A MURDER IN THE GARDEN


Last evening was one of those rare, soft, end-of-summer kind.  It was our 66th wedding anniversary, and we had had a lovely dinner at our current favorite restaurant, and come home to enjoy the rest of the evening while sitting in the garden amid the end-of-summer flowers.  Charlie, our Jack Russell Terrier joined us on our bench under the fig tree.

Suddenly the world exploded around us when a murder of crows took up residence in the large cedar tree.  The angry noise was frightening and they had no intention of stopping any time soon, so we went back in the house and gave the garden back to them.

We never take the time to just sit and watch the wildlife living with us.  Charlie discovers the squirrels, and an occasional lizard, and the small birds frequent the birdbath and waterfall, and a pesky Blue Jay chimes in now and then.  Occasionally an owl silently glides through the garden hunting for whatever he needs to feed his family.

Red-winged and Cooper hawks hope for a newly laid egg while sailing with the air currents around the yard.

In the mornings we occasionally see evidence of an enquiring raccoon or possum, or catch the faint scent of that malodorous black and white visitor we would rather not tangle with.

All in all, free entertainment if we take the time to watch for them.  And then, as darkness falls, the night-long symphony of frog-song.  Nature giving us it’s best neighborhood show.  It’s a wonderful life.

 

Garden at Dusk, watercolor  painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen                                                                                                   Spidery Plants at Dusk , watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

 

 

YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP



This past two weeks have been a real doozy.  We’ve heard the Republicans and the Democrats tell us loud and clear about what was wrong and what was right in the country, and what they should do about it.  Well, neither of you are my fairy godmother, so stop waving your wand in my face.

I hate to break it to you, but politics doesn’t have to be a blood sport.  They have all been dressed up and out on their best behavior, but don’t forget, they are all  still just politicians out to get your vote.

Money dominates politics so as a result, we have neither democratic nor republican politics. (Note the small “d” and small “r”.)

The speeches have been typically boring with a couple able to tear me away from my book, but to tell you the truth, I haven’t heard anything I don’t hear at each presidential election.  There have been a couple of warm and sensitive speeches from both sides of the aisle, plus a handful of barn burners, but it’s  still the same old message: they want your vote.

A lot of people believe this stuff, but remember,  a broken clock is right twice a day, and nobody’s wrong all the time

My husband and I have been married 66 years, and we politically sit on both side of the aisle, Republican and Democrat, and I won’t say which is which, but it is obviously working quite well.

What works in the real world is cooperation instead of conflict.  We haven’t seen a lot of that in the last four years.  Conflict doesn’t work in a marriage, and it doesn’t work in politics.

,

What

ANOTHER WHALE TALE


Another wonderful “urban legend” is flying around the internet, and this one is really a peach.  It shows what a great tool photoshop can be.

I even photoshopped a friend’s husband completely out of the picture as she knelt to speak in Polish with Pope John Paul II.  After all, she is Polish, and Catholic to boot.  She keeps it in her office to impress clients.

Then on our 50th wedding anniversary, when I saw that no picture had been taken of us together, I got rid of the two other people we were standing with and now for the family history book, we are together with a completely different background.

We have done a lot of fishing, boating and some kayaking, and have spent a lot of time as well in Alaska, so this photo was pretty exciting.

You will see that the whale is taking a whale-sized bite out of the kayak with the man in it.  The trouble is, it never happened.  It’s the work of photographer Tim Shobe, who photographed the whale and the kayaker separately, and then tried to feed the  humpback whale with the paddler.  Good job.  Wish I had thought of it, as we have fished many times in those same waters, and have seen  lots of those fabulous denizens of the deep.  I never tire of watching for them, and the thrill of seeing them breach always reminds me of how insignificant man really is.

Sam fishing in Sitka, watercolor KSR

 

CHILDREN OF THE DESERT


While attending a conference in New Mexico some years ago, my friend Georgia Abeita and I were pleased to be invited to a celebration where numerous young dancers performed in the costume of their various tribes.

There was lots of green chile stew and fry bread, and great platters of melon of all sorts.  There were dozens of displays of artwork for sale, including great pottery, basketry and blankets.  Far too much to take in in an afternoon although we gave it a good shot, and ended up happily leaving a little money by the end of the day.

But the excitement of the day for me came with the colorful dancers, with their feathers, beadwork and deerskin boots all moving in unison to the insistent beat of the drummers who sat alongside the circle of dancers.  Lots of tribal elders had their usual suspicious frowns, watching to make sure no one was photographing, which is always a bit nerve-racking, as you need to keep your cameras out of sight until the dance is over.

There were young men and women from all over the Southwest mingling and laughing together as young kids do until the serious business of dance began.  Then they arranged themselves naturally into the circle dance and gracefully flowed into the age-old steps with lovely looks of concentration on their beautiful faces.  The various tribes and villages were recognizable not only by their dress, but sometimes by their distinctive features.  Pueblo, Kiowa, Plains Indians of many tribes were represented, and the color was amazing as they passed by.

At the end of the dance, when talking to some of the dancers, I was given permission to photograph, and came away with these two young people which I painted when I returned to my studio.

The sweetness of the girl contrasted greatly with the wonderfully arrogant expression of the boy, who had not not yet  become confident in his young manhood.

O’Odham Tash  watercolor painting by Kayti Sweetland Rasmussen                                                                                         Black Eagle, Kiowa  watercolor by KSR

THE PURPLE HORSES


Sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen

You can find amazing and wonderful stuff when rummaging about in old files.  The story was written by my grandson, a wildlife biologist, when he was twelve years old.  I was struck by the compassion, imagination and sensitivity he showed even at that young age.  As I watch him with his small children and hear stories about his work today, I think the seeds of a good man were sprouted early in his life.

  THE PURPLE HORSES

Derick Mitchell had cerrebral palsy.  The other children cruelly made fun of Derick  because he was different from themselves.  He had no friends at all, but he always imagined that he had one special friend whose name was Wyatt.  He hoped that Wyatt would come true one day.

Derick and his parents decided to go on a trip to Yosemite.  His mom was very excited, as the family was very poor and money for trips was scarce.

As Derick began to pack his clothes, he happened upon a large cross and chain in his bottom drawer.  He had never seen it before, and wondered how it came to be in his drawer.  It was made of silver and was very bright and shiny, with a silver chain.  He picked it up and turned it over to see if there was an inscription on the other side.  There was no writing, but there seemed to be a tiny worn drawing.  He rubbed it on his shirt to clean the tarnish from it.  Yes, it was an engraving of a running horse.  How strange, he thought.

Suddenly,  Derick’s thoughts were interrupted by his mother’s voice calling him.  “Derick, let’s go!  What is keeping you so long?  We are all ready in the car.”

“”I’ll be right there, Mom” he called.  He put the cross around his neck and tucked it inside his shirt.  For the tme being, he would keep this his secret.

It took them about 7  hours to get to Yosemite.  Derick’s mother told him about all the beautiful mountains and streams he would see when they got there.  It made him happy to see her so excited.  Finally they arrived late in the afternoon, and it was as beautiful as he had imagined.  The air smelled fresh and new, and the streams were as clean as the air around them.

They set up their campsite and Derick began to unpck his clothes.  Some kids came up and began to call his a “retard” and some otheer bad names.  A tear trickled down his face.  “Oh look at the wimp” they laughed, and ran away.

Slowly Derick rolled off in his wheelchair.  It was not easy wheeling over the rough terrain, but concntrating on the difficulty he was having made him forget how cruel the children were.  He went along for a long time, breathing the fresh air and loving the beauty of the tall trees.  He heard the loud rushing sound before he actually saw the waterfall.  Amazed at how very beautiful it was, he stopped and stared at it.  It seemed to fall right from Heaven itself.  The basin it fell into was surrounded with large rocks, and the water boiled and churned among them before it went bubbling off down the stream to finally join the river which flowed through the valley.

As Derick gazed at the waterfall, he became aware of a movement behind it.  He moved a little closer, and suddenly two horses stepped out from behind the veil of water.  Derick could not believe his eyes.  The two horses were purple… a beautiful purple color.  He sat as still as a tombstone watching them toss their lovely manes in the rainbow of the waterfall.  Anything seemed possible in this mystical spot.

The horses looked at him and motioned for him to follow them.  He wheeled quickly over to the waterfall and went into it.  When he came out the other side there were hundreds of horses, all different colors, running and playing.  Then he saw a mother horse have a baby.   The baby tried  to stand but it was too weak.  Derick thought of himself as he watched the tiny thing struggle to stand on his weak legs.  He wheeled himself over to the little horse to try to help in some way.  Suddenly he thought of the cross around his neck.  He took it off and placed it around the young baby’s neck.  Without hesitation the colt stood, looked at Derick and began to prance.

Derick suddenly felt an unfamiliar surge to through his legs.  He could feel his feet!  He lifted first one leg and then the other.  He stood up and began to walk around his wheelchair.  “I can walk!” he shouted with joy.  The baby horse came up and nudged him  and then ran away.  Derick thought that must have been his way of saying thank you.

Leaving his wheelchair, Derick ran back to the campsite.  His Mom cried out and tears ran down her face.  “How did this happen?”  she asked as she hugged him close.  Derick looked at her and said “The Purple Horses.”

THE HAT THAT WENT EVERYWHERE


A Hat That Goes Everywhere/  watercolor/  KSR

She was my paternal grandmother’s much younger half-sister, and probably in her day, she would have been known as a “fine figure of a woman”.

She was large-boned, though not fat, with a full, well-shaped bosom, strong arms, and sturdy legs.  I remember her as a rather homely woman with large teeth who smiled a lot and was fun to be around.  On top of short, wispy grey hair she wore a hat that went everywhere, which was crocheted of an ecru string, and had a brim which was wired on the edge to make it stand out.  She looked terribly home-made and out-of-date, but I’m sure she felt she looked quite smart.

She belonged to many of the social clubs that country women often delight in and would plop her hat onto her head and head five miles into town for the day.  Since she owned a great deal of the town, she probably conducted business on a lot of those days.

She was a lover of animals, at that time especially a red Australian shepherd named Bounce, whom she insisted could talk.  I know we all say that about smart or clever dogs who live with us, but she actually believed Bounce could enunciate words.  He slept beside the old wood stove and groaned out his messages when she began a conversation.  Since she was also a devotee of Yahtzee, of which we played endless games, maybe the messages came through Bounce.  At any rate, Bounce was a jolly companion after her husband, Jean passed away.

Each year Bounce led the annual gladioli  parade through downtown Grants Pass, Oregon, carrying a basket of gladioli.  He was a town fixture, and everybody knew Bounce.

My grandmother and Aunt Hazel had the same mother though different fathers.  I always thought of her as being old, and was surprised to learn that she had gone to high school with my aunt Arlene, my father’s sister.

She had a brother, Uncle Charlie, who owned a pool hall in Grants Pass, where I remember going for an ice cream cone when I was visiting the Oregon relatives.   My mother said that Charlie’s daughter, Doris had been a prostitute, but to be fair, I don’t think that is entirely true, because no one really knew for sure.  My mother was prone to see a too-short skirt or bleached hair as being a sure indication of a loose woman.

Sadly, Uncle Charlie committed suicide by running a hose from his exhaust pipe into his car.  I never heard what happened to Doris.

Finally the old cabin Hazel and Jean had lived in was torn down and she built a new place of cement brick which was a bit larger than the first and even had a studio.  I think the only art work she ever did in it was some pressed flowers, but nevertheless, it had lots of windows looking out over beautiful fields toward the Rogue River, and she could have done more had she wanted to.

After Bounce died, Hazel began collecting cats.  I never knew how many there were at any one time, but my daughter says there must have been a hundred, which probably is a childhood overestimation.

I don’t think it would be a stretch of the imagination to say that Hazel was a true eccentric.  My cousin called her  a “nice ‘ol Auntie”, which is a lovely tribute, and I hope someone says that about me someday.