I started forgetting names a long time ago.  First it was people I had just met, but then it was old friends and family, so I just told them they knew who they were.  My aunt got so  tired of trying to fish out a name from her memory she would go through all the family names and then give up, because they obviously did know who they were.

Then common words started leaving.  I began pointing to what I wanted, and calling it “that thing”.  I began to realize that it was nouns that decided to disappear, so I decided to just use adjectives, because Stephen King said to stay away from adverbs.

It was a disturbing new phenomenon as I had always prided myself on my vocabulary and ready memory.  Numbers and dates remained in my mind to the extent that I would cheerfully interrupt to correct the speaker and in the process let them know how truly brilliant I was.  It was never appreciated.  I had trained to do this in school by nearly memorizing my homework and then frantically waving my hand in the air to be called upon first, so that I could get it over with and then relax during the rest of the class.  It worked too.

Aside from that, I’m a little fussy about the missuse of words, I have to admit.  For the most part, I just grit my teeth and smile because I was raised to be polite.  And I always pick out the only misspelled word in a sign, letter or book, and it does grate on my nerves.  I loved my English classes, and couldn’t wait for the spelling bees so that the girls could trounce the boys because as everyone knows, boys are much better at math than at spelling.

You can get around name introduction of strangers to one another by just bringing them together, smiling warmly and asking “Do you two know each other?  You really should.”  At that point, they smile back at you and at each other, and repeat their names.  Then you just leave them alone to sort it out.  If there’s enough time I go through the alphabet hoping I’ll land on the right letter which will miraculously trigger the correct name.

Numbers and dates are easy.  You just transfer them onto the next year’s calendar, and remember to look each day so as to remember the birthday, anniversary or what not you need to send a card to.

I have determined that our minds are like computers.  They get overcrowded with a lot of nonsense we don’t really need.  You have to tune them up and defragment them often to keep them running smoothly.

So if I run into you at the grocery store sometime and take on a blank look, just remember that I will probably remember your name sometime in the middle of the night, and will swear to remember it if I ever see you again.


Emmett Oliver & Granddaughters

                                                                                 THE RIGHTS OF PASSAGE

“As the spirits of the past and those of the present ascend from the sky, we join and become one.”

Spirit canoes in the clouds are of the past, present and those of the future.  As the Salish canoe drifts down through the mist, it represents the essence of our traditional canoe heritage.

The “new” canoe reminds us of our commitment to succeed in our Journeys.  Our determination to pursue new and creative ideas is founded in tradition.

To ensure that our canoes are and always will be the best we can offer.  Share your knowledge with others as they did in the past.
The Raven canoe above them represents our kinship with our neighbors from the north.

Canoe Journey has no boundaries.

The village flames near the beach reminds us that our traditional Native values are burning bright.  Keep stoking the fire and never let it burn out.  Share and pass on your traditions for future generations to enjoy.  The petroglyphs in the sky are symbolic of the Squaxin people.  It belongs to them for others to appreciate and admire.  It looks upon us as one.  We are of one family.  A canoe family.

Mt. Rainier behind our Salish “village of the past” represents our majestic world.  Take care of it.  The raven among the clouds is our messenger.  He carries our stories and our songs around the world for all to hear.

A Salish welcome figure near the beach invites his guests to their village with pride and open arms.  Respect your welcome.

Emmett’s canoe, the Willapa Spirit, views upon the 102 invited canoes with pride and respect.  Etched in the surrounding waters of the Northwest, his spirited vision, once only a delightful dream, is now fulfilled.

In honor of my father,

Marvin Oliver, August 2, 2012

MARVIN OLIVER is Professor of Art,University of Washington.  His sister, MARYLIN OLIVER BARD,and daughter and niece, pulled in the family canoe for this long Journey.


While patiently waiting to deliver some of my precious blood at the hospital lab, I noticed a youngish woman watching me for a sign of recognition.  She soon came and sat beside me and asked if I were me, to which I replied that I thought I was.  She had been a student of mine about twenty years ago, so we caught up on the intervening years.

I remembered her as an eager 19 year old who had great dreams of becoming a sculptor.  She had willingly taken on all the dirty jobs in the studio, and frequently stayed behind to work on her project.

She said she rememered my asking the class “How do you see yourself in twenty years?” and had thought without a doubt that her dreams would be a reality by then.  I remembered the question , and the various interesting answers it  produced, including my own answer.  For one thing, it gave an indication of just how serious the student might be.  Were they simply taking the art class for a credit, were they fortunate housewives taking an art course between their early morning tennis game and lunch, or was this the year there were some people who actually wanted this to be their life work?

Would they be willing to tackle the business side of art?  Did they expect to make a lot of money at this job?  Because art is a job just like anything else.  You may make nothing, and will obviously have to have another source of income.  At least enough to put food on the table.  The romantic fallacy is being able to live in solitary splendor just being creative.  You have to be a salesman and convince a gallery that they need what you have to offer.  You have to be willing to take on two or more jobs at the same time.

Seeing her there with two small boys sitting quietly beside her, I asked “So are you still doing your art?”  She shook her head and smiled at her two sons.  “No, I’ve not had the time yet.  Maybe someday.”

It definitely can be done and still have a family,  but it takes real dedication, and a sense of humor to make up for the time you absolutely do not have the time.  A wise woman told me after I said I couldn’t find the time for something: “You will never find time.  You have to take it.”

Seeing my cane and my sling, I was definitely not at my best that day, and she inevitably asked “What about you?”

Well,  I never became famous, I never made a ton of money, and sculpture destroyed my shoulder, jogging destroyed my leg, and I’m twenty years older.  But you know, it’s was a great trade-off.  I have a wonderful husband and family, I can no longer handle 50# of clay at a time, but I plan to finish all the half-finished canvases and begin new paintings, and I still have a sense of humor.