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.

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.

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.

THE SOURCE Kate’s Journal


Episode 26 New Mexico 1966

How the Navajos Got The Blanket
<img src="https://pachofaunfinished.files.wordpress.com

It has been said that 'Spider Woman' taught the Navajo to weave their extraordinary blankets, but I believe that knowledge was pulled down eons ago from somewhere beyond the clouds.

High above the desert plain lies the village of Acoma, called Sky City.

We drove up the steep winding road where men with rifles slung across their arms stopped us and forced us to go back. The dance we had hoped to attend was open only to residents of Acoma, and we were strongly encourage to return another day.

488px-Acoma_Pueblo_Sky_City_2 Acoma, New Mexico “Sky City”

Georgia and Emmett had been teachers in Acoma after graduation from Baconne, and when we arrived, she was warmly greeted by former students who had grown up and become parents themselves in the ensuing years.

According to tribal tradition, Acoma has been occupied for 2,000 years, though by local maps it is only 800 years, much of that time only accessible by climbing up the mesa with foot power.. An arial view shows similarity to Masada in the Judean desert, where the Jews committed mass suicide rather than being captured by the Romans. People have always sought protection by building up into the hills. Today Acoma is an active thriving community, but in the ’60’s it was just beginning to get a modern identity.

Indian ruins “Mesa Verde” watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen Another stone village hidden in the rocky hills of northern New Mexico.

Isleta, a small farming village situated about five miles from Albuquerque, is Georgia’s home village, and would be one of our bases while staying with various relatives throughout the area. In spite of being an only child, we would discover many “cousins”.

We were invited to help make the bread early one morning. Dragging ourselves out of sleeping bags to the heat of a July morning, we found ourselves late to the job, as the bread was all ready to pop into the oven.

Reyes Abeita Isleta
Cousin Rejas was one of the the bread makers for the village, where her bread was famous. When the baking was done, the loaves were spread out on a blanket on the floor to cool.

The two room house house was made of adobe with a hard packed mud floor, solid as cement. A sofa divided the room which suddenly filled with a number of village women who came to sit and visit and stare at the newcomer. When they determined that I was OK, they dressed me in their native clothes and draped me with their turquoise jewelry. While admiring my “Pueblo” self, I fell backward onto the loaves of bread cooling on the floor. It was there I experienced the most profound spirit of graciousness when our hostess told me it was “OK, we have to break it up anyway.”

Kayti Isleta

Our next stop was Georgia’s cousin Diego and his wife where we would spend the night. They lived in quite a nice house, larger by far than the others. They had been featured in a Hollywood movie several years before and were considered a little famous. Diego was a poet and promised to read some of his poetry to us after dinner. His wife was busily whitewashing the walls of their living room, but paused to ask if I liked chili. Anticipating a pot of California chili beans I said of course, but when dinner arrived, it was a plate of stewed hot chilies! We cooled it off a little with cantaloup and Kool-aid, but I thought twice before I said I liked anything unrecognizable again.

Their daughter was a published writer as well, so Diego read from her book along with his own after dinner, while telling us stories from their days in Hollywood. He was not well-liked in the village as many people who rise above their “station” are not.

Diego’s wife told us to put our sleeping bags close to the wall under the open windows in the living room, as some of the men in the village had imbibed a bit too much alcohol and often shot off their guns and shouted bad things about Diego, who had long since fallen into an easy sleep.

She didn’t seem too worried, so we did as told and stretched out on our sleeping bags under the open window. Shortly thereafter, the boys, having worked up their jealousy over the unfairness of life, arrived in full force to taunt the sleeping Diego and use up a little ammunition. Scary? Yes indeed, though they didn’t come close to the house or the open window, but slowly drifted away to their own beds, and an undoubted hangover the next day.

My own thoughts spurred on by Diego’s poetry:

CANTALOUP AND KOOL-AID
by kayti rasmussen

Where is the door to the story?
Can we all walk through it?

A story lives on the lips of
Diego from Hollywood days.
Far from this dusty village
where nothing happens.

Cantaloup and Kool-Aid
and a bedroll on the floor.
In this stone village
where he tells his stories.

The soft nicker of
curious Indian ponies
offer a lullabye sleepsong.

Even the tree outside our windows
seemed to listen with ruffled
leaves tipping and cooling.

THE OLD ISLETA CHURCH Kate’s Journal


Episode 25 New Mexico, 1966

I Am Home (2) “I Am Home” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

The New Mexican July heat is invasive to the body but not to the adobe churches that hold onto the coolness of winter, releasing a gray coolness slowly throughout the summer. I have a feeling, walking into this one, that I am walking into palpable silence. A lid, or a large gentle hand, seems to descend on our voices. I never tire of going into these old Indian churches. Each one has its characteristic dust smell, the smell of time. I do not expect to emerge as a Catholic, or even as a believer, I am a pagan by birth. But surrounded by the simple whitewashed walls and dark beams, my imagination is awakened, and I am joined by countless generations of ancestors of my friend, Georgia Abeita.

I seem to hear the shuffling of moccasins filing in for the Mass, and to hear the voices of the children raised in song. There would always be more women and children than men, as in many other cultures. The little girls are dressed in their colorful best, with black shining hair, made clean for Sunday service by washing in rainwater and yucca. Little boys, bored like most other little boys, shuffle their feet and long to be outside as soon as the priest finishes his prayers. The absence of pews makes the hope of a short sermon a significant consideration.

church at Isleta

The people in Isleta are involved in a bitter religious struggle,. The priest who was here for 9 years was not a man who understood the Indians. He wanted to make them give up their Indian ways and just be Catholics. The people wanted to be both. He spent most of his time down-grading them, instead of teaching them, and even had a part of the plaza where the people danced covered in cement. This might not sound so bad, but these people believe they cannot dance on anything but the soil, or God won’t hear them. So this was really a serious matter with them, and did not endear the priest. Finally, after asking the archbishop for 8 years for a new priest with no success, Georgia’s cousin Andy Abeita, who is the governor this year, ordered the priest out of the village. Monseignor Stadtmueller, or “Father Fred” as they called him, refused to go, and instead of handling the situation more diplomatically, Andy handcuffed him and they led “Father Fred” out of the village.

Naturally, the priest had some followers, and this divided the village, and led to a great deal of bitterness. Even whole families were split by this action. The summer we were there, in 1966, an attorney had been called in, but the council members refused to listen or work with him. In the meantime, the priest had taken all the valuable Navajo rugs, the hand carved stations of the cross, paintings, etc. from Isleta to his new church which is a few miles away.

Amusingly enough, this was not the first time an Abeita governor had ousted a priest, as Georgia’s great-great grandfather threw the priest out of the village in his day as well. That time he was followed by several villagers, set upon and killed. They packed the body in a cottonwood coffin, and brought it back into town. He is buried someplace in the village, and due to a freak water table in the area, the coffin rises on occasion. (Or so it is said.)

INTO THE LAND OF THE SUN Kate’s Journal


Episode 24 New Mexico, 1966

247“People of the Sun” watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

The road leading east from Barstow is straight as a string, and the brilliant red sun resting on the highway as we drove straight into it on the second morning of our trip was eerily suggestive of an omen; but for good or bad?

I became aware of the effects of extreme heat when we passed the remains of several steers in quiet repose alongside the highway.

The Grand Canyon became our first campsite. Glorious in its immensity, I was overwhelmed to look down into the view which has inspired countless generations of man to wax poetic. Below us, the canyon surged with life; eagles fly and small drifts of morning fog moved. The air is fresh and clear and sharp as if we are looking down from a plane; a disembodied feeling. We gaze down with wonder on eagles flying through what seemed to be the depths of the canyon.

We stretched out in sleeping bags on the ground on a bed of pine needles, after a steak dinner cooked over a small campfire. For dessert we gathered a few pine nuts off the small trees surrounding our campsite.

My delightful traveling companion was Georgia Abeita Oliver, an Isleta Pueblo from New Mexico, and teacher of my children. Her husband, Emmett Oliver was a Quinault from the coast of Washington, also an educator. They had met at Baconne, an all-Indian college in New Mexico. While she had gone on to the University of New Mexico, he went to the University of Redlands in California.

I was put in charge of finances as Georgia was the driver, and we would share the cost of the gas. We had decided to keep our expenses to a minimum, and use all the money we could afford on books, pots, and artwork. Food would be a secondary expenditure. We would be staying with Georgia’s relatives all along the way, so our lodging expense would be minimal.

The next day we arrived in Laguna, where we would stay with Georgia’s two elderly aunts and their brother. He and one aunt had been teachers and the other aunt was a nurse. They lived not in the old village, but in an enormous house below the old village of Laguna. Their father, an engineer from England, and two other engineers who each married Indian women, had come to survey the land for the United States. The building, which was now in fine repair, had been a deserted mission, and was large enough for each man to live in his own space and raise families of 10-11 children, most of whom still lived in the area.

Before dinner we walked up the hill to the old village. The ancient stones which formed a stairway were worn with indentations from centuries of footprints. My imagination traveled back in time to the countless women who wearily climbed to the top to haul water, or to find potholes which held water where they washed their hair before rubbing with yucca to give a beautiful shine to their black locks.

Before we left, Georgia suggested that I bring only skirts rather than pants, as it made a better impression on people who might take a little while to know me. It would make climbing through ruins a bit more difficult, but more politically correct for people who maintained a suspicious attitude toward strangers.

IMG_0003Stone stairway to old village of Laguna

The old church was deserted as was the village. Everyone was inside their homes until after dinner. When we had finished our own dinner, we too went outside, and as I was accustomed to a great deal of conversation, feeling that if there was a lull in communication it meant that someone was either bored or upset, I was at first uncomfortable with the silence. We simply sat and enjoyed the evening silence. Astonishing! Now and then a small ripple of laughter came as someone shared the happenings of the day. An old bedraggled grey cat rubbed against my legs and seemed content to sit quietly at my feet. Above us the village was also quiet, without even the barking of the ubiquitous dogs.

Life takes on a slower pace here in the desert. The realization that we are only here for a short time and why rush it is prevalent.

The stars shine so brightly in the Southwestern sky, and it is understandable that ancient man was able to divine the paths of the constellations while studying the skies so intently,. We slowly drifted off to bed so that we might get an early start for exploring the old village.

church at Isleta

NEW BEGINNINGS Kate’s Journal


Episode 23 Fremont 1959

375px-Mission-Peak-2006
Mission Peak in Fremont, CA

Our best friends as well as Sam’s family had all moved into this new community which incorporated in 1956 by merging five old farm districts. Business was booming with new doctors, dentists, banks etc. opening regularly. There were probably 6,000 people here when we moved; there is now an ethnic diversity of 225,000 many of whom come from nearby Silicon Valley.

We moved into our new home in Fremont and began to figure out what to do with all the additional space both in and out. I had been taking classes in Japanese Flower Arrangement for awhile, and we decided to take it another step forward and put in a Japanese Tea Garden with ponds, waterfall, arched bridge and eventually a Tea House. Dr. A took pick and shovel in hand and dug till we had a pond big enough to swim in, which ended when we threw in all the koi fish. The whole thing turned out so well various groups around town began asking permission to come take a look.

J Garden 4 (1)

I met a Japanese/American lady who was to become a good friend who was brushing up on her Japanese, so I began learning the language as well. My Campfire group began studying ancient Japanese culture whether they liked it or not!

What do you do about a gorgeous new neighbor wearing short shorts and high heels, and who looks like a TV model? Why, you make a friend as quickly as possible. Joan did not come as advertised though; she was one of the nicest and funniest girls I had ever met and we became good friends.

We tried to figure out what we could do to earn more money for Christmas, and explored all kinds of things including running a Christmas tree lot or perhaps a nursery school. I came up with the idea of painting store windows with seasonal greetings. She immediately said “I can’t paint”. But of course I could, so with her pretty face and personality she got the business and I climbed the ladders, did the work and collected the money, which was not always the easiest thing. I became known as “the hatchetman”.

We took over most of the stores in town as well as branching out into Oakland and San Jose. I received some strange requests while painting in the cold December weather. One was a book deal which I took, and several were for decorating entire showrooms. We made a real business out of it and eventually spread out into dressing department store windows, which is what I had done during high school in Alameda at J.C. Penney.

Meanwhile, our youngest daughter had a delightful Native American teacher with whom we became very close friends. She was from the Pueblo village of Isleta in New Mexico, and her husband, a commander in the Coast Guard and also a teacher, was a Quinault from the State of Washington. I have written about their stories in the past.

We began vacationing in the Seattle area and at their home on the Hood Canal which they graciously allowed us to use as our own on occasion. We fell in love with the area and eventually moved there for a time. The fishing was good, and the diving in the Canal was lovely.

We fished and hiked all over the Northwest and Canada trying all the while without a lot of success to capture the sheer beauty of the country.

Sitting around mellow with a glass of wine one evening, my friend Georgia said she was going home to New Mexico when school was out and would I like to go along? Her plan was to come back just before school started in the fall. Dr. Advice while working to get the OSHA thing going, had spend some time in New Mexico, and he agreed that it would be a good thing for me to go.

So the day after school was out we took off in Georgia’s car bound for the desert. We would be living with her various family members and traveling between Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos. We opted to do this as cheaply as possible, with me keeping track of the money which we would only use to buy books and artwork. The car was packed with art supplies and sun lotion.

DON’T MESS WITH FAMILY CHRISTMAS TRADITION Kate’s Journal


Episode 22 Oakland 1950

If I can ever pass along any words of wisdom to you, they will be: don’t try to mess with your family’s Christmas traditions.

Our first Christmas in our new house if you will remember, was spent holding our new baby girl after drinking Moscow Mules while listening to “Sam’s Song on the record player.

The Rasmussen Family Christmas Breakfast at my mother-in-law’s house was compulsory, but I wanted to do it myself at our new house. Getting past that hurdle meant choosing an impressive menu with a few awe-inspiring decorations thrown in. There is nothing more determined than a young inexperienced married woman trying to register her footprint.

As I was growing up, on Christmas we were often in some other city or state, in temporary lodgings, or part of a larger group of personnel on a Navy base. At Grandma’s on Christmas, I was more interested in grabbing whatever present had my name on it lying under the tree than paying attention to what she had made for breakfast.

In spite of her feelings of disinterest in my dear little Grandpa Jim, he was always invited, though directed to sit at the far end of the table. I was always told that Santa brought the tree on Christmas Eve. My own opinion is that we probably couldn’t afford it before then. Nevertheless, it was beautiful as all Christmas trees of whatever shape are, even if you aren’t a believer in the reason for having one. (I have lots of Jewish friends who just like the looks of them. One family kept one in a playpen so they could whisk it out of the room when their mother-in-law dropped in.)

The tree, fully decorated, stood in our living room in Long Beach, behind the sliding doors of the dining room. We usually had one roomer, Harry Hance, so Grandma’s crowded left-over bedroom was off the living room. I was never allowed in it before Christmas because it was the place where all the Christmas decorations were being prepared. So on the great day, probably at the crack of dawn, the doors slid open, the radio played a Christmas song, and we all piled in destroy the carefully wrapped gifts.

Matt & Brady SolvangRasmussen’s in Solvang

In the Rasmussen family, the Danish tradition prevailed, and one present was allowed to be opened on Christmas Eve, depleting the disgustingly overwhelming pile of gifts not at all. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

On Christmas morning, breakfast reigned supreme, with the bestowal of gaily wrapped packages following. My mother-in-law was nothing if not energetic, and somehow the Rasmussen Christmas Breakfast was loaded onto the dining room table.

Platters appeared filled with halves of broiled, sectioned grapefruit topped with brown sugar and a cherry, other platters contained ham, bacon, and sausage; accompanied by another platter heaped with hash-browned potatoes. Silky scrambled eggs glowed brightly on another platter, while hot biscuits rested in a basket. A large pitcher held hot country milk gravy for the biscuits, though it was a shame to cover them up because my mother-in-law was a superior biscuit maker. All they needed was the home-made preserves and butter sitting amongst all those platters.

The amazing thing was that we could drag ourselves away from the table to attack the tree, but we did, only after the dishes were washed and put away for the big dinner to follow in the afternoon. Amazingly, these were all skinny people.

The year that I chose to make my mark, I had studied cookbooks, newspapers and magazines, and came up with what I thought would knock their socks off. I had made our own Christmas cards, the house was decorated and filled with good cheer, and I began bringing platters out to the table.
kayti cooking
Making Ableskiver

I don’t really remember what it was I made that year, perhaps something containing chicken livers or creamed something or other. I’m sure it looked beautiful, and I’m just as sure it tasted good, but the entire table, including my lovely husband, turned their collective noses skyward. It wasn’t the Rasmussen Christmas Breakfast.

I’m nothing if not willing to take advice, and I don’t need a Christmas tree to fall on my head. I got their message, and thereafter, a replica of the Rasmussen Christmas Breakfast appeared on my table.

dANISH cHRISTMAS TREE