetite improved, this brave young woman gained some strength back, and was able to do some limited activities.


Most recent update at top of post.

In Honor of Loved Ones

buddha statue in a foggy Columbia River Gorge, surrounded by snow.

Many of us have lost so many loved ones already this year, and it brings with it an occasional melancholy that can also be the doorway to good memories.   Today, processing photos from my archives, I ran across this set of images I took at a dear friends home in the White Salmon area.  Sharon  has passed away but I could feel her delight in nature and photography as I looked at these images of the Buddha statue in her yard.  Therefore, I will share these for the first time publicly in memory of Sharon McCormack, and in sincere empathy with all who have lost those we hold close.  Strong personal beliefs and experiences have shown me that life continues beyond death as we know it, and our loved ones are not truly lost to us.  My brother Dennis (died 1-24-18 age 79), sister Nora (died 12-13-16 age 82) and many others are but a thought and a memory away, and it is my belief I will see them again.
May you each find peace and comfort in remembering the lives of your own loved ones, and feel their love for you eternally.

Buddha in Snow, in memory of Loved Ones.

Buddha in Snow, in memory of Loved Ones.



Clicking on these photos should open a new tab where you can see the higher quality image in my SmugMug photo galleries.


(The divine within me sees and honors the divine within you)

Beautiful Day in Paradise

I feel so blessed to be able to stay with friends in Glenwood for this transition time between homes.  The air is so fresh, conversations so lively and profound, in between long spells of mutual silence working on separate projects on our computers.


This is a land of broad expansiveness, Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge, people helping one another, and Mount Adams over it all.

Conboy-MtAdams with Lennies-9633-5

I was blessed to take some of many photos yesterday of my great niece Hannah’s wedding to Brandon, and have been processing those today.  Here are a few faves so far.  Laughter was a strong component:



One last photo from 9/23/17 from sunset in Goldendale, WA.

IMG_6668 (1)


Wishing you all a wonderful week, and much beauty around you.

Click here for My GoFundMe Campaign to raise money for a working vehicle

Thank you



Help my Willow see a Vet

Willow when he first returned from the wilds

UPDATE:  Willow has now seen the vet, and is eating like a hungry bear in spring. Thank you to those who helped!!

Original Facebook post about Willow coming back:   “It’s a miracle!!! My missing cat Willow, who came to Alaska with me but disappeared about a month ago, showed up at about 3:15 am! I had woken up and open the window to feel the fresh air, and there was a sad loud meow. When I opened the door, in jumped my very starved and skinny cat. He probably ate a full can of cat food and part of a bowl of dry food. I fell to my knees in a prayer of thankfulness and tears while he ate, and then I held him close for a long long time in my arms. now we are cuddled up on the bed and I’ll say good night with a happy heart. #myheartishappy #thankyougod #mycatisback

After being gone for a month in the wilds of Alaska Bush, he is now skin and bones and starving 😿🤒😭but I’m getting him fed and warm and he’s purring in my arms. ❤️❤️He’s maybe half his original weight from a month ago. He will be staying inside now while we’re still in Alaska 😀❤️💕😍. 

However I am very concerned about his fragile body right now and I think he needs to go to the vet possibly for rehydration and other check up.    I’m staying with friends in Alaska for another month and have no income. My friends helped me a lot but they’ve already done so much.  Many of you have followed this saga of missing Willow and were thrilled as I was that he showed up. If any of you feel like donating to a vet fund it would be an incredible gift. 


There are two easy ways to donate through PayPal. One is on this blog using the tip jar donation button in the sidebar menu. On mobile it’s a little tricky to find. Click on the menu tab, scroll down through menu and several posts and you will eventually run into tip jar donation.   You can use a debit or credit card and do not have to be a paypal member. 

Or if you are easily Pay Pal conversant you can send money to:

Anything is greatly appreciated right now. 


10/13/16  I have spoken to the vets office who suggest since he is eating a little and keeping it down that I just watch him for a couple days and see if he starts getting stronger on his own. I have used donation money to get him special foods and ensure, and he has been eating more today and moving around more. I will still take him into the vet to get a check up but they advised it might be to Traumatic to go right away after just getting home in such a mess.  So I’m making him very comfortable and petting him a lot. 


Here he is as i write. Thank you for any help you can give. 

Willow after returning home all skin and bones

Previous photos of Willow. He has been my little buddy since he was 8 weeks old

Discovering Alaska (from last month. )

The rest of these pictures are taken over the last several years. Willow is about 12 years old

Rosauer’s Rainbow

Today sis Nora and I took ourselves out to dinner at Shary’s restaurant in Hood River after her appointment across the street getting shots to help her poor arthritic knees.  She loved the food, and just doing something different and rare for her.  When we came out of the restaurant in a rainstorm, this view greeted us and we forgot all about rain in the face.

The most important things in life really are free, and seeing my sis having fun was a big one.

Rosaurs-Rainbow_4843 Rosaurs-Rainbow2_8864 UpsweepingCloud_4845


Chicken Coop Fire

Happy Thanksgiving!  I am grateful that this fire was kept from spreading to my brother’s house and garage, and that no one was hurt, not even the chickens!

Our awesome local firefighters came to the rescue last night, and although the fire at my brother’s (Boyce Black) turned out to be just the Chicken Coop, the chickens survived by escaping to the pen in back (so you are stuck with the Turkeys for dinner today). The coop burned up but they kept it from spreading to the very nearby shop/garage. The event was extremely well attended, there were so many flashing lights it looked like a circus! Young firefighters in training had the opportunity to practice their skills and learn more things. THank you to all of you for your hard work and fast response, and thank you to some neighbors who called it in. No one was home at the time. It is theorized the fire started from a light on an extension cord left on to keep the chickens warm.

Julia’s Rainbow

Another young much loved woman has passed away this last week, and my heart is so sad.  Trying to continue forward with photography and life, and stay positive.   Julia Little Brave was my stepdaughter by a former marriage, and although I am estranged from her father I have kept track of his daughter as she married and had children.  I followed from a distance, not wanting to interfere, and kept her in my heart.  This is not about me… this is about an amazing young woman and her family.
Julia had  cancer.  She fought hard, and was in remission for some few years while she returned to college and developed a career in hospital lab work. This in itself was impressive in her large Native American family, where education was often a struggle.   All this while being a great mother, and constantly cheering up others, and praying for others in her Native American Church.  Her positive attitude was amazing.  This last couple years the cancer came back, and though she fought with all she had, this weekend she slipped into that dark night and into the spirit world leaving behind her supportive loving husband Matt and their three beautiful children, along with a heartbroken sister/ best friend and brothers and Father, Mother, and a huge extended clan.

Julia’s sister in law has created a GoFundMe donation site to raise money to help the family with burial costs and huge hospital bills left behind.  Any amount you might be able to donate would be gratefully appreciated, even $1. You can find that site here along with her photo and more information.  Just click on that previous sentence in blue and the page will open up in a new tab.

This is the Rainbow I saw soon after I learned of Julia’s passing.. so I have named this Julia’s Rainbow.

Double Rainbow, Taken from Hood River Oregon, looking over the Hood River Bridge into White Salmon and Bingen, Washington on November 9, 2014

Julia’s Rainbow