ON THE ROAD AGAIN Kate’s Journal


Episode 31 Kirkland, Washington 1969

We loaded our small menagerie into our cars and set our compass for Seattle. I took Rudy, the cat who was certain he was a dog, and Dr. Advice was accompanied by Mrs. Emma Peel and Tuffy who were fairly certain of their heritage and always ready for a ride. Perhaps not such a long ride as this.

We arrived in Kirkland with address and key in hand, but the grass had grown so tall in six months of vacancy, we didn’t recognize it. The moving van arrived soon after and the long job of settling in began.

Our old farmhouse sat beside a tree-shaded lane which continued past the home of Mr. Ramin, an old Swedish man who had built our home as well as numerous others in the area. Mr. Ramin became a good friend as he watched us add onto the small house and improve the large property. He became used to seeing me in wellies and muddy work clothes and now and then came and offered me a short respite with a glass of homemade rhubarb wine.

kirkland 7

One of the first jobs to be done was a new roof, so we found a roofer; an old man who said he would help us, but he could not do it alone. The first morning he arrived on the job at 7 a.m., Dr. Advice nudged me out of bed and told me my “helper” had arrived. Since he would be traveling for a week or so, I dutifully climbed on the roof and began my training.

We invited a few people from the office for a dinner party, and I suffered a sudden fright when I realized I had to do it alone without the help of my two girls, and worse than that, we needed more room. We had given our large dining room furniture to friends, as well as our grand piano to another to keep for us. Our dining table here was an antique square oak table I had used in our former kitchen. It seated four. That first party was more of a picnic on laps. Our next project was adding onto the family room.

One of the hardest part of moving into a new area is the immediate lack of a telephone (no cell phones) and a laundry, which happened ath the time you most needed them. Living in the suburbs we were accustomed to calling for handymen helpers who answered the call sooner if not immediately. Not so in the country. You had to find one first, and then wait until he had gone fishing or felt like coming. I began to think of our situation as similar to “The Egg and I”.

There had not been much of a kitchen, and we had brought with us all new equipment, stove, refrigerator, and dishwasher, We designed the perfect kitchen for a farmhouse, complete with a huge window looking out over what would be a park-like area. Facing West, I enjoyed sunsets at night and watched local squirrels and woodpeckers making themselves at home. While exploring the area, I found a mill where I could buy flour for bread. It was the perfect place to “go country”, and I resumed my baking.

While half of the property was in trees and lawn, an equal unused area was overgrown with more trees and undergrowth. We found someone with large equipment who began “the big dig”. While working inside the house he knocked on the door to inform me than his equipment had sunk. It seemed we had a small creek running under the property. I went to the local J.C. Penney store and bought my first pair of Wellies to help me plow my way through the muck.

Coming into the house late one afternoon a week after we arrived, I found Mrs. Emma Peel giving birth to several puppies. Since she had not consulted me about her affair, I had no idea who the absent father might be. I later discovered that a neighbor poodle had wormed his way through our fence in Fremont and she had been carrying her little secrets all the way up here. After six or seven weeks I put a sign on the road advertising four adorable dachapoos. When no one stopped, I stood outside the local market offering them free to good homes. After a good talking to, we rushed Mrs. Peel, who now had a somewhat tarnished reputation, to the nearby vet, who took care of her situation.

Since it never rained in June in California, we were not prepared for June 16, a day after we moved in, for rainfall. At the beach beside the Lake Washington which was a long block away, people were dressed in their shorts as if the sun were shining. We soon found that people did not use umbrellas, and if a picnic were planned and it rained on that day, you carried on. Parks and picnic areas mostly had covered areas for picnics.

We were trying to get the inside of the house fixed up at the same time as the huge job outside, but our daughter arrived at the end of summer ready for school to begin at the University. She was nervous, having come from a small school where she had been a big fish, to one where she knew no one. One summer evening she and I went for a drive to watch the sunset and she thanked us for bringing her to such a beautiful place. She has never lost her enchantment with the Northwest, where she remained and raised her two children.

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MANY WINTERS


Navajo Grandmother “Navajo Grandmother” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

These words written by Nancy Woods in her book “MANY WINTERS”.

“You know how it is. People come here and they want to know our secret of life. They ask many questions but their minds are already made up. They admire our children but thy feel sorry for them. They look around and they do not see anything except dust. They come to our dances but they are always wanting to take pictures.

They come into our homes expecting to learn about us in five minutes.

Our homes, which are made of mud and straw, look strange to them. They are glad they do not live here.

Yet they are not sure whether or not we know something which is the key to all understanding.

Our secret of life would take them forever to find out. Even then, they would not believe it.”

The words came from an old Indian at Taos Pueblo who sat on the roof of his house one afternoon, his back to the sun. He sat wrapped in his cotton blanket, his long hair in to braids. His face was wrinkled and the color of the earth from which his adobe house was made.

LIFE CHANGES Kate’s Journal


Episode 30 1969–1974

Moving can enable the powers of uncertainty. The act of transporting oneself from one place to another is exciting because you don’t know what awaits on the other side. It’s like going through a door, or climbing a stairway you hadn’t noticed before.

stairase“Ascent” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Once we had decided to make the move to Seattle, the job of making it happen began. We were both active in the community, my display business had to be disposed of and I needed to quit my teaching job. And we needed to find a place to live. My partner Joan, wanted no part of JoKay Display, so we simply went out of business, the City shed no tears at my departure which left a quick visit to the Northwest to househunt.

Dr. Advice was in the best shape. The Company was moving us, he would take over the Seattle office plus have as his territory all of Alaska, and all of the northern states. Fish and the Great Outdoors were calling and he was ecstatic. Though he had traveled to the Pacific, to China and to the Philippines during the War, he had gone to very few other places, and I think he rather imagined himself as a self-sufficient Mountain Man.

Though moving from Oakland to Fremont had been tinged with regret, the death of the son of our close friends by suicide and the poison pen letters I had received plus the presence of a perverted flasher made it easier.

Our oldest daughter was living in the Sorority house at San Jose and engaged to be married, our youngest would join us at the end of summer before the start of the Fall session.

We had lost Hilda, the dachshund with abnormally long legs, at a ripe old age, and Mrs. Emma Peel came to live with us. Mrs. Peel was a sweet cuddly brown dachshund who spent a lot of time being groomed by Rudy, an independent grey and white cat who had arrived in my Christmas stocking. The small tan chihuahua with the unlikely name of Tuffy, made up the menagerie we would be transporting with us.

In clearing out one bedroom, I discovered all sorts of junk still under the bed of Janet, the friend who had lived with us during her last year of high school, when her parents moved to Jacksonville, Oregon. Janet had come equipped with a large Mercedes Benz and a flute, and a penchant for living in her coat. Now in my later years, I can see with more compassion how lonely she must have been. Janet stuffed all sorts of stuff under her bed including candy with wrappers, Coke cans, etc. I had respected her privacy and had never looked. As for the coat, I can understand that it was for protection from outside interference rather than from the cold. Much like me having changed my name at each school I went to. Taking yourself away from an unwanted situation.

In January, 1969, knowing absolutely nothing about the area, we drove to Seattle looking for a place to live. For those who are unfamiliar with the area it can be confusing, because there are so many wonderful choices other than the city itself and they are all beautiful and green. We eliminated Seattle as a possibility and decided a semi-rural location would be best. Someone from the Company kindly drove us around for a look-see. He lived on Mercer Island, which as it turned out, would have been perfect, but for some reason, he never showed it to us. Our youngest daughter after her marriage lived and raised her family there.

We drove through Kirkland, which is a small and delightful town on Lake Washington. I could see lots of small shops, a couple of galleries and restaurants though not as many as now that the town has become yuppie/gourmet. It is just across the bridge from Seattle giving us the feeling of the Bay Area only smaller.

Driving down the road we spotted a FOR SALE sign by a small red and white farmhouse with a white fence around it. It was located on a small lane and had trees–lots of them. It seemed perfect and they were willing to wait until June till we could move in. In fact, the realtors were glad it would be awhile because they were busy harvesting the raspberries and other fruit coming into season! As we flew home I felt that we too, were coming into a new season.

LIVIN’ THE GOOD LIFE Kate’s Journal


Episode 29 Fremont 1966-1969

The years after my Southwest odyssey were ripe with possibility. I had come away with a deep feeling of humility and admiration for these people who had so little and yet were so generous and had the gift of laughter and ingenuousness.

The window dressing business, was still going well, spreading our good will and fancy frippery from San Jose to Oakland, our daughters became young ladies and began their University lives, we continued our outdoor life camping, hiking, fishing in the Northwest and Canada, went often to the family cabin at the Russian River,and generally enjoyed life.

Russian River

As fascinated as I had become with seemingly endless native subject matter for my painting, the opportunity to paint closer to home arose.

Child

IMG_20160218_0001
Other People’s Children

The City Recreation Department, using a charming old building across the street from Mission San Jose, had a sculpture class, and I decided to take a class. The instructor left and I was asked to teach the class as well as begin a pottery class, and they would even pay me! I couldn’t believe it. I was so rusty at throwing pots, I went to a neighboring town’s recreation department to brush up. We had no pottery wheel, so we bought a hand-made wooden kick-wheel through the newspaper, which turned out to be so uncomfortable, prospective students were dropping out. After a few money-raising events, we bought the real McCoy and things picked up. City coffers are notoriously empty when you need them.

We had a few memorable parties in our Japanese garden, even digging a pit to roast a pig for one party. The pig was still squealing at midnight, so we ate chicken and shrimp. The infamous zucchini parties came in the summer.

Just before high school graduation, our youngest daughter and a large number of her girlfriends had a photo-op on our red arched Japanese bridge, which suffered loudly from the added weight. Unfortunately, no photo remains.

J Garden 4 (1)

We all seem to have a favorite car in our past, and mine was a yellow Karmann Ghia dubbed “Herman”. It was truly mine, but with two daughters, one at San Jose State U., one still in high school, I waited for my turn. Herman lived with us for 15 years or so, and when he had reached his doddering years, a young grandson sobbed that he had hoped to drive it when he went to college.

420px-MarignyMay07KarmannGhiaFrontSide

We found ourselves traveling to the Northwest, often as guests of Georgia and Emmett Oliver at their lovely home on the Hood Canal. Dr. Advice was an ardent fisherman, and Georgia and I had formed a strong bond during our summer in the Southwest. Emmett was introducing me more and more to Northcoast art and the country itself was beautiful. Our youngest daughter had been accepted at the University of Washington, and we began thinking seriously of moving to the Seattle area. Karma was right and it seemed to be the right thing to do.

INDIAN CAPITALISM


Old Plains Indian
“Plains Indian Chief” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

It is hard to imagine the Plains Indian of the 1800’s as a pedestrian hunter, but until the arrival of the horse in the early 1500’s, they were a nomadic society following the “grocery store”. As the herds of buffalo meandered, so too did the tribe.

By 1865 the Sioux nation was a century into an economic and social revolution, triggered by the arrival of the horse. They were feeling pressure from the neighboring Objiwa, who in turn felt pressure from their own eastern neighbors and from whites. They traveled on foot and hunted on foot, devising elaborate strategies for killing the largest animal species they encountered, the bison, or buffalo. A favorite strategy entailed setting fire to the grassland behind the herd and then channeling the resulting stampede toward a cliff. most of the herd would stop short, but a few beasts would fall or be pushed over the cliff by those behind.

Sioux Chiefs Sioux Chiefs

The Sioux encountered the horse about the time they reached the plains. The horse increased their nomadic range, but not until the mid eighteenth century did they truly become an equestrian people.

The Sioux had to learn how to train them, breed them, and care for them which all took time. But the long lag also gave them an understanding that, in adopting horses they were giving up other things.

The Cheyennes told a story about their own adoption of horses from the Comanches. According to this story, the Cheyennes god spoke to them through the oldest priest of the tribe:

“If you have horses, everything will be changed for you forever. You will have to move around a lot to find pasture for your horses. You will have to give up gardening and live by hunting and gathering, like the Comanches. And you will have to come out of your earth houses and live in tents. You will have to have fights with other tribes, who will want your pasture land or the places where you hunt. You will have to have real soldiers, who can protect the people. Think, before you decide.”

Almost certainly the Cheyenne story showed the wisdom of hindsight, which may or may not have helped the Sioux appreciate what they were getting into. At that point the Sioux might have reconsidered and become full nomads following the buffalo herds for most of the year, but the lure of private ownership and a competitive system brought them new opportunities. With change comes new opportunity; still a hallmark of our society.

ARRIVAL AT TAOS Kate’s Journal


Episode 28 Taos

Taos “Taos In Winter” watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Taos stands resplendent in the late afternoon sun, magnificent against the backdrop of the Sandia Mountains. Taos is the jewel in the crown of the nineteen New Mexican Pueblos, unchanged throughout the centuries, despite the influx of visitors who come to marvel at the three story architecture still inhabited by this proud people. The tourist town of Taos and the Pueblo village of Taos are separate places, and no where is this more apparent than in the peace and quiet of a sleepy summer afternoon, with a few wispy white clouds drifting around the mountain, and the buildings painted hues of pink or yellow with deep purple shadows, all accomplished with a solar paintbrush. It is the most highly photographed of all the villages, and the camera fee has increased throughout the years. In the l960’s it was $5, but a number of years ago when we were there, it had grown to $15. There are restricted places where visitors may not enter or photograph, because of course this is home to many people. Of course, common courtesy demands that permission must be obtained before photographing the people, and a fee tendered, whatever the going rate.

It is estimated that the pueblo was built between 1000 and 1450 AD and is considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States. There are over 1900 people in the community with some of the people having modern homes near their fields and stay in the pueblo in the cooler weather. There are about 150 people who live year around in the pueblo.

Many families still conduct their businesses in their residence in the pueblo. We first met Georgia’s friend Tony Reyna, in his jewelry shop on the road into the pueblo. Tony , who is now 100 years old, still sells the very best Indian jewelry from the finest artisans in the area. Tony’s son now runs the shop.

Tony Reyna Tony Reyna
kiva san ildefonsoKiva San Ildefonso

kiva interiorKiva Ruin showing sipapu in floor

The kiva is a place for religious ritual, and solemn ceremonies. Though there were no “Keep Out” signs posted, the sight of the ladder emerging from underground sent the mysterious message that this was a holy place. I felt it to be spiritual yet crackling with life from the ages. Ancient kivas had a sipapu, or small hole in the floor, symbolizing the portal through which man arrived.

Taos Man 2 Taos Man

Photo Taos 1966 Taos 1966

Taos Cemetery Old Taos cemetery at sunset

Bert Geer Phillips and Ernest L. Blumenschein came to Taos, New Mexico as part of a tour of the western United States in 1898, but upon seeing Taos, decided to stay. Within a few years other American and European artists joined them and they formed the Taos Society of Artists which heralded the beginning of the Taos art colony, who collected around the visually spectacular Taos Pueblo. The founding members fostered the emergence of a major school of American painting.

Many artists were drawn to Taos due to the presence of Mabel Dodge Luhan, a wealthy heiress from Buffalo, New York who had run a prominent art salon in Florence, Italy, and Manhattan, New York, before settling in Taos in 1917. After both divorced their spouses, she married a Pueblo native, Antonio Lujan, and built a house. She spelled her married name ‘Luhan” as it was easier for her friends to pronounce.

Luhan carried on the tradition of the European salon. For decades she invited artists, writers, and other luminaries to be inspired by Taos and each other. Among them were Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alfred Stieglitz, author D.H. Lawrence and his wife.

As the summer drew to a close, we spent a lot of time in Santa Fe, which was not completely taken over by the tourists yet, and was beginning to develop a thriving gallery business on Canyon Road. I entertained highly unrealistic dreams of living there, being quite sure that Dr. Advice would thoroughly enjoy running a gallery while I spent my time painting and sculpting off in the hills somewhere.

In the week before we departed for home, there were many bread bakings at Isleta, stewed chile feasts and much laughter. On one such evening, more women seemed to be dressed in traditional clothing, and there was lots of giggling and whispers as if a secret were there trying to escape. I became aware that I was the object of their mirth when Georgia announced that she was giving me a new name. After much thought and many discussions with the other women, she had decided that my new name should be “Pacho Fa” which means Three Feathers, signifying family, friends and Art. It was a special moment for me climaxing a long visit in which we began as strangers wary of one another, and ended with a community which had embraced and honored me as a friend.

THE ROAD NORTH Kate’s Journal


Episode 27 New Mexico

Georgia’s mother had taught in several of the villages on the way north, and our first stop was at San Ildefonso, home of friends of Georgia.

San Ildefonso is another sleepy village with large cottonwood trees sheltering the homes. It is the home of Maria Montoya Martinez, one of the most famous of the Pueblo potters.

I was fortunate to own a small pot by Maria which had been given to me by my aunt. Maria and her husband Julian had been a feature in the World’s Fair in San Francisco in 1939 as potters demonstrating the art of Indian pottery making, and they were quite famous among their peers.

Today there are 14 families and extended families active in making pottery. Many of the younger potters are using their own designs, but much pottery is still the old black on black type. Traditionally the pottery was unglazed and fired in dirt kilns using dung as fuel. It gained its black color from the firing process.

black pot2

We pulled up in front of one house and suggested I stay in the car while she approached the house but did not go to the door. Presently a man came to the door and looked suspiciously at her as she asked for someone by name. He hesitantly said “That’s me.” Then she introduced herself and he smiled broadly while he recognized her. She asked after her friend Desideria, and he said “I married her!” With that over, he stared at me sitting in the car, so Georgia introduced us and then I got out of the car. He invited us in and his wife came out of the kitchen. They said the priest was coming for lunch so we were invited as well. Desideria, who was Maria’s sister and also a noted potter, said that Maria was coming to lunch too. It was rather like imagining you were about to meet Merle Streep for me to meet her. Her husband Julian and son, Popovi Da are both active potters as well. At some point during the lunch, Georgia told them I was also a potter, and nods and smiles were exchanged. Maria was as gracious as I had imagined her.

During the summer, my Laguna-Isleta friend and I visited many of the villages, sometimes to renew longtime friendships of Georgia’s, and sometimes to attend a seasonal celebratory dance. All villages do not welcome outside guests, and those which do, expect that strict rules of decorum be observed. This includes no cameras, which would be confiscated, no unnecessary talking during the performance, and to my great shame, no quick drawings of the dancers. I was unaware of doing anything wrong, until I heard Georgia’s whisper not to look up. Keeping my head down I saw two moccasined feet directly in front of me, and heard Georgia say that I was writing a letter home. I guiltily looked up into an old and angry hawk-nosed face, deeply tanned and wrinkled, with not an ounce of compassion or forgiveness. I smiled weakly and quickly looked back at the dancers. After an abnormal length of time, the old man moved on to try and find any other miscreants. I realized that the best sketchbook is frequently in your head, and a lot safer too.

The various villages, all slightly different, on our way north to Taos, gave an opportunity for sketching, until we found the day drifting away and knew we needed to find a place to spend the night. It was Saturday evening and in Georgia’s words: “Not a good time to be on the road with a lot of drunken Indians!” We found a cheap motel offering a dance next door, so we chose it as our place of residence for the night.

The owner said there were no more vacancies, but he had a trailer in the back which we could rent for a small sum. The trailer consisted of two sleeping areas with a small kitchen in between. The man explained how to lock the door, and I had my small gun, so we felt safe enough, but after watching the dancing next door, we forgot how to lock the door. We spread newspapers on the floor in case anyone entered we could hear them and I could threaten them, but awoke next morning to bright sunshine unscathed.

Kiowa Kiowa dancer watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

O' Odham Tash O’Odom Tash dancer waterfolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Gratefully saying goodbye to our “trailer home”, we continued north to Taos, whose stories had long fascinated me.