DAILINESS


Print by Marvin Oliver

The hot days of summer make us move a little slower, taking time for puttering. But they also give us time for introspection; for taking stock of what is important. Dailiness sounds like my childhood diary, where page after page said “Nothing happened today.” But of course something happens every day. I’m happy with our morning routine where Dr. A presents me with a latte to start the day. It’s a nice gesture intended to soften the TV news of fires and politics which is never good. We keep thinking we will turn the news off and cancel the newspaper which is nothing more than two or three pages of what was seen the night before. But we do not, because the habits of a lifetime keep us curious, and that constitutes dailiness.

Greek mythology relates how a large white bird fell from favor and was transformed into a large black raven, a favorite omen of warning, tragedy or disaster, and the negative messenger in Poe’s famous poem.

The image above is by my friend Marvin Oliver, Professor of Indian Studies at University of Washington. The interpretation of Art is in the eyes of the beholder, without which there is no Art. To me the broken heart he is presenting to the ancient abandoned village in the background signifies loss. Loss of a way of life and of a proud people whose Dailiness was not enough to sustain their culture. The tribal Journey Paddle to Puyallup brought canoes from as far away as Alaska and from California, which shows that the culture is alive and well.

The days of our youth and unyouth did not include frequent trips to visit the doctor, or the quack as my British friend calls him. Today if I miss calling a friend I find that he/she has had a hip or a knee replaced in the meantime and is already up and ready to go. Our capacity to maintain seems to lessen as we grow older, so I was not surprised to learn yesterday from the young foreign-born eye quack that I am now considered legally blind. Of course that term is broad and subject to qualification. I cannot drive, which I accept as another of those things I don’t have to worry about. One learns to gracefully say goodbye to things with as little regret as possible. The handicapped have so many options for a so-called “normal” life today, we should be grateful. The good new that day was from the leg surgeon who said he would see me in one year.

While waiting somewhat patiently for the pretty young retinal specialist to appear, I thought of the days when if you went to a doctor he could fix your hang nail, clean your ears, offer advice on every part of your body, and possibly tell you to stop complaining. Today each of those parts needs someone whose expertise seems to have ended after they learned to spell their discipline.

The interesting thing about Dailiness, is that it really does change every day. If it doesn’t try using the new app GOYA; Get Off Your Apps. Turn the TV off, stop looking at your e-mail, go for a walk. It’s a beautiful summer day.

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THE LURE OF THE CANAL


I felt that I had arrived at home the first time I saw the Hood Canal, a natural waterway about a mile and a half wide with the proper amount of trees and water. The ancient trees grow down to the shoreline, and large rocks make a fine place for sun bathing or simply watching the gulls in their ever present search for food. It beckons one to pick up a fishing rod or a snorkel.

Often in the night the swish of killer whales rushing downstream reminds you that you are not alone in your love of the water. Sometimes at night when the moon is just right, the water becomes phosphorescent, and you aren’t quite sure what lies beneath.

The Hood Canal is the home of our friend and mentor Emmett Oliver, who passed away recently at the age of 102. In 1989 Emmett realized his hope that the tribal canoe culture could be renewed, as part of the centennial celebration for the State of Washington. It was called the Paddle to Seattle. Since then the number of tribes taking part in the Journey has increased each year. This year’s Paddle to Puyallup is well under way with many members of the same families plying the waters their ancestors visited. At the end of their destination there is a huge powwow featuring a salmon bake and many vendors offering native food such as a frybread hamburger.

The Oliver family is well represented, with Emmett’s grandchildren pulling. Son Marvin Oliver, professor of Art at the University of Washington, designs many of the canoes. His youngest son, 12 year old Sam, was a puller for the first time this year. Emmett’s daughter Marylin who has been a puller each year, took her new grandson along this year. To watch these colorful canoes moving through the water is to see the past through their eyes. The Willapa Spirit, with some of the Oliver clan aboard sailed slowly down the Canal past Emmett’s home, with paddles raised in salute to a great gentleman who had a great idea which came to fruition.

IN T HE PRESENCE OF ANCESTORS


The Paddle to Seattle in 1989 was coordinated by our good friend Emmett Oliver (1913-2016) a member of the Quinalt Nation, retired Coast Guard commander, and educator, was serving on one of the State of Washington’s centennial committees. Tall ships would be participating in the celebration, and Oliver felt the state’s indigenous population was being ignored.

The high profile return of Coast Salish canoes to ancestral waters was a shot in the arm to Native cultures. A new generation of canoe carvers emerged. Young ones began learning their Native language. Elders who as children were punished for speaking their language, began teaching their dances, songs and stories.

Then, in 1993, in response to an invitation issued during the Paddle to Seattle, canoes traveled to Heiltsuk First Nation in Bella Bella, British Columbia, and the Tribal canoe Journey was born.

Villages long separated were once more connected by Native pride. Once more Arts and Culture were exchanged.

Emmett Oliver is gone, but his legacy burns on in his descendants. Son Marvin Oliver, professor of Art at the University of Washington, and daughter Marilyn Bard, are involved in the Journey, even the youngest grandchildren, too young to be pullers are learning their heritage. In the water, in their canoes, as they are traveling the highways of their ancestors, they cannot help but feel the powerful connection to their people’s lifeways, and for the connection to the other tribal territories they now visit.

HERE TO CREATE


A story can be told in two ways: the way it happened, and the way it is remembered. The storyteller is welcome at every table, though the story may change with each telling. It really doesn’t matter, it is after all, just a story.

Children are the best story tellers, since they have little recall, the stories they tell are usually created in the moment. If you question the story, they are able to embellish it on the spot. When I was a little girl of four, I created four big brothers. When questioned, they were suddenly locked up and fed bread and water. Clearly a mistake. Are these kind of stories a form of wish? The idea that exaggeration somehow enhances our self-image arrives early.

We are here to create, and all stories do not involve overestimating one’s own abilities, though a stretch of the truth often gives flavor to the imagination.

The creation stories of the Native American cultures, Greek and Roman mythology. and the stories of the Bible are all crossover creation stories. Oral tradition is extremely important, for without it, there would be no story telling. Each tribe, like each family, has its own story, of which there are multiple versions. Just as two or more siblings remember the events of childhood in various ways, our own stories take on new luster in time. More often than not, the Native American stories involve animals or humans who transform and do miraculous things, all explaining the unexplainable mystery of life.


“I Am a Child of the Sun and the Rain” watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

We are all story-tellers; you tell me your story and I will tell you mine. Those stories may change from time to time either from new experiences or from remembrance, but the things we say are mostly true. Taken all together stories form the glorious tapestry of our lives.

CANTALOUP AND KOOL-AID
by kayti sweetland 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.

Even the tree outside our windows
seems to listen with ruffled
leaves tipping and cooling
in the evening chill.

The pleasant knicker of an Indian pony
through the open window over
heads drowsy with sleep
announced the coming of the dawn.

We sat around the fire pitching our
own stories into the lap of the story teller.
We dropped troubles and pain.
Are they now someone else’s stories?

THE ART OF THE LOOM


Coming into Southwest Indian country for the first time some fifty-five years ago was a revelation in many ways. We drove through the hot desert land of Chumash, Hopi and Navajo before arriving in New Mexico, home of the Pueblo people. My own art had taken a turn toward the Southwest, and we had begun collecting a few pots and pieces of jewelry from indigenous artists.

I was fortunate to have my good friend Georgia Abeita Oliver as my companion while I accompanied her “home” for the summer. Wherever we are born, home-going is a special occasion which never gets old. There were friends and relatives to meet and greet, and a cultural education for me as a guest.

To be steeped and accepted into the culture of another is a privilege for which I have been grateful these past many years.

The domestic skills such as weaving, pottery, jewelry and basketry seem to be practiced primarily by individual villages. Pueblo and Hopi pots, but Navajo weaving and jewelry.


Two Grey Hills rug, Navajo

My husband was staying in the La Fonda hotel in Albuquerque several years before my trip, where he saw a very large Two Grey Hills rug on the wall. The story goes that a customer wished to buy the rug, and he was sent to the Two Grey Hills village to bargain for it. He came back dismayed because though he offered them twice its price, they refused to sell to him. I had a similar situation a few years later when I commission a rug after I was back home. When it arrived, the rug’s colors were not what I had wanted, so I returned it with the hope of another more suitable rug to come; but did not hear from them again. We are, after all, two separate cultures with different views on what is important. I did not make the same mistake again in all my years of travel in Indian country.

Why is it that the Navajo are the master weavers? Why not the Pueblo? The Hopi do weave lovely small runners, though and the men weave their prospective bride a burial shawl. I always thought that was either a threat or a warning.


“How the Navajo Got The Rug” watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

My own interpretation of how the Navajo got the skills to weave is that maybe it just came down from the sky. That is as good an explanation as any. We met an old weaver just outside Taos, patriarch of the Trujillo family, who had been weaving since he was a boy. He made us a nice large room size rug which is in my studio.

It is easy to imagine how so much of the architecture got its beginnings; the whole desert terrain with its mesas and sculptural forms is ever present. Making use of natural materials like clay, wool, and natural dyes keeps people connected to the land. I have always preferred to work with clay for that same reason. It connects me also with my own forebears who were potters for over 200 years in England. It just feels natural to me when I think of the generations before me who made their living through love of clay.

The Saturday markets are crowded with people bringing everything from pickups full of wool to homemade tamales. In fact the best tamale I ever ate was at a flea market in Gallup, New Mexico. In the days I first visited New Mexico and Arizona, one frequently saw the wife’s mother sitting in the bed of the truck with the bundles of sheep skin for sale. She usually was in a large chair like a queen surveying her subjects.

I bought a cradle board made by an old woman who had brought only one to sell. A young pregnant girl was trying to decide if she had money enough to buy it for $40. Seeing me waiting in the wings, she graciously offered it to me. I said I noticed that she might need it more than I did, and she said “But YOU want it.” I have yet to see someone in our society be that generous of spirit.

Native people, whether Southwest or Northcoast, as somewhat suspicious of strangers, but through the years I have known and cared for people from both cultures, I have always found acceptance and love.

PREJUDICE


It’s a big subject. Too big for a simple blog, but we encounter it in some way each day in our private and public lives, so it needs to be addressed.

Conducting an interview with myself, I wondered when I first became aware of the mean spirited effect of prejudice. The strong Yankee-bred women in my family were ardent Republicans who thought the last best hope for the country had been Herbert Hoover. They gladly overlooked the Depression which was consuming the country; possibly as a result of Mr. Hoovers’ miscalculations.

Without knowing or caring who Franklin D. Roosevelt was, it was apparent from their conversation that he was the devil incarnate, and his busy body wife was a disgrace. My father, away at sea most of the time, did not participate in the conversations, so I had no idea on which side he dwelt.

Somehow, listening at dinner tables and eavesdropping in nearby rooms, I felt uncomfortable with the negative conversations. Surely this man was not as bad as they thought. I often differed from authority, and this gave me one more reason to determine my own path. When my father returned from a voyage, I found that he had voted for this same Franklin D. Roosevelt, which made me feel validated.

Prejudice touches so many facets of our lives. Politics and religion always draw the most heat, making them the most interesting of subjects. Due to my Grandmother’s dynamic leadership, we attended the Christian Science church, at least my Grandmother and I did. My mother and aunt, though believers, were usually busy on Sunday mornings. My father, needless to say, had no interest in the study of Christian Science. Auntie and Uncle Phil, with whom I lived occasionally, followed no religion, and we usually spent Sunday at the movies.

I never determined why, but overheard conversation told me that the Catholics, and possibly a few other religions, were not appropriate friends. I knew no blacks, though there were a few Japanese living in Long Beach in those days. We were a strong Masonic family, with various relatives holding office in the organization. We were a proud flag waving, Anglo-Saxon Protestant family. Not that any of these things were talked about; they were simply there, and you knew.

I had exhibited a few minor talents from an early age. I had a pleasant voice, I could dance, and I could draw a straight line. Grandma was convinced that I was a winner, yet I knew many other girls who surpassed my efforts, so it seemed uncomfortable to take any credit for anything I produced.

My feelings of being at odds with the accepted beliefs sent me on solo trips around town exploring various churches and the lone synagogue in Torrance where we were currently living. It was a marvelous education in the various views people held in the acceptance or non-acceptance of Jesus as the Savior. I realized that I had no opinion either way, which was no surprise. In fact, I took offense to the words of the entrance hymn which entreated the Christian soldiers to keep marching on to war.

On my first trip to the Southwest with my Indian friend Georgia Oliver, I immediately tried to fit in with the locals by identifying which village someone came from by the way they wore their hair. I whipped off a small sculpture of a woman’s head with something which looked like a Dutch cut, Georgia just smiled and said that I missed the back style. I smugly identified a man riding by on his horse as a Navajo. With a curled lip and a sharp retort, Georgia shot back “He’s a Mexican.” Clearly here lived prejudice, even in a country comprised of people who lived rather low on the totem pole.

Yes, there is prejudice wherever we look. It lives in small children and in the very old who should know better. Give it a chance, recognize it when you see it, and speak up to make a change.

THE MARRIAGE OF OPPOSITES Kate’s Journal


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

In the early days in the Southwest, I saw many Navajo grandmothers, many looking much like this lady, sitting comfortably in a large chair in the back of a son-in-law’s pickup truck. I was told by this lady that it was the custom, as she didn’t have a lot to do with her son-in-law. In fact, she did not speak with her son-in-law.

Women owned and cared for the flocks of sheep, and these sheep were owned by her daughter. After shearing, the fleece was taken to market in their pickup, with grandma in the back.

Sheep near Taos“Sheep Grazing on Reservation” watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

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In our euphemistically imbued age of political politeness, the middle years are referred to as the youth of old age. We are urged to “get it while you can”. “The end is near.” “From now on it’s all downhill.” To a certain extent that is all true. But we still have energy, imagination and inclination to do great things. The middle years are a whirlwind of work, creativity and preparing for the inevitable.

When you leave middle age you bump into other unexpected adventures. Children leave and get married which brings lots of other experiences, that of becoming grandparents possibly being one of the most pleasant. You have been cautioned to do your traveling early because when old age strikes you may have the time and the money, but you no longer have the inclination. You become an appreciator rather than a participator. As an inveterate collector of other people’s art, I have become an admirer rather than an acquirer.

As you leave the middle years you realize that in the early days you fight because you don’t understand each other, but as you grow older, you fight because you do. Either way, marriage has a certain amount of misunderstanding and disagreement, some of which may cause you to wonder how you ever got into it. But you persevere and realize that if you were being graded on your performance, you probably flunked. Luckily, there is a do-over; it’s called apology.

The bright side of marriage, especially that of long standing, is that you understand that you are not alike and never have been. This person who attracted you at an early age may have done so precisely because he or she was different from you. Marriage can become a home schooling effort, each learning from the other.