DOWN TO THE SEA IN SHIPS


Portugues Fisherman 2
“PORTUGUESE FISHERMAN” Antonio Rodrigues by KSR

What brings us our endless fascination with the sea? Perhaps it is that we can never be quite sure what lies underneath that watery surface. Men have plowed the seas for countless millennia in all kinds of weather and in all kinds of boats. Vikings sailed to England, France and Russia for plunder, liked what they found and stayed to build new societies. The Danes made themselves at home in England, The Norwegians in France and the Swedes took a swipe at Russia. Native peoples fished and fought in small boats, large sailing ships traversed the navigable globe exploring new lands, and now we have gigantic floating hotels cruising the seven seas, (and sometimes getting stuck on reefs or clogging their plumbing). Last year alone Carnival Cruise line made unwelcome news a number of times. Maybe these monster ships are just too big. Man can’t seem to quench his wanderlust thirst while floating atop the water, and I must admit to doing it a great number of times, but I didn’t need a GPS to find my way to the dining room.

I have a long term fellowship with the sea, covering several generations of family association, most recently with my father, and my husband. When I was encouraged to find employment upon my high school graduation, I found it at the Matson Line for a whopping $95 per month. My Great-uncle and cousin held positions of some importance there and in a sad display of nepotism I was hired as a mailgirl. I didn’t see much of the sea in that position, but there were other perks, among which were introductions to some cute pursers at the end of a cruise while collecting their mail.

Lurline
SS LURLINE

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Fishermen of the world face other dangers helping to feed our overpopulated planet. In the mostly bygone days of cod fishing the Portuguese doryman lived a lonely life in his tiny boat along the Grand Banks separated from his home 3,000 miles away for six months out of the year. He left the mothership in his little dory and fought currents, FOG, freezing cold and rough seas while setting his gear with rudimentary equipment. If he became lost and drifted away, he was mostly on his own, usually not speaking another language if he should be rescued by someone other than his own people. Though he had a compass, it would have been relatively useless that close to the North Pole. As the saying goes, “He was up a creek without a paddle”. The 1960’s saw the end of the great cod fishing era. Fortunately for we fish and chip lovers, there is still enough codfish for a few more years.

doryman
Small Dory

large fighing boat
Mothership

HOME IS THE SAILOR

Home is the sailor, home from sea;
Her far-borne canvas furled
The ship pours shining on the quay
The plunder of the world.

Home is the hunter from the hill.
Fast in the boundless snare
All flesh lies taken at his will
And every fowl of air.

‘Tis evening on the moorland free,
The starlit wave is still;
Home is the sailor from the sea,
The hunter from the hill.

A.E. Houseman

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CHECKS AND BALANCES


spikey plant

watercolor painting by KSR

Some years ago, when I was teaching at our local Community College, it occurred to me that everybody was younger and smarter than I was. They used cultural references I knew nothing about, they were up on all the newest movies, dance steps and music. (And they didn’t get out of breathe after climbing the hill to the art lab.) Suddenly my clothes began to look dated, and I started to wonder if I was going to be a frumpy old lady in a few years.

But we were into double-edged sword territory, so age wasn’t always a liability. When you’re older and don’t talk a lot, younger people often think you’re wise and they ask your advice about all kinds of things. I do adore handing out advice to people who might actually heed it. Besides it was my class, my rules. It’s amazing what you learn about the younger generation by just listening. I have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but when it’s not personal, the floodgates open, and no subject is out of bounds. It has been a grand education, and when you don’t know what you’re talking about, just keep your mouth shut. Make allowances for each others differences.

I remember the young man who showed up for my sculpture class in a wheelchair. He was a Vietnam veteran who had had his legs blown off by a landmine. The other young men were discussing their heights one day when he remarked in a soft shy voice, “I used to be six feet.”

Then there was the woman with a crazy, lopsided blond wig, which was always askew. She wasn’t a talker, but one day she told of having had cancer as a child and hearing a nurse ignore her by telling another nurse that “she’s going to die anyway.” Now her cancer was back and she was handling it in a crazy wig and good humor.

My friend Lory O. once wrote: “With age comes wisdom, and also forgetfulness of all those wise thoughts.” It’s one of the immutable laws of the Universe that we will all be a bit forgetful at some future time of our lives. I tend to blur out the major cataclysmic occurrences of the world. There are far too many to remember clearly.

I remember the quieter, smaller happenings in our own lives and in the lives of those around us that are personally momentous, while the rest of the world lurches on, oblivious. You become a personal historian. You can’t forget everything and everyone you’ve ever know, and the list gets longer with each year.

NOTABLE AND QUOTABLE


From Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s speech to the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem, Jan. 20:

stephen harper

Israel is the only country in the Middle East which has long anchored itself in the ideals of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
And these are not mere notions.
They are the things that over time and against all odds, have proven to be over and over again the only ground in which human rights, political stability, and economic prosperity, may flourish.
These values are not proprietary,
They do not belong to one people or one nation.
Nor are they a finite resource.
On the contrary, the wider they are spread, the stronger they grow.
Likewise, when they are threatened anywhere, they are threatened everywhere.
And who threatens them, or more precisely, what today threatens the societies that embrace such values and the progress they nurture?
Those who often begin by hating the Jews.
But, history shows us, end up hating anyone who is not like them.
Those forces, which have threatened the State of Israel every single day of its existence, and which, as 9-11 graphically showed us today, threatens all of us.
And so, we either stand up for our values and our interests here in Israel, stand up for the existence of a free, democratic and distinctively Jewish state, or the retreat of our values and our interests in the world will begin.

FOLLOW THE PATH UP THE HILL


Just put one foot in front of the other till you get there. Those were not the words my father said to me, but that was their general meaning as I was to set off for a new school in Port Orchard, WA. Having recently moved from city living to this small waterfront town, everything was new to me, and I knew no one. The small white wooden schoolhouse I would be attending was at the top of a hill, and the well-worn path leading to it led past few houses, meandering through mostly vacant pastureland with an occasional horse in residence. In Long Beach I had walked the few blocks to school on city sidewalks accompanied by a number of other eager first and second graders, and the closest I had come to a horse was the pony ride at the Pike. This would be my first long walk, and my mother and I had checked time and distance out beforehand to make sure I was not late on my first day. We were summoned by the ringing of an old school bell, which resounded throughout the area, and was loud enough so that no one could use the excuse that they hadn’t heard it.

We passed a gypsy encampment on the way, which was a great fascination to me. There were colorfully decorated caravans and raggedy children who apparently did not have to go to school and were able to run around their campground all day without too much adult supervision. I never found too much about them because the word from parents was that the gypsies stole little children. It was the gypsy form of the “Boogie-man” to keep you on the path to school. The Lindberg kidnapping had taken place in 1932, three years before, and my mother had instilled a great sense of fear of strangers in me, so I always sprinted past the gypsies. When the first snow fell, I was disappointed to find that the gypsy camp had mysteriously disappeared during the night. To my knowledge, they did not kidnap any children from our school.

Another cautionary tale for children was to stay away from a grassy hillside which fairly beckoned you to slide on it. Part of the hill had given way a year or so before and a small boy had been buried alive. This story frightened me far more than the possibility of being kidnapped by the gypsies.

gypsy 2

I spent the second grade at the little schoolhouse on the hill, where I distinguished myself once as the curator of the end-or-the-semester art show, guiding parents around the wall of watercolor paintings. I credit the teacher at that little school for introducing us all to the thrill of watching color flow unfalteringly into our puddles of water. What glorious possibilities opened before us!

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I came away with many memories, some quite good, and others reflecting the angst of a seven year old during the year we lived in Port Orchard. I once fell out of the Admiral’s cherry tree while picking cherries, while my mother was enjoying tea with the Admiral’s wife. A rusty nail found it’s way into my knee as I landed on the ground, but the stolen cherries were delicious. One memory which stays with me is of a warm August morning walking on the pier and watching the seagulls with my mother. Suddenly the news came that the beloved Will Rogers had been killed in a plane crash in Alaska.

port orchard

Will Rogers was one of the world’s best known celebrities in the 1930’s, beloved of everyone for his folksy, homespun manner, as well as his penchant for poking fun at gangsters, politicians, and celebrities who grew too big for their britches. His humorous aphorisms had a national audience and were widely quoted. “I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat.” Another famous comment was “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” Known as “Oklahoma’s Favorite Son”, Rogers was born to a prominent Cherokee Nation family in Indian Territory; now part of Oklahoma.

<220px-Will_Rogers_1922

Rogers became an advocate for the aviation industry after noticing advancements in Europe and befriending Charles Lindberg, the most famous aviator of the era. In 1935 he and Wiley Post, an aviator interested in surveying a mail and passenger air route from the West Coast to Russia, took off in a modified aircraft from Fairbanks, Alaska for Point Barrow. Rogers hoped to collect new material for his newspaper column.

Rogers even provided an epigram on his most famous epigram: When I die, my epitaph, or whatever you call those signs on gravestones, is going to read:
“I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I didn’t like.” I am so proud of that, I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.

THE HABIT OF CONNECTIVITY


Harlequin

“Harlequin” by KSR

We have all been told repeatedly that the key to a good relationship is to understand clearly just what the other person wants. That sounds pretty easy, except that the other person frequently doesn’t know what the heck he really wants. This makes it difficult because all his wants then begin to contradict or compete with each other. This difficulty does not lessen the importance of understanding those wants. Husbands and wives have spent lifetimes trying to figure out just what makes the other one tick. Jane Austen said that “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”

No one likes to think they’re average, least of all below average. When asked by psychologists, most people rate themselves above average on all manner of measures including intelligence, looks, health, and so on. Self-control is no different; people consistently overestimate their ability to control themselves. This over-confidence can lead one to assume that they’ll be able to control themselves in situation in which it turns out, they can’t.

All of us have a finite amount of self-control we can exert each day. Self-control is difficult and energy depleting, and each time we exercise self-control during the course of a day, we have less remaining for later in that day–making us more susceptible to those habits we are trying to change. People naturally vary in the amount of self-control they have, so some will find it more difficult than others to break a habit.

brownies

Some studies have shown that it takes only 21 days to form a habit. I think it depends on the habit. So-called “good” habits probably take longer to form than do the “bad” ones. It would be interesting to know who came up with the 21 day number. Probably the same one who gave us the “5-second “rule for grabbing stuff off the floor after dropping it. Habit can be equated with New Year resolutions. How long has it taken most of us to break a few hastily made new habits this year? It’s better not to make any, thereby relieving yourself of a certain guilt trip.

We only have the capacity to focus on a limited number of things at a given moment, and sometimes when we concentrate on one thing, we are often completely blind to other things–even if it’s a woman dressed in a gorilla suit right in front of us. We need to form the habit of connectivity. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing. We want to be loved and be happy.

ALAS! WE ARE NOT ALIKE


Tootling Through the Poppies
“Tootling Through The Poppies” KSR

In my last post I wrote about the virtues of an orderly life. I neglected to point out that it is not possible unless one is the sole resident of his/her teepee. As long as there are two minds at work in the same household, there will be two ways to achieve a sense of order.

I become obsessed with the necessity of correct time. Dr. Advice and I began collecting antique clocks many years ago. Offhand I don’t know how many we gathered into the fold from various places. My favorite, which I would defend with my honor, is a wonderfully heavy, ornate Ansonia mantel clock which once belonged to the parents of my great-uncle Phil. It is probably not of great value except to me, as the most important things in our lives are important. From my infancy, and through my high school years, I lived often with Auntie and Uncle Phil, and in a state of perpetual homesick insomnia, I counted the chimes of this old clock. It became a symbol of never-changing stability. Life would go on as long as the venerable timepiece let us know what time it was. It has lived proudly on the mantel in my living room since I inherited it. How clever of someone to sense my attachment. Though others are more beautiful, valuable or unique, the old Ansonia are the chimes I listen for in the night.

I set all the clocks by what the computer assures us is the correct time and adjust them each to the minute. It is a veritable symphony in the middle of the night listening to the time being pealed out. If one is off by a minute or two, I scramble around in the morning trying to find which one has forsaken me. I am joyous beyond belief when they all announce the hour at the same time. Fortunately this is my only ridiculous mania, and I am fairly normal in all other respects.

I think most people go through stages of being Mr/Mrs Clean. After the preliminary Spring clean-up, we relax, watch a few ball games, read the seed catalogues in hope of planting a few bulbs and flowers, and suddenly, when we need to entertain a few friends, we find the house is a mess again. I have always felt that if a spoon, vase or pen were placed in a certain spot, that is where it should be replaced after use. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

During and after my most recent period of being unwell, Dr. Advice became housekeeper, cook and care-giver. I have to say that between one and ten, and beginning on the low end, he has gone way up the scale. However, now that I have reintroduced myself to my kitchen, I spend a good deal of time looking for things which have been moved to unlikely spots. What is logical for him today, may be another place tomorrow. But what joy to suddenly come upon something which has gone missing for a month or two! It does bring excitement into a mundane but necessary part of the house.

I went out to Dr. Advice’s workshop and saw that all his garden tools were lined up like soldiers on the wall and his workbench was perfectly clear. It was a very pleasant surprise. Before the family came for Christmas dinner, I was prompted to clear out my painting studio. It is in a room where I also do my ironing. Oh I know what you are thinking—who does ironing any more? Well another obsession of mine is cloth napkins, and cloth napkins need starch and ironing. Sadly, the ironing basket is full right now.

As I looked around, I also saw several paintings half-finished, a great jumble of paint brushes, Christmas wrapping paper and ribbons to be disposed of, boxes of various painting media. I forgive myself for the delay in completing these things because it is cold in that room this year, and I DO know where everything is in case I need it. I keep an old sweater of my father’s draped on my chair, but somehow isn’t enough this winter. All good excuses for when Dr. Advice decides he is more organized than I. We are not alike, but neither are apples and oranges, and they are both delicious.

A DAILY ROUTINE


Noah's Ark

“NOAH AND HIS ARK” Terra Cotta sculpture by kayti sweetland Rasmussen

Order is good–most of the time it helps us find our shoes easily among an array of other pairs. (Think of the early morning confusion with Noah and the boys trying to get dressed while the Ark is tossing about in a discontented sea.)

But if we stick too much to the same order and pattern we lose. We lose the opportunity to discover new paths and new ways of doing things. Sometimes the break in order is not of our own choice and at times it’s forced as when you lose a job. Often it’s a blessing in disguise. It’s an opportunity to explore and discover what remained hidden in the old path.

That said, I am a firm believer that a daily routine should be a preferred way to go. Children benefit, husbands benefit, and even dogs benefit from a comfortable expected way of life. It’s the sudden glitches, potholes and difference of opinion which give onto a less satisfactory lifestyle. However, some people such as Dr. Advice, thrive on these glitches, and as the old saying goes he “makes lemonade out of lemons”. As I have perhaps mentioned before, he is a communicator. (Ronald Reagan was a no-show in comparison! ) The good doctor calmly faces the antagonist, and chats for an hour or two and problem solved. Charlie on the other hand, is still a work in progress.

charlie relaxing

As Jack Russell Terriers go, Charlie is fairly typical. Noah would not have welcomed one onto his boat, since they are great disruptors, and Noah’s planned sense of order would have suffered. JRT’s are like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. Charlie’s brother Bodee, who is 6 months older (don’t ask) is his counterpart, although Charlie at seven years is showing signs of sensible old age. On the other hand, he has his own sense of order. He expects a walk at 3:30 p.m. and dinner upon his return, he not only expects, but demands a blanket over him at night, not that it is so cold, but it has become routine.

But if we, like Charlie stick to the same old routine day after day, are we missing out on something new and exciting? It may be like eating the same old oatmeal day after day. Perhaps we need to throw on a little more brown sugar and blueberries, or possibly even change the menu. Who knows where it will lead. Just put your shoes in the same place every night.