SILVER BELLS AND COCKLE SHELLS


Tulips

<
Watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

How does it happen that all the trees are bare skeletal armatures one day, and the very next day they burst out into full leaf? Two weeks ago the entire town was blooming with flowering pear and redbud trees, and now that has given way to a beautiful green avenue on both sides of the downtown street. Now and then there is a Chinese magnolia finishing its seasonal bloom. Fremont was planned to be a “City of Trees” years ago, and it still lives up to that name in certain areas. It is difficult to maintain, since there are five separate districts, much like New York city, and covers a very large area.

My tulips and early crocus are only remembered by this painting, but the new apple and two new figs are showing promise, the kadota fig even has tiny fruit along some branches. There will be plenty to share this year, and I’m already sorting out ways to use them. The old fig which Dr. Advice whacked nearly in half, has forgiven him and sports small bunches of green at the tips of each branch.

The early plantings of primrose have given way to coriopsis and blue salvia. The perennial color scheme of blue and gold in tribute to Dr. Advice’s beloved University of Calif. But when the blue tends to purple, the University of Washington gets a nod.

My old bones mumble and grumble louder each year as I crawl around pulling winter weeds and now and then yell for a little help with a tough job , but every year we seem to make numerous visits to the nursery for more planting mix and seed, and come home with new azaleas, or just ‘one more’ something to tuck in the corner. Dr.Advice labors in another part of the yard stopping now and then to bring us a cup of tea or a cookie to eat under the old orange tree, before we begin our jobs again. His bones are older than mine, but they don’t seem to creak as loudly, which doesn’t seem fair does it?

My friend Judy helps tend one of the City-owned public gardens, and has been generous with things from her own garden such as brilliant orange clivia, which she has planted in a shady spot along with fern, and other things only known to her alongside a tiny old-looking bridge over a rock stream. I must get some of the clivia for one of my own shady spots. I had some years ago, and just as it looked as if it might bloom, my fellow-gardener chopped it out of the ground, thinking it was a weed! You can’t trust these old guys!

“I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than of cherries, and very frankly, give them fruit for their songs.” Joseph Addison

HONG KONG 1960


junkboat 2Hong Kong 1960

I am so drawn to faces. These two people show the ravages both of time and of hardship. And yet they have survived for who knows how long? Ancient yet ageless. They cling to an old-style of dress, perhaps the only clothes they own, perhaps their best, yet they wear the farmers’ hats to shield their faces from the relentless sun. Her jade earrings may have been a wedding gift from the groom’s family, and they have elongated her lobe through the years. Together they are an enigma. I can’t take my eyes from them, or keep my mind from creating a history for them. Were there children playing around them once? Where are they now?

He is altogether pleased with himself! We wonder why that is. Has he just won a game of Mah Jong, Pai Gow or Sic Bo? His old eyes are blurred, yet he sees all he needs to, and passes the time of day while his wife sits behind the trays of cheap tourist knick-knacks for sale, while studying each person and evaluating a possible customer. He sits under the large umbrella and smokes his hand-rolled cigarette watching the constant flow of humanity.

Where do they go at night? Do they live on one of the many junk boats at rest in the busy harbor? I hear her loud cackling voice chastizing him, but he pays no attention to her, and remains King of his own domain. His old head nods in appreciation when a pretty girl goes by, perhaps remembering his old wife in their youth.

More important: have they discovered something that we don’t know? The art of survival, and satisfaction with simply being alive?

Hong Kong 1960 2

GARDEN-CHIC STYLE


IMG_0018
Give us a few days of sunshine and a bit of warm weather and the gardeners climb out of their comfortable chairs and set aside the seed catalogues to see what winter has wrought in the garden.

Time to check the gardening wardrobe. In case you are behind the times, gardening clothes have gone haute couture, adopting the English manor look for yard work, exchanging ratty jeans and worn-out old shoes and $400 waterproof utility jackets from Ireland, for English riding breeches tucked into $500 imported Wellies. After all, you may be outside in full view of the neighbors and you want to dress the part even if you’re only pulling a few weeds. They even have a tool belt you can sling around your waist that they advertise as “sexy”, and it’s “only” $58. It sort of identifies you as a gardener without looking too corny. Gosh, where have I been all these years? I always thought garening almost required you to get dirt under your fingernails.

I remember when I first saw the “boots”. We were having lunch at a small restaurant in Malibu when I saw the greatest boots I had ever seen. I had actually seen them on someone on TV a short time before and thought they were the cat’s pajamas, so when I looked up and saw them again on an actual person I flipped. Before I could ask where they got them, my daughter cautioned me by saying “That’s Larry Hagman, you can’t ask him!” Well, O.K., but my husband had gone into another part of the restaurant to watch a football game and so had Mr. Hagman, so I sauntered over and just happened to mention the boots. By the time I arrived, the two men had become football friends, and had exchanged pleasantries and addresses.

As it turned out, they were the first Ugg boots we had seen, and not too practical for garden wear, but his jacket, from L.L. Bean was a real keeper. His wife was also an artist and had painted fish motifs on the coat, which was warm and waterproof and cost about $75. It goes well with my ratty jeans, worn-out tennis shoes and baseball cap. And who cares what the neighbors think?

IMG_0016

THE BRILLIANCE OF MOMENTARY DECISIONS


095
Presidio Sunset” by Kayti Sweetland Rasmussen

The new Bay Bridge between San Francisco and the East Bay is well under way and we decided to try and get a closer view. A year or so ago when it was first begun, we took a boat and picnicked in the lee of Treasure Island and watched its birth pangs a number of times, but had only seen news pictures of it of late, so we decided on a recent brilliant holiday morning with clear skies and a feel of Spring in the air, to try and see it from our side of the Bay.

Somehow or other, we missed the last turnoff before the bridge approach and with no other choice at hand, we were forced to drive across the bridge, but we got a good look at its progress. A number of years ago, I was on a flight with a young man who was going into the City to present his plans for the bridge. I got a first hand look at his plans, although they were not the ones chosen for the project. Nevertheless I felt exhilarated to think they might have been.

Aside from it being a decidedly Springlike day, there was no traffic! Unheard of in our area. We went on to one of our favorite coffee houses in the entire City—Delancy Street, where they purvey not only coffee and food, but have the absolute best selection of current books and cards. If I lived closer, I would never go to Hallmark again.

I met a lovely woman wearing a stunning hand-woven coat she had bought in West Africa. She was quite tall and thin, handsome rather than beautiful, African-American with magnifient bone structure, large dark eyes and very white teeth. She wore her hair clipped close to her head, and had large dangling earrings. I have always said if I were African-American that is exactly how I would look. Not easy for someone only 5’1/2″ with grey hair, but I can dream. I feel sad that I could not paint her.

San Francisco on a sunny day offers a world of street entertainment. We saw someone, a man or a very tall skinny woman, petitioning cars at a stop sign and wearing a large brown dog’s head, and carrying a hand-printed cardboard sign saying “FEED ME”. I had to admit it was clever advertising.

Down along the Marina Green, where the America’s Cup race will be the drawing the boating crowd next year, there were dozens of small sailboats out testing the wind, looking like tiny white flowers flitting across an extraordinary blue Bay.

We grabbed a sandwich at the nearby Safeway, and settled down to enjoy the other picnicers, runners, bikers, dogs, and kids flying some pretty wild colorful kites. We often replayed this same scene through the years with our daughters, and then with grandchildren with their own kites. On at least one such outing, the pigeons joined us. The late columnist Herb Caen always referred to them as “feathered rats”, but we have at least one grandson who once raised both arms out to the side at shoulder height, and received the “blessing” of an armful of admiring pigeons. Herb may have thought they were no-account birds, but obviously one little boy disagreed with him.

We finished our lovely day at the Presidio, where the sunset was coloring the sky and the ocean with unimaginable and unpaintable beauty. I’m so glad we missed the last turn-off before the bridge.

THE STRANGE POWER OF DREAMS


Henry_Meynell_Rheam_-_Sleeping_Beauty We all dream, whether we remember them or not. Most are pleasant, others sometimes not so pleasant. Some dreams remain with us for years, still with the power to please or to frighten. But what triggers dreams?

A true nightmare sometimes causes us to cry aloud, and prevent resuming a quiet night’s rest. A sexual dream can be disappointing if, upon awakening, the dream prince or princess is not a reality.
But what triggers a dream? There have been numerous studies made of our nightime experiences, but it’s still a mystery.

I can still remember a dream I had when I was 11 years old, which encouraged me to jump off the roof with the expectation of flight. Flight dreams are really pretty common, and given our prehistoric beginnings when we either fought or fled, are understandable, but disturbing in a child for obvious reasons.

A long-standing dream of mine which I file under the title “Dog Dreams” in my memory file, was one where I had been kidnapped, and actually turned into a dog who bit my kidnapper, complete with snarling et al. I had this same dream repeatedly for several years. I’m not proud of it, but that’s the way it is.

In a too-vivid dream I had when my youngest daughter was a toddler, she climbed up onto the railing of a bridge in Ireland, and tumbled off before I could catch and save her. At that time, we had never been to Ireland, with no expectation of ever going there. When we eventually did go, I found myself on the very same bridge I had dreamed. It was a terrifying deja vu moment, though my daughter at that time was grown and married.

Another vivid dream which turned out to be delusory, involved two paintings of mine which I hung on someone’s wall, I don’t know whose. I felt they were some of my best work. I actually searched for those two paintings for days before I was convinced that they had merely been a colorful dream. I sometimes think I may find them again.

Are our dreams just the result of a vivid imagination? I doubt that the mystery will ever be solved, but in the meantime, “pleasant dreams”.