TWIN FALLS — There are no tricks; the path is just before you. The only choice you have to make is to walk it.
And it’s quite mind-clearing, said Vonia Jackson, as she paced down her seven-circuit labyrinth in Twin Falls last week. Jackson has been practicing “mindful meditation” with labyrinths for only about a year, but she is a big advocate for their mind-strengthening abilities. Which is why she recently constructed a labyrinth at her house and welcomes others to use it, too.
She isn’t alone. The online World-Wide Labyrinth Locator identifies two other labyrinths in Twin Falls that the public can use. And there are a few others in the area that aren’t listed.
So why do people use labyrinths?
“It may seem like mindless pacing,” Jackson said. “But sometimes it’s what your mind needs — just to slow down.”
Here are five labyrinths you can find and experience in the Twin Falls area:
Open: By appointment
Vonia and Scott Jackson’s outdoor labyrinth is a classic pattern using lava rock and gravel. You can find information about it on the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator at labyrinthlocator.com. Before coming to walk it, you should make an appointment by calling 208-358-4777.
Jackson was inspired to create her labyrinth after walking the one at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension. She’d previously watched a PBS documentary about labyrinths and became curious.
Now, she uses them as a meditative tool to help sort through her problems and begin her day. It’s a good way to practice being in the moment, she said.
“Americans are really bad about being where they are,” Jackson said. “We’re a really busy culture.”
Labyrinths are not like mazes, she said, because there’s only one path to take — and it will always lead you to the center. That way, you don’t have to think about where you are going.
Jackson decided to share her labyrinth with those who want to use it, but don’t be surprised if you find a friendly feline or two stalking about.
A rock beside the 42-foot circle contains this message: “This Sacred Labyrinth is offered as a walking prayer.”
The Episcopal Church of the Ascension welcomes anyone to come walk the labyrinth, anytime. Just use the church parking lot and walk a short driveway to the north side of the building.
This outdoor labyrinth is modeled after the one inside the Chartres Cathedral in France. It was built in 2012.
“It’s just a way of quieting your mind,” said Karen Lindemer, who is a certified labyrinth facilitator. “Sometimes people have new insights, or a question is answered.”
The church doesn’t provide many instructions at the site and wants it to be a natural process. However, an informational pamphlet talks about a three-fold mystical path: The first is purgation, or letting go of what blocks you in life or prayer. The second is illumination, being open to insight and open-mindedness when you reach the center of the labyrinth. The third state is union, walking renewed and empowered on the return walk.
“When we have peace in our own hearts, and we have to be quiet enough to go there,” Lindemer said.
Walking through the labyrinth is like taking a path to peel back layers of your mind, she said. At the center, the rose petals of the labyrinth represent the aspects of creation. The idea is to feel closeness with God, the universe and one’s own heart.
“I think that’s what our world needs right now,” Lindemer said.
This labyrinth can be walked barefoot or with shoes, but anything with wheels is prohibited because it may damage the concrete.
The church also has a canvas labyrinth it sets up indoors at different times of year.
“We still put the one up inside sometimes because it’s so lovely with the candles all around it,” she said.
Open: When weather permits, or by appointment
This classical style labyrinth is unique in that it is wheelchair accessible. In fact, Mary Alice Park founder and manager Art Hoag encourages people who use walkers or wheelchairs to come to the park. The labyrinth path was created in 2013 to take place of the gravel path that was there before.
“It also gives people a real good tour of the park,” Hoag said.
Mary Alice Park is a private park owned by the Art Guild of Magic Valley. Its seven-circuit labyrinth will take you on a quarter-mile walk to the center. Landscaping features and sculptures can be seen throughout the park. Music plays softly in the background, and sandboxes can also be used for meditation.
“Sometimes people will use sticks to draw in it. Sometimes they use rakes,” Hoag said. “Sometimes they build sandcastles.”
The park has been closed this winter, but will reopen sometime this month for regular use. It is typically open during daylight hours in warm weather. You can also make an appointment or reserve the labyrinth by calling Hoag at 208-421-1311.
Open: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday
This church’s labyrinth is indoors, but it’s a little difficult to find: downstairs in one of its three buildings.
“You almost have to go through a maze to get to it,” the Rev. Phil Price said.
Anyone interested in walking the labyrinth can come to the church office from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and ask to use it.
The labyrinth is painted on the floor of a multipurpose room and is protected with wax. It was painted by Dorothy Giest and her son-in-law, renowned BASE jumper Miles Daisher. Although it’s not as intricate as the one at the Episcopal church, Price noted it is in a climate-controlled room that’s available year-round.
Open: For special events
The Eighth Street Center for Peace has an indoor canvas labyrinth that it brings out for events that are open to the public. The first Saturday in May is Worldwide Labyrinth Day, and the canvas labyrinth will be available at the center May 6 to anyone who’s interested. Call 208-543-5417, or message the center on Facebook, for information.
TWIN FALLS — The Honorable Benjamin J. Cluff, the newest judge on the Fifth Judicial District bench, took the oath of office Wednesday, in front of a packed courtroom.
Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter appointed the Twin Falls attorney to fill the seat left vacant by now-Justice Richard Bevan’s recent appointment to the Idaho Supreme Court.
“Justice Bevan leaves big shoes to fill in the Fifth Judicial District,” Otter said in a statement. “But the Magic Valley also has a history of producing some of Idaho’s finest jurists, so I’m confident that Ben Cluff will perform at a high level on the bench.”
Judge Eric Wildman presided over the ceremony.
“I’m probably more excited about his appointment than Ben is,” Wildman told the roomful of county officials, attorneys, judges and court employees, referring to the district court’s recent struggle with two vacant seats on the bench. “It’s been quite a challenge.”
A 1988 Twin Falls High School graduate, Cluff earned his bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University, and his law degree in 2000 from the University of Idaho. Previously with the firm Hepworth, Lezamiz & Janis, Cluff was a partner in the firm Coleman, Ritchie & Cluff since 2010.
Cluff married Jennifer Sudweeks of Twin Falls in 1995 and the two have a son and a daughter.
Attorney David Coleman introduced Cluff as an eager and hardworking attorney and teased him about his love of hunting and his cold-weather beard, which he said Cluff shaves every year when the weather warms. Coleman and Cluff have been friends since they were young boys growing up south of Twin Falls.
It’s fitting, Coleman said, that Cluff’s new office window in the judicial building looks out on the Twin Falls County Jail, on which Cluff worked as a mason during the summer after he graduated from high school.
“It is my honor to address you as Your Honor,” Coleman said, before turning the floor to Judge Jonathon P. Brody, who administered the oath of office.
After taking the oath, Jennifer Cluff helped her husband don his robe.
Judge Cluff humbly accepted the audience’s applause, and gave a shout out to attorneys John Hepworth and John Lezamiz, Judge John Hohnhorst and now-Justice Robyn Brody, “to whom I owe much of what I know today,” Cluff said.
“I’m truly blessed.”
FILER — Everywhere Annette Blackett took her son, she expected someone would know him.
Jovan Eugene Archuleta loved being around other people. And in the process, he touched many lives throughout the Magic Valley.
“We could not take him anywhere without somebody saying ‘Jovan,’” Blackett said Wednesday. “He was known to everyone.”
Jovan, 24, died Saturday. A funeral is slated for March 8 at Twin Falls Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Jovan was born with an extremely rare form of dwarfism called Seckel syndrome, a genetic disorder. As an infant in Denver, his biological mother failed to feed him. The Archuleta family took in Jovan when he was 18 months old and later finalized the adoption process. He weighed just 6 pounds, 2 ounces.
Blackett said she couldn’t turn her back on Jovan or send him back to Denver.
“He was dying,” she said. “There was no doubt about it. He was dying. He had a lot of health problems.”
Blackett’s husband at the time — they’re now divorced — was Roger Archuleta, Jovan’s biological grandfather. Throughout his life, Jovan called Roger “dad.”
Blackett described Jovan as a loving child.
“He loved to be out in public,” she said. “He definitely loved Jesus.”
Dwayne Kluchesky, who was pastor for 13 years at Twin Falls Seventh-day Adventist Church, knew Jovan and his family for many years through church services in Twin Falls and Buhl. He will give the homily at the funeral, and plans to avoid using the words “little” or “small” to describe Jovan because “he was anything but that,” he said. “He was very small in stature, but he was huge in his character.”
He described Jovan as “extremely warmhearted,” and someone who was often smiling and laughing.
“He was the epitome of unselfishness,” he said. “Which is a pretty rare thing these days.”
Members of the congregation called Kluchesky “Pastor K,” and so did Jovan. He remembers the young boy running up to him and giving him a hug.
“I remember to coming to his level and engaging him as he was able to,” Kluchesky said. “I couldn’t always understand the words he was saying, but he was an extremely positive, optimistic young man.”
Jovan and his family were featured in an August 1998 Times-News story. At the time, he was 4 years old, weighed 16 pounds and was 26 inches tall.
He underwent many surgeries at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City and the hospital helped the family get through some of their toughest times, Blackett said. Whenever they went to the hospital, Jovan was an instant celebrity, and a throng of people wanted to see him.
“(Seckel syndrome) is so rare that Primary Children’s loved whenever he came and visited” because they’d never seen a child like him, Blackett said, and Jovan had done considerably well. Over the years, nurses came to their home and one of them taught American Sign Language to Jovan.
“He picked up sign (language) like you wouldn’t believe,” Blackett said, and was learning five to eight signs each day. “To the day he died, he was using sign language to me. That was a language he was still using as his way of communication.”
Jovan began attending preschool in Filer when he was 3 ½ years old. When Blackett and Archuleta divorced in 2006, Blackett moved the family briefly to a few different communities — Jerome, Castleford and Buhl.
Jovan wasn’t at each school for long, but was popular among his peers and teachers.
“He very much had a big impact on each one of those schools,” Blackett said.
Jovan was crowned prince at Filer High School‘s homecoming his senior year. And for prom, his dates were twin girls from Jerome. He finished up his education in Filer with friends he’d grown up with. The school put in a special order for his cap and gown. At the graduation ceremony in 2011, “he was so happy that day,” Blackett said.
When Blackett thinks of Jovan, she pictures him reading the comics in the Times-News. “Every week, he had to get the funnies from his dad. You could hear him laughing.”
He also loved to draw for hours while listening to country music.
“We had to keep him busy with lots of paper and pens,” Blackett said.
He had a great taste in country music, she said, she took him to a couple of concerts. The most important one for Jovan was The Band Perry, where he got his picture taken and a CD signed by the band members. But Jovan was most interested in Taylor Swift.
“Taylor Swift was the one he was going to marry,” Blackett said. “He was in love with her.”
Jovan also loved going to the fair in August each year for his birthday, and riding in a shopping cart at Costco and Walmart. He got to know local law enforcement officers through a yearly Easter egg hunt at the Twin Falls County Fairgrounds in Filer.
Jovan’s absolute favorite holiday, though, was Halloween. He even had a chance to briefly work at Halloween City.
“He was in heaven,” Blackett said. “That kid loved Halloween. He had to pass the candy out every year.”
He wasn’t interested in eating candy himself, and it was tough to find costumes that fit him, Blackett said. His focus was giving to others.
BURLEY — Nine Idaho students are suing the Cassia County School District, Burley High School, Superintendent Gaylen Smyer, and a slew of BHS employees, claiming they were unfairly removed from their high school cheerleading team after staging a “sit-in” to protest conflicts with the school’s new cheerleading coach.
A lawsuit, filed Feb. 26 in U.S. District Court, alleges that the Idaho high school, school district and its employees violated the girls’ First Amendment rights in October.
The students, who were identified only by their initials, claim BHS cheerleading coach Laine Mansfield’s “temperament, fairness, judgment, and ability to safely coach the team began to concern” them shortly after she was hired in April 2017.
The suit alleges that Mansfield forbid team members from associating with certain students, failed to properly address safety concerns related to cheerleading stunts, selectively and unfairly enforced attendance rules and “degraded (cheerleaders) and their cheerleading abilities during practices. These comments went beyond the critical motivation that some coaches direct at their athletes.”
Debbie Critchfield, a spokeswoman for the school district, said the district had not yet been made aware of the lawsuit and said she had no comment.
After some of the students’ parents met with school administrators to address these concerns, the derogatory comments got worse, the suit alleges.
As tensions built with Mansfield, 14 members of the cheerleading squad “engaged in a peaceful ‘sit in’ protest in the BHS gym at the end of one of their before-school practices” on Sept. 29, 2017, according to the lawsuit.
“That same day, BHS Vice Principals Kit Kanekoa and Andrew Wray informed plaintiffs that their participation in the sit-in would result in a one-week suspension from the cheer team,” the suit claims.
To rejoin the team, the BHS Principals’ Office asked each student to sign a statement agreeing to several conditions, including an additional two-week suspension from cheerleading activities, a four-hour service project, an essay reflecting on the sit-in and an agreement to refrain from “speaking freely about their experience with the coaching staff or on the cheer team in general.” If they didn’t sign the statement, the students said, they would be dismissed from the team.
In early October, the nine students who brought the lawsuit returned their signed statements to the principal’s office — along with a letter from their parents reserving their right to participate in the Cassia County School District’s grievance process, the lawsuit said. Those nine students were dismissed from the cheerleading team via the following letter:
“It is clear to district level administration that while the stipulation agreements were returned the presence of the additional page or addendum suggests a continued conflict on the part of the cheer team, the individual student and parents with the coach and school administration. Such an expression is interpreted to be a desire to utilize the grievance process as opposed to the solution propounded by the administration. It is the belief of the school superintendent and the assistant superintendent the school and the cheer team would best be served by revoking the membership of [Plaintiff] on the Burley High School cheer team effective Monday, October 9, 2017 at 8:00 a.m. The dismissal from the Burley High School Cheer Team will be effective for the 2017-2018 school year. This decision, while not easy is based upon all the findings and information state above and weighed against the constitutional and state requirements concerning education services, the education process, academic discipline and learning, the need to avoid disruption of the education process along with statutory requirements to provide support and professional development for teachers.”
Lawyers for the students claim the girls were forced to transfer out of their morning cheerleading class, but were prevented from joining other classes by school employees. One cheerleader said she was also dismissed from her office aid position in the principals’ office because she had supposedly “‘lost the trust’ of BHS principals and teachers as a result of her participation in the sit-in.”
The lawsuit claims the school district and its employees violated constitutionally protected speech, not only by suspending the cheerleaders for their sit-in but again when the students were removed from the cheerleading team after reserving their right to the grievance process.
Alleging emotional and psychological distress and damage to the cheerleaders’ reputations, the lawsuit asks that the defendants pay the complainants’ lawyer fees of $25,000. In addition, the students’ lawyers are asking for “punitive damages” against the district and its employees.
WASHINGTON — Putting fellow Republicans in the hot seat, President Donald Trump called for speedy and substantial changes to the nation’s gun laws on Wednesday, criticizing lawmakers in a White House meeting for being too fearful of the National Rifle Association to take action.
In a freewheeling, televised session that stretched for an hour, Trump rejected both his party’s incremental approach and its legislative strategy that has stalled action in Congress. Giving hope to Democrats, he said he favored a “comprehensive” approach to addressing violence like the shooting at Florida school earlier this month, although he offer no specific details.
Instead, Trump appeared to support expanded background checks. He endorsed increased school security and mental health resources, and he reaffirmed his support for raising the age to 21 for purchasing some firearms. Trump also mentioned arming teachers, and said his administration, not Congress, would ban bump-stock devices that enable guns to fire like automatic weapons.
“We can’t wait and play games and nothing gets done,” Trump said as he opened the session with 17 House and Senate lawmakers. “We want to stop the problems.”
The president has previously backed ideas popular with Democrats, only to back away when faced with opposition from his conservative base and his GOP allies in Congress. It was not clear whether he would continue to push for swift and significant changes to gun laws, when confronted with the inevitable resistance from his party.
Still, the televised discussion allowed Trump to play the role of potential dealmaker, a favorite for the president. Democratic lawmakers made a point of appealing to the president to use his political power to persuade his party to take action.
“It is going to have to be you,” Sen. Chris Murphy told Trump.
Trump’s call for stronger background checks, which are popular among Americans, has been resisted by Republicans in Congress and the NRA. Republicans have instead been leaning toward modest legislation designed to improve the background system already in place. Trump made clear he was looking for more and accused lawmakers of being “petrified” of the gun lobby.
“Hey, I’m the biggest fan of the Second Amendment,” Trump said, adding that he told NRA officials it’s time to act. “We have to stop this nonsense.”
The White House meeting came amid fresh public debate over gun laws, fueled by student survivors of the massacre at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who have been meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The school reopened Wednesday for the first time since a Valentine’s Day assault killed 17.
Gun legislation has lost momentum in Congress as Republican leaders showed little interest in pursuing stricter gun control laws.
Democrats said they were concerned Trump’s interest may fade quickly. After the meeting, Murphy, D-Conn., told reporters: “I’m worried that this was the beginning and the end of the president’s advocacy on this issue. The White House has to put some meat on the bones. The White House has to send a proposal to Congress.”
The White House is expected to reveal more on the president’s plans for school safety this week, though it has not announced any plans. That announcement will likely include goals for background checks and bump stocks, though whether age restrictions will be specifically addressed remains unclear, according to an administration official who sought anonymity to discuss private conversations.
Trump rejected the way Republican leaders in Congress have framed the debate, saying the House-backed bill linking a background check measure with a bill to expand gun rights by allowing gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines was not the right approach. The concealed carry measure is the gun lobby’s top legislative priority. But “you’ll never get it passed,” Trump told lawmakers, reminding them that Democratic senators, including some in the room, strongly oppose it.
Instead, he suggested Republicans should focus on the background check bill, then load it up with other gun control and safety measures.
Ever the marketer, Trump suggested that the leading bill adjusting the National Instant Criminal Background Check System — now known as “Fix NICS” — could use a new name. “Maybe you change the title, all right? The U.S. Background Check Bill, or whatever,” Trump said.
The hour-long meeting with lawmakers was reminiscent of one in January on immigration, when he told lawmakers to come up with a good bill and he would take the “heat” from critics.
That effort, however, ended in failure in Congress amid Trump’s shifting views and priorities in the debate.
Among those at the White House Wednesday were Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who are pushing their bill — which failed twice in the Senate after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting — to broaden background checks to include pre-purchase reviews at online and gun show sales.
Trump asked Toomey if his plan to expand background checks included raising the minimum age for young people to buy an assault weapon. Toomey told the president it did not.
“You know why,” Trump scoffed. “Because you’re afraid of the NRA.”
In fact, Toomey is one of the most high-profile Republicans on gun legislation, and the bill was opposed by the NRA. After earlier votes on the bill, the group downgraded its rating of the senator as he ran for re-election.
The meeting came after one major retailer, Dick’s Sporting Goods, announced it was halting sales of assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines at all of its stores and banning the sale of all guns to anyone under 21.
The discussion was billed as a session focused on “school and community safety,” and two of those attending, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., have proposed new federal grant funding to stem school violence. The bill would offer money for law enforcement and school staff training, campus infrastructure upgrades and mental health resources.