Reflections of the Past
“Reflections of the Past” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland Rasmussen

Our seven year old great-granddaughter’s birthday occasioned the gathering our clan in Southern California this weekend. She will be attending the same neighborhood school where both her parents and their best friends, plus a number of other family members and friends went not so long ago.

It was especially strange to me as being in a military family, I seemingly moved with the seasons. When we met, at the age of 16, my future husband asked how many schools I had attended. I was in my junior year of high school at the time, and answered “twelve so far.” After graduation I counted three more.


A group of our family stayed in my daughter’s lovely home for the weekend, and as we all called out our good nights, I was reminded of the old TV series “Little House on the Prairie”. Their closing scene each week was the sound of each family member saying “good night” as the lights went out in each room of the large house.

As I heard each of my family in turn say their “good nights”, I thought of how nice it is to be the progenitors of these delightful people.

Painting is of grandson Matt at age 13 hearing the girlhood stories of his great-grandma Leita.

THE NILE (in the footsteps of Charlie Chaplin)

The Nile_0004

“What is this place?” I enquired poking my head through the old screen door of a small shop on a side street in Niles, California early one morning. Though we had passed this shop numerous times, I had never given it much thought. My first thought was that it might have been a bar, or even a head shop! Either way I thought I had better check it out before going in at 8:30 in the morning. An intriguing trim on top of the doorway showed a small painting of sign language, and no name otherwise. Wooden men’s neckties gaily painted hung down on either side of the doorway. No indication of what was going on inside.

“It’s a coffee shop” called out the bearded and smiling young fellow behind the bar, “come on in!” Having watched my trepidation in peering through his doorway he looked near to laughing at me, and was plainly telling me that they wouldn’t bite me! The shop was filled with an assortment of happy people who smiled and joined in the invitation, and the entire establishment was reminiscent of the coffee shops of Berkeley in the ’70’s, which happened to have been my favorite decade. What a startling difference from the local Starbuck’s or Peet’s coffee shops. “We’ll be back tomorrow!” I told him, running back across the street to tell Dr. Advice where we could go for coffee the next morning.

And this began not only our favorite apre-walk destination for the next ten years, but the forging of many treasured friendships.


Charlie Chaplin came to Niles in 1914, and some of his finest films were made here in those early years. A film museum in town celebrates those exciting days when Bronco Billy and Charlie Chaplin ruled Niles. The early silent films draw many tourists and visitors to the little town along with the many antique shops along the Main Street. The railroad which runs alongside at the base of the rolling hills was transportation from San Francisco then as now. A small railroad runs between Niles and the tiny town of Sunol through the Niles Canyon. It was a ripe place for a Berkeley-style coffee shop when Dirk came to town. A Cal Berkeley graduate, he and Camille and their daughter Zoe, became well-loved householders. The California School for the Deaf and Blind had recently relocated from Berkeley to Fremont, which was a great school for Zoe, who is hearing impaired.

Just inside the front door, and covering an entire wall of the high-ceilinged 19th century building, is a brilliant painting with Egyptian ladies in their typical sideways pose. On an opposite wall, is another wall-sized painting of an Egyptian chariot race. These paintings, and everything else covering the mismatched walls and part of the ceiling, were painted by Camille, a talented artist. Her brush was an extension of her brain, and what appealed to her at any given moment, was translated into bright colors on the walls of this tiny place. The feeling imparted to the shop’s decor, and the happy sensory response of the customers, was altogether appealing.

Egyptian ladies



The Nile_0002

The clientele of this remarkable place has always been comprised of local residents and business people. Artists, musicians, techies, writers, shop owners, philosophers, teachers and lowly people like Dr. Advice and I who were made to feel welcome.

A young songwriter with great wit, and who has a song in the Baseball Hall of Fame, sat now and then playing a game of dominoes in the morning. There were No Computers in sight as there are today in some of the other large coffee shops.

Ideas flew around the room like Harry Potter’s broomstick, and made for lively conversation. Everyone knew one another, and each morning was a house party atmosphere. Almost everyone knew how to make the coffee, which was all that was served, and even I took an occasional turn at the espresso machine.

There was no food served, but occasionally someone would bring a platter of cookies or pastry to share. One of the young women who was a baker, and who has since opened her own pie company, brought pastry, which was so good people looked forward to it. It was some of the best pastry I ever tasted.

A few people who were regulars, even had their names painted on the backs of their favorite chair, and lots of friendly rivalry took place if anyone should mistakenly sit in the “wrong” chair.

There were occasional evening parties, when the shop was closed to the public, with music, singing, and always great party atmosphere. Some of the memorable jollifications were a crab feed, a chocolate cake competition, A French-themed party, karaoke, and general merriment.

If I have given this atmosphere the sense of excitement and general friendship and caring, I have succeeded. During the downturn of the tech business, in which some people were employed, and then not, everyone lent a supportive shoulder to cry on. On the morning of 9-11 tears and a quietness settled on the group. Someone had brought a small TV, and we sat spell bound not believing our eyes. Not a lot of coffee was consumed that morning in the silence. It was as if we shared the profound grief our entire country was feeling.


Our lovely Old English Sheepdog Panda, who sauntered along with us each morning with her slow observing pace, stopping to greet everyone whom her parents greeted, was known and loved by everyone. One morning I did not go on our walk and sometime after they left, I received a phone call from a boy asking if I had a big dog named Panda. Assuring him that I did, he told me he had found her walking alone on the trail while on his way to school.

Frantic, I asked if he knew where the Nile Coffee Shop was and if he could take her there and tell someone she was lost, I would be there as soon as I could. I had no idea if Dr. Advice had been abducted, fallen in the creek, or was otherwise in distress.

I ran into the coffee shop, and immediately 4-5 people jumped up and said they would help find her. Two were shop keepers, and I was so grateful to them for delaying their trip to open their own shop. As we got out to the street, there was Dr. Advice driving past unconcerned and with a large furry head sticking out the rear window, ears blowing, tongue out and a smile on her face

I should explain that my husband has who has “never met a stranger”, would talk to a tree if it would answer, and absolutely loves people and dogs. He had begun walking with a young woman friend and her Labs, and engrossed in the conversation, simply walked off the trail and into the park without sleepy old Panda. On his way home, he realized he was missing a passenger and went back to collect her from the boy who was bringing to the Nile.

Sam and Panda2

Generation Two of the Nile Café after Dirk sold it, will be another post, after Han came with her delicious cooking and her delightful family. The fun times still persist, with the addition of new interesting people who have joined the group.


Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is

“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It is?” original sculpture & installation by KSR

In case you haven’t noticed, the world is changing around us, and doing so as we speak. A new faster must-have gadget comes on the market hourly. I’m sick of having to learn something new every week or so.

We have a new 55 inch TV in the family room which replaced a perfectly good 50″ one. The small TV in the kitchen gave up the ghost, so we went to the store to replace it, but came home with two new TV’s. Dr. Advice is ecstatic. The big one does things we don’t even need. It has a button that says “Smart” with a picture of a little house. It connects with an HD receiver, and the DVI to the HDMI connection. It connects to your mobile phone. You can even have a Magic Remote control. I don’t know what that is. We have 4-5 remote controls we can never find when needed now. They control Blu-Ray, VHS, surround sound, receiver, and something else I can’t remember. And the ironic thing about it that we don’t really watch TV! We watch PBS and movies. We get all the important stuff from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and the lousy local rag. We suffer from information overload. I know this sounds dinosaurish, but one of the pluses of maturity is that your own collection of grey cells contains more than you will ever use in the way of information. The best thing about all of this is that none of it talks to you.


Everyone around me seems to have the latest edition of computer, Smartphones, or whatever, and many of them talk to you. I don’t want a machine telling me what to do. My dear son-in-law was my guru and go-to guy for whatever was new in the tech world. I didn’t need a talking cellphone or computer. My current cell phone calls in and calls out. That’s all I need it to do. Two of our grandchildren, aware of his store of knowledge had a secret saying whenever things could or might go wrong, “WWUDD?” Which meant: “What would uncle Dick do?”

He was in on the birth of modern technology forty plus years ago, and knew what made them all tick inside and out. Everyone over the age of 50 needs to keep friends at least 20 years younger. Better yet, if you get stuck, call a seven year old. Several nights ago a group of intelligent 40-60 year olds, had trouble removing something from the screen of an iPhone. Our seven year old great-granddaughter took it and after one touch of her finger, she calmly handed it back and said “There ya go.” As she turned away she muttered “I can’t believe you didn’t know how to do that!” One of life’s embarrassing moments.


Several years ago, grocery stores began offering the option of “Self-Serve” stations, so that you can slip your card in and check out your own groceries by clicking the appropriate space on the lighted screen. If you make a mistake, it throws a fit and tells you to call for help. Once that’s done, you place the already checked items on a lower platform and continue. If you place anything, even a paper bag on the platform too the machine yells loudly to get it OFF! When through checking, you click “Finish and Pay”. It refuses to move until you tell them if you brought your own bag. After you’re through it yells “Please remove your groceries!” in a frantic voice. Heck, I haven’t even had time to put my wallet back in my purse.

The annoying voice on my GPS when we take a direction she didn’t tell us to, disgustedly tells us that she is “Relocating!” Sometimes we change directions just to tick her off.

All of which says “please don’t tell me what to do”! I like to make my own mistakes and discoveries thank you. Better yet, try making things simpler like the old “on-off” button our radios used to have, and we won’t need an instruction manual for every new thing you invent each week.

PADDLE TO QUINAULT 2013 (Honoring Our Warriors)

“Emmett Oliver” watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Back in 1989, Emmett Oliver, a Quinault tribal elder from Washington State, organized the “Paddle to Seattle” as a part of Washington State Centennial celebration, revitalizing a tradition which was lost for many years, which is canoeing. We know this now as the Canoe Journey, and it has become a symbol of cultural revitalization on a national level; we can expect 90 U.S. tribes, Canadian First Nations, and New Zealand to join the celebration.

This is Emmett’s centennial year as he will turn 100 in December. His daughter, Marylin Bard, as she has done the past two Journeys, will be pulling in the Oliver canoe. Marylin is the Seattle delegate to sister city Perogia, Italy. His son, Marvin Oliver, professor of art at the University of Washington, is well-known for his monumental public art pieces and colorful North Coast prints. He recently installed a large whale’s tale in the city of Perugia. Much of his art can be seen in the beautiful parks in Seattle, and he is always a contributor to the artwork on the canoes of the Journey each year. This blog will be a reprint of a letter Marylin wrote me describing one day’s journey this year.

marvin Oiver
Marvin Oliver

The following is Marylin’s letter written at the end of a long hot day’s paddle:

Thursday, July 25, 8:52 AM

“I left last Friday from Golden Gardens, Seattle, to Suquamish, 10 miles. I decided when I saw all the pullers for the Oliver canoe to pull with the Duwamish canoe, the Raven. They only had 4 pullers and one skipper. I made up the 5th puller, all young guys around 16 to 24 years of age. All Duwamish. The skipper was around 40, from the Tulalip tribe, but his aunt is the chair of the Duwamish, Cecile Hansen, my cousin.

So off we went. Easy pull, got there, went to shore, took a bus back to Kingston, 15 minutes, and took a shower and Dave (her husband) drove us back for big salmon dinner and camping overnight since we had to leave between 5 and 6 a.m. for Port Gamble, which I thought was only 14 miles around Point No Point, but turned out to be more like 30 miles. Five pullers, including myself, one skipper, NO relief pullers, and our support boat was a sailboat to assist both canoes. The other canoe took off and we were left with no support, and radio did not work; but on we went; Determined Duwamish. Now seven of us, all guys except me, Elder Woman, but fit and more like 40 years! Took us six hours to get there, and it was HOT. We also took on the currents around the bluff and it was exciting.

Stopped at a beach to take a break and eat then off again. When we got there I rode home and washed my clothes, took shower then went back to site to camp. Tomorrow I will pay a young paddler $1 to blow up my air mattress! Next day we were off again for Port Townsend, when we had to pull through a channel of strong currents, but we pulled hard and made it through; and we were the last canoe to make it through the currents. Proud Determined Duwamish, we wanted to stop at a nice looking beach and take a lunch break but ran into a big sign NAVY PROPERTYNO LANDING OF BOATS> So we saw another nice looking beach a little ways further and landed there. There it was again: another sign NAVY PROPERTY<KEEP OFF. We pulled hard, so as not to be caught!

When we passed some fishermen with fishing poles we asked them if they had caught any fish, and I patted our ice chest “Right here,” And we did. LOL


As our adventure continued, we picked up more pullers for the Raven Canoe. Sometimes we stayed with the Oliver canoe, but they were faster since they had relief pullers, and our canoe was a dug out from 1989 Paddle to Seattle, and rocky, tippy, and with the sailboat always ahead of us.

After we went through some fog one morning, we made our way to Jamestown North. We were the first three canoes, one was Quinault. The next day we took off for Port Townsend, more fog in the morning. Canoes tried to stay together since we seemed to be lost. (Indians in canoes, lost! Not often.)

Then we found our way with the sailboat leading us, and made it to Port Townsend. That was when nine Canadian pullers went over and had to be taken back to John Wayne Marina (my story might be mixed right now as to places of landing), but it was when we left Jamestown to head to Port Angeles that we hit FOG, huge waves, rough water, and our sailboat could not locate us. Kept saying they were on their way. We only had a radio by that time.

The Oliver canoe asked to be towed, we also said we wanted a tow, but at this time, we were lost in fog, with currents, and waves getting bigger.

We thought we should turn left in the water to turn to shore, or what we thought was shore. Then we saw a canoe coming fast. It was a Quinault canoe, so we sang, we blew our whistles, we chanted and waved our paddles. They saw us and guided us out the other direction until we saw a huge support boat, towing the Oliver canoe. They weren’t sure who we were but we wanted on board. Luckily for me, I was spotted as Emmett Oliver’s daughter. “Come aboard!” One young puller sitting next to me was Cecile Hansen’s grandson, turned to me and said “I thought we would die!”

We were safe. The sailboat found us and towed the Raven and took some Duwamish pullers with Oliver relief pullers on board. We and the Oliver canoe were towed back to the John Wayne Marina back in Jamestown, Squim..

Another support boat was pulling in with 6 pullers who had gone over in the water by three big waves. Another support boat picked them up in two minutes. All safe and sound.

I am in Port Angeles at a friend’s house, after warm bath, clean dry clothes and even went for manicure, pedicure. But of course I dropped my cell phone in water. Both canoes will be trailered to next spot today. I am still here. Thinking about going back to Kingston or getting the next spot to come ashore with the Raven at the end of Journey.

Taking my Dad by car to the landing of all the canoes on August 1 at Taholah. Hope no other canoes will go over, but this is the ocean.

Owen, age 14, Marvin’s son, is on a canoe going down the Columbia River and into the ocean to Ocean Shores to arrive on August 31.

So the adventure continues.”

She also sent the news release regarding the nine Canadian paddlers who were washed overboard. Fortunately one had a cell phone which they used while in the water, and a helicopter was sent to the rescue.

When I think of paddling a canoe, I get the picture of a warm summer afternoon, gliding softly through calm beautiful water, and perhaps drifting into a grassy bank to lift out your picnic basket, filled with delectable goodies and a perfectly chilled bottle of bubbly. Much as I love the Journey, I don’t think I will be volunteering as a puller. I will stand on the shore cheering each colorful canoe with its exubarent and exhausted crew and know that they have braved FOG, huge waves, cold water, to continue Emmett Oliver’s dream.


emmett canoe journey

canoe dourney 1 Many artists have contributed artwork towards advertising the Journeys. This mural was painted by a young Fremont artist, Kevin Bouton.

canoe 6

canoe 7

canoe 2