HOME


Rasmussen farm Old Rasmussen Farm, Dublin, CA.

We spend a large part of our lives trying to find our way home. The trouble is we don’t have the aptitude for it that cats do.

Taken in that context, what is Home?

It is not just a shelter with roof and four walls. It’s the place we feel most authentically ourselves. It provokes a yearning when we have lost it, or when we brush up against an old memory. I asked Dr. Advice to recall the feeling he had when he thought of his grandparents old farm in Dublin; not the house specifically, but the memory of family when he was there. It places “Home” in the realm of feelings.

I developed no strong memories from our travels during my early childhood, but the final years of high school while living in the house my great-grandfather had built in Alameda, CA, gave my first sense of continuity, of being a part of something larger than my immediate family.

In my first summer living with the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico, I began to feel a part of the Pueblo life as I roamed unchallenged through the villages with my friend and guide Georgia Abeita, making pottery and painting. The example of their quiet acceptance that life would continue as it had for timeless eons was contagious. That feeling never varied through the 40 years that Dr. Advice and I visited New Mexico and Arizona each year. I breathe the clear early morning air and feel that I may be close to home.

134 “Near Taos” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

099 “Pueblo Woman with Pot” Stoneware by kayti sweetland rasmussen

We each create our own version of Home. A favorite niece, mother of four, anticipating the future arrival of many grandchildren, insisted upon a very large kitchen sink, suitable for bathing babies. Having come from a large happy family, the concept of home included lots of babies, who would all grow to think of her house as Home.

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My excitement was strong upon arriving in Seattle in the 70″s and we took up country living for the first time. The old house and the barn we built with our own hands tied me to the property like nothing before had done. In the five years we lived there I grew to know and love the area like the back of my hand, but when the moving van had removed furniture from our old farmhouse near the Lake, a friend remarked that it had only taken a few hours to make a home a house.

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Though my father had loved the sea, he was eager to return to the place he had been born, and which he had left at the age of 18. So after nearly 30 years at sea he built a house in the countryside in Grants Pass, intent upon returning to the land. He bought a cow, a horse, some rabbits and some geese. A few years later the house burned to the ground, and I sensed that he had a certain feeling of relief. He was now free again to travel with my mother without the obligations that a brick and mortar house brought. The ownership of “house” did not give him the feeling of “home” that he had missed.

A few years later my mother missed having roots and the balance it had given to her life for a few short years, and went shopping alone one day and bought a house on the coast in Brookings, OR. I’m happy to say that my father adjusted to the idea that this tiny woman finally said “Like it or not, I’m through being a wanderer.”

Though a particular house or building is not the kind of Home I speak of, in many cases it may surely be a part of the feeling of home. Many years after I had married I felt the insult strongly when I returned to Auntie’s house and found it changed beyond my recognition. How dare the Intruders who stepped in and bartered my childhood memories?

We deposit much of our energy and love into making a home. Children come and go, friends enter and exit, beloved pets become part of the equation. The celebration of holidays, and of important life occasions, add patina. Happiness and some sadness both burnish and tarnish, forming the Whole of Life.

For the past 40 years we have lived in our present home. When we first arrived in our town of Centerville 60 years ago, it had a population of 6,000, now there are 225,000 people living here and it has become the city of Fremont, CA. We have become a part of the community and our roots have taken hold much as the trees and plants which make up our garden. This is Home.

Home truly is where the heart is. Where we achieve our balance.

WHAT WILL YOU DO WHEN IT’S GONE?


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“Talking it Over” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland Rasmussen

Short term memory is the bunk. People stop in the middle of a sentence with a bewildered look on their face while they mumble something which fades away into the ether. What happened to conversation. No one thinks they are as good as they used to be, and their memory extends only as far as the next sentence. It’s a vicious circle, involving the loss of eyeglasses, car keys and whatever else they last had their hands on.

Of course I am discussing everyone else but me. I always know precisely why I went into the bathroom to find the strawberry jam.

THE PLUM BEAR OF RANCHO SAN JULIAN


THE ROAD HOME
rancho san julian

On the rancho, grizzly bears were considered the outlaws of the animal world. They lived in the nearby foothills, too close for anyone’s comfort, especially since it was easy for them to pay a call at the back door or saunter down the main street of the then pueblo, looking for snacks. When they were hungry, almost nothing stopped them from plundering. Grizzlies were frightening and scary, but no one had been eye to eye with one until the Plum Bear came along.

A plum tree right next to the kitchen adobe was so heavy with fruit its boughs were hanging near the ground, where the bear could have picked all the plums he wanted. But no, our bear climbed the tree, not an easy task for a bear. The Plum Bear decided that he wanted the plums on the end of the bough on top of the roof. Anyone who knew anything about fruit knew that the ripest ones were at the top. Our bear was a fruit expert, and his only choice was to climb the tree and climb onto the roof of the adobe so he could get the best plum. The roof of the old adobe was not made to support bears.

sN JULIAN

HOUSE TODAY

Some women were busy cooking when the bear fell through the roof. His descent into the adobe must have surprised him as much as it surprised the women making tortillas. They ran screaming out of the little house, leaving it to the perplexed bear.

Horses were always kept ready, with riatas coiled at the saddle bow. Upon hearing the screams of the women, several men jumped on their waiting steeds and surrounded the Plum Bear, who had made his way out of the house. He was swiftly lassoed and tied up to a nearby sycamore tree, the best kind of tree for securing bears.

Whenever I heard this story as a child, I felt immensely sorry for the bear who had only wanted to get the perfect plum at the top of the tree. I wondered then, and still do today, if he ever got the plum.

sanjulian

CATTLE GRAZING IN PEACE

Today, instead of Grizzlies, the rancho is home to wild boar, wild turkeys, and white tailed deer. My grandson, a wildlife biologist, takes care of the wild boars, and takes paying customers to cull the deer population when necessary.

OCTOPI


octopus3I have long been an admirer of the octopus. As a small child in Long Beach, playing daily in the breakwater, my mother warned me against the unassuming creatures, telling me to stay away from the rocks where they lived. She had taken me to a terrifying movie where the antagonist was a giant octopus who took over a lighthouse, and I envisioned giant octopi waiting patiently to grab little children who didn’t mind their mothers. I think she was more afraid of them than I.

The cephalopods are very old and have slipped through many shapes through their history. They are the wisest of the mollusks, and I have always felt it to be just as well that they never came ashore. Just think of the havoc they would cause running around in downtown New York with all eight arms signaling for a taxi.

It is true that the animals are rather odd looking, but then many of us wouldn’t win a beauty contest either. It gives one a feeling of confidence to see that Nature is still busy with experiments and is not satisfied because a Devonian fish managed to end as a two-legged character with a straw hat.

octopus2

Ringo Starr of Beatle fame, wrote a charming little song called “The Octopus Garden”. The truth is that the octopus slides along the bottom collecting pebbles with which it builds underwater gardens. Perhaps this is an ancient memory guiding us to tend our human gardens.

Other than that, what has the octopus actually done to better the world? Its body looks like a bag and its feet are on its head, and it has no bones. On the other hand, it has three hearts which could prove advantageous to those of us whose single heart proves unreliable. It also has excellent eyesight and a well-developed brain both of which could have been an improvement in the human species.

It pays to know that Nature is not finished and that there is still hope for the human race.

GRANDMA’S STORY-TELLING BED


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To say my grandmother often changed her place of residence would be an understatement, but wherever she moved, there were a few belongings which went with her. Among them were the treasured connections to her New England birthplace. A large old dresser made by her great-grandfather in mid-nineteenth century, the large old Kendall family bible, her mother’s childhood autograph book and diary, and not the least, her large old bed. Fortunately for her descendants, Grandma was a saver. She took great pride in assuring us of our proper place in civilized society. Of course like many others in the Great Depression, we had no money, but you can bet your boots
grandma made sure we had class!

The old bed and dresser, like many of the other pieces of memorabilia, now live my house, having dutifully passed through a generation. Grandchildren and now great-grandchildren have been lulled to sleep while snuggled deep in old quilts made by loving hands of long-dead grandmothers. It has been a favorite beacon for story-telling time, stories ranging from fairy princesses to Ranger Dan and the Cowboys, and it was a great place from which to listen for the sound of Santa’s sleigh bells. The edges of the day called out to small children that if they were very quiet, a story might be waiting in Grandma’s bed.

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I am the Grandma now, and have been for many years. Now Great Grandchildren climb upon the old bed, but times have changed. TV is nearly old-hat, and iPad is close behind. What will be the next digital story-teller to amuse these modern children? On Thanksgiving Day a seven year old Great Granddaughter was seen on the old bed watching the movie “Jaws”. I have never thought of that killer shark being a symbol of the harvest festival, and yet?

As this Christmas approaches, I hope someone will still be held in rapt admiration of the great Santa myth, told with such practiced panache by this Grandma, or will there be something new to entertain?

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Times have indeed changed. I even find that I have somehow shrunk during this past year. Children and grandchildren have always been taller than I, but this year while reaching for the wine glasses for Thanksgiving dinner, I found I could not reach the glasses on the second shelf. It truly is not fair, and I hope an absence of height will not be the legacy I leave. Grandma left her bed, so she will be remembered for that. My mother wanted people to remember her as being fun. But I guess we aren’t in charge of others memories.

The radio has been churning out Christmas music since the day before Thanksgiving, and we will remember Bing Crosby singing about a White Christmas he probably never saw, but the saddest legacy in the music department has to be for poor Gene Autry, who rode herd on countless villains on his trusty white steed, but ultimately will be remembered for writing and singing “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”.

GREEN ELEPHANTS IN ALASKA


green elephant

We came into possession of this antique green ceramic elephant about fifty years ago when I discovered it hidden and covered with the dust of ages in the recesses of an unlikely antique shop here in our town. I wet my finger and drew a line down its back to better see the glaze, and realized it was a treasure indeed, so I bargained with the proprietor, and claimed it as my own.

Shortly thereafter we moved from California to Seattle, Washington, and settled in a picturesque old red and white farmhouse in the little town of Kirkland by Lake Washington. The old green elephant made himself at home on a bookshelf in the living room beside other old decorative items, and we thought no more about it while we remodeled and added onto the old house.

The house had seemed so charming to us when we first saw it in January, but by June, when we finally made our move, we drove right past it. In the preceding six months and the nearly constant nourishing winter rains, the weeds and grass had grown tall, and the wild blackberries so large and tangled it was nearly unrecognizable. A white rail fence surrounded it and continued down the lane which went along one side of the property. The weight of a fallen branch had obliterated a couple of rails, and remained in the weeds beside it.

The upside of it was that the fruit trees and berry bushes were loaded with cherries, pears and raspberries, there were horses in the field behind which we could enjoy watching but did not have to feed, and best of all—there were no neighbors! At least we thought the lack of neighbors a good thing, until we found there was no one with the necessary information about people to help with the work, or even how to find a public telephone to call someone until we had our own phone hooked up. This was long before someone thought of inventing cell phones!

With very little room for guests, we took on the job of building a barn for entertainment and my studio. It had a game table, TV, comfortable chairs and beside the necessary furnace, an antique Civil War pot-bellied stove for heat AND ambiance. It had a sleeping loft above which would hold eight brave people agile enough to climb the ladder to access it.

We knew how important this additional building was as I had learned my lesson early when I invited a number of people from my husband’s office for dinner and suddenly realized I had no place to seat them! I had left my large dining room furniture with a friend until my daughter was married and ready to take it. Instead, I had brought my kitchen table, a venerable square and heavy oak piece which had seen many years of hard usage, but which at most might seat six individuals if they were of normal size. Through the graciousness of our guests, we survived the evening, but realized we needed more room, sooner rather than later.

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Among the first guests who came, were three gentlemen from Juneau, Alaska, with whom my husband did business, one of whom took an interest in the old green elephant on the bookshelf beside the fireplace, and asked where I had got it. I related what I had learned of its history which was that it had been purchased in China many years before by the niece of an elderly woman friend of mine in our small town in California. The woman, Laura Thane Whipple, had moved with her husband to Alaska in the early part of the century, to join her brother, Bart Thane in the mining business. Mrs. Whipple’s unmarried niece went with the family, and they settled near Juneau, in an area subsequently named “Thane” for their family, and where she started a school, which taught elementary grades. The young teacher had told stories to her class of her time in China, and shared her mementoes, among which was the elephant. Surprisingly our guests had all been students in her class! Also surprisingly, two of them remembered seeing the green elephant.

They told us that the settlement of “Thane” had actually become Juneau, which was now the capitol of Alaska! So our old green elephant has the distinction of being one of the first residents of Juneau, Alaska!

PETE’S PLACE


Victorian house Our older cousin Peter Vic was a native San Franciscan and proud of it. There is a difference you know, in having been born there and just having moved in. Native San Franciscans remind you of the importance of that fact now and then. He was well-over six feet tall, with reddish hair and a huge grin which was often on his face. He loved people no matter where they came from, and like a good Dane, he was always ready for a good time. Though not a social activist, he had great concern for the disadvantaged.

He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley as a lawyer, though he never practiced, but instead started a small trucking company in San Francisco. His father, big Chris Svane, who had been a palace guard for King Frederick in Denmark, had been a partner in the early Rasmussen Brothers and Svane Trucking company, along with my father-in-law and his brothers, until he too began his own company. I think trucking must run in the Danish blood, I know my husband is very proud of his roots in the business.

Peter Vic knew all the interesting spots in the City, and seemingly all the interesting people, from the Palace Hotel to the docks, and everybody knew Pete. He occasionally treated us to an evening out on the town, which was pretty heady stuff for a newly married couple not too long out of their teens. He took us to Finnochio’s and Mona’s gay night clubs once, and we ate at the Gay Nineties a few times, which was a very old restaurant below street level, and where if you were brave enough, you could enter by sliding down a metal slide to emerge into the dining area! It was difficult to maintain your dignity while trying to maintain a certain degree of modesty. I celebrated my 36th birthday at a surprise party there, wearing a pair of Chanel shoes which had purchased for my own birthday present that day for $36.00, which believe it or not was pretty expensive at that time!

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He was married seven times, but had only six wives, having tried it twice with one of the wives. The last wife was the only one with whom he had children. Wife number three was Genevieve, an actual countess, and the only one we saw occasionally. One of his wive’s had been married to the man who owned the famous racehorse Seabiscuit. After the seventh divorce, Pete made the naive admission that it might have been his fault that none of his marriages had worked out. It’s too bad too, because some of the women had been quite interesting.

There used to be a restaurant and bar called Pete’s Place, (no relation to Peter Vic,) which was tucked away somewhere in the City. We went there often. It was probably a speak-easy during Prohibition times. I remember it had high-backed private wood booths where you could snuggle in and have a small rendezvous if you had a mind to. On one evening Peter Vic, my husband and I were having a drink in the cozy little booth when in popped a very angry Genevieve wearing a gorgeous full length mink coat. Pete was a little embarrassed since he had forgotten to go home after work nor had he called her. His embarrassment accelerated, as did ours, when to all our surprise, as well as the other diners in the place, Genevieve threw open her coat to reveal that she was wearing nothing else but her birthday suit! After her performance, she turned and stormed out. It obviously supplied the entertainment for the evening, and a subdued Peter Vic.

On another occasion, long after they were divorced, and after Genevieve had married the man who had been the editor of the Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper during the War, she invited us to dinner at her apartment in the City. There were a number of very sophisticated guests, among whom was Richard Gump, of the venerable San Francisco Gump’s store. I remember that he was very kind to me, and took me around the apartment showing me the impressive art collection. He showed me one small oil of a South Sea scene complete with palm trees, and in my desire to appear more knowledgeable than I was, I said I thought it wasn’t very good, at which he laughed loudly and said he had painted it! Another of Life’s embarrassing moments.

Pete was a member of some of the old clubs in San Francisco, and one day shortly after we were married, he had taken my husband to the Bohemian club promising to pick me up for dinner later. I was to wait on some street corner and they would drive by and get me. The appointed time came and went, so to waste time,I went into the newspaper stand nearby and picked up a cooking magazine. My family were all plain cooks, and I was just beginning to learn to cook. I found a recipe for “Rabbit Ragout”, which sounded pretty exotic to me at the age of 20, but I thought I would give it a try. When the men finally arrived, I said I had found this great sounding recipe for “Rabbit Rag Out”, and Pete gently corrected me as to the proper pronunciation. I said I would try to make it and invited him to our little apartment the following week. I slaved all afternoon after work making the ragout, but true to form, Pete never showed up. It was the first and last time I made Rabbit Ragout.

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Pete lived in a wonderful old Victorian home on Cook St. with a large carriage house in the back, where he would hold family holiday parties with a large tree at Christmas, and roast goose on the spit. A real old fashioned Danish Christmas celebration. The front door of the house was never locked, and there were always a number of cousins who for one reason or another, needed a place to stay and where they were always welcome, as was anyone Pete thought needed a place to sleep.

We were living in Washington when he passed away and his daughter called us asking where we thought he might like to be buried. My husband told her that he thought Pete would really like to be beneath his favorite lemon tree under his dining room window. Peter Vic was one of a kind.

GENERATIONS


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.

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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.

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

LISTEN TO THE DAY


starsStarting from nothing to where we are, Is farther that the farthest star. And farther than the farthest star is where we are going from where we are.” Eyvind Earle

Today my mind is a fallow field. Outside, the world is sun-drenched and burning. Sunday morning is slow, easy and drifting. My book was open, but I did not read. I knew there were things which needed to be done, but my mind was stuck in auto-reverse.

I must have closed my eyes because behind my eyelids I began planning our Sunday supper. I know that sounds silly in the greater scheme of things, but we do need to eat.

Dr. Advice loves an applesauce pie that his mother used to make, so when I can move from my chair I’ll make it! Isn’t it wonderful that we always remember something our mothers used to make from our childhood? Years ago I overheard several friends of my daughter discussing favorites from their childhood for which their mothers were justly famous. My daughter liked my tuna salad sandwiches. I have always tried unsuccessfully to imitate my mother’s potato salad, however my father produced a suitable one after she died.

I am cheating today with the applesauce pie, as I bought a ready-made graham cracker crust. That shows how lazy someone can get. In it I will put applesauce up to the top, and cover the whole thing with whipped cream. How simple can you get? Dr. Advice could even make it himself if he could rouse the energy today. Chilled for a few hours, it cuts and holds together nicely.

As for the rest of the meal, I’m making a Southern corn pudding with the fresh white corn from the Farmer’s Market this morning. I remember many years ago, in Grants Pass, Oregon where my parents lived, going to a farm to pick corn. My mother thought corn should go from the stalk to the pot of boiling water immediately. Well, it didn’t get in that fast, but we came home with a ton of corn to husk, and then popped it in the pot while the butter was softening and we got out bibs for everyone. Then as my father used to say “The heck with the rest of the dinner, let’s just eat the corn.” And we did.

Why are we always in such a rush, what could be more important than just lingering?

SOUTHERN CORN PUDDING

3 eggs beaten well
1 c. milk
1 c. cream
3-4 Tbs. flour
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. melted butter
3 ears fresh corn cut from cobs. Grind half in processor.
dash of pepper

Add all ingredients to beaten eggs. Mix well. Pour into well buttered casserole and bake at 350 degrees until firm, approximately 40-45 min.

AN UNCOMMON MAN


What kind of friend wakes you up with a knock on the bedroom window at 4:30 in the morning telling you to “Get up! You’re going to miss the morning!” It had better be a good friend!

Tak Fudenna was a farmer, and as farmers get up early, he went several times a week to the home of his good friend Dr. Advice to share what he loved; the fresh morning air, the solitude of early morning, the beauty of a healthy field of cauliflower waiting to be harvested.

It became the habit of the two men to go to the “Alvarado Hilton” for a quick breakfast at Mary’s before “checking” the fields, and before the workday began for both. I don’t remember what the actual name of the “Hilton” was, but it was in the small town of Alvarado, and had once years ago been a small bank.

Like thousands of small farming communities throughout the country, Alvarado was a suburb of a larger nearby town which kept growing. While the rest of the town of Alvarado slumbered away for lack of business, the “Hilton” watched its few small businesses fold and buildings stand empty.

At some point in time the bank became a very casual eating place presided over by a woman who dished out hearty breakfasts to hungry farmers needing a big meal and a few cups of coffee to jump-start their day.

Tak was a practical joker, and one soon learned not to take his word that something was “not very hot”. After tasting it himself, he would offer a spoonful to Dr. Advice, who soon found out it was tabasco sauce straight out of the bottle! The Danes were never used to sprinkling tabasco on their pastry.

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The three Fudenna brothers were all second generation Japanese-Americans who had the largest cauliflower farm in Fremont. When WW2 broke out, all Japanese in America, by order of Executive Order 9066, were interned in military-type “relocation” camps throughout the country for the duration of the war. Tak and his mother were sent to Topaz Lake, Utah and their farms as well as most other Japanese-American farmers, were confiscated.

When he was eighteen, as did thousands of other boys in America, Tak received a draft notice saying he was now in the army as a member of the all Japanese-American 442 regiment, and was sent to North Africa. The battalion had the most casualties of any U.S. battalion and went on to fight in Italy where Tak received the bronze star.

When asked about his internment camp experience, he was fond of saying “When it’s over, it’s over. Just plow it under.

EXECUTIVE ORDER

In time, Tak married and raised a family of six children, whose three oldest boys became outstanding athletes in the local high school before going on to take over the family farms. Tak told them that someday there would be no more farms in Fremont, so the three sons went to Salinas and Yuma to farm lettuce and cauliflower.

The farmland that they held in Fremont has now been turned into apartments and small businesses.

Tak and his wife, Sachi, had never missed a game and were big supporters of the high school sports program. After all his boys graduated from school, Tak was musing what he could leave the school and the city to benefit the youth program. What he settled on was a football stadium, that would have a great track, lights, good bleachers, restrooms and food stands.

Together he and a group of his friends built the Tak Fudenna stadium at Washington High School but to be used by all the high schools in Fremont. When people found what he was planning, donations of material and manpower poured in to help this cheerful, loveable man achieve the legacy he left to our city.

Tak was killed in a road accident at the age of 51. He was truly a common, Uncommon man.