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?

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WINTER DREAMS


MANY WINTERS by Nancy Wood

If I had known before, all the things I know today,

I would have begun my life as an old woman.

Tricked by old men telling me there was nothing to fear

Except leaving my youth behind.

What would have been the fun of that?

What home would my mistakes have had?

It is better this way.

Now I can wish for my youth to come back.

Just so I can tell it, how old age is nothing buy

Remembering how rich the green fields looked

Despite the lack of rain.

“EULOGY”


“Black Elk,” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

“Eulogy” by Sherman Alexie

My mother was a dictionary,

She was one of the last fluent speakers of our tribal language.

She knew dozens of words that no one else knew.

When she died, we buried all those words with her.

My mother was a dictionary.

She knew words that have been spoken for thousands of years.

She knew words that will never be spoken again.

I wish I could build tombstones for each of those words.

Maybe this poem is a tombstone.

My mother was a dictionary.

She spoke the old language.

But she never taught me how to say those ancient words.

She always said to me “English will always be your best weapon.”

She was right, she was right, she was right.

Excerpt from commencement speech Gonzaga University
Sherman Alexie, writer, poet, film maker
Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Native

EXCELSIOR!


blissful “Blissful” terra cotta sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen

EXCELSIOR
~~~~~~~~~
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, ‘mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,
Excelsior!

His brow was sad; his eye beneath,
Flashed like a falchion from its sheath,
And like a silver clarion rung
The accents of that unknown tongue,
Excelsior!

In happy homes he saw the light
Of household fires gleam warm and bright;
Above, the spectral glaciers shone,
And from his lips escaped a groan,
Excelsior!

“Try not the Pass!” the old man said;
“Dark lowers the tempest overhead,
The roaring torrent is deep and wide!”
And loud that clarion voice replied,
Excelsior!

“Oh stay,” the maiden said, “and rest
Thy weary head upon this breast!”
A tear stood in his bright blue eye,
But still he answered, with a sigh,
Excelsior!

“Beware the pine tree’s withered branch!
Beware the awful avalanche!”
This was the peasant’s last Good-night,
A voice replied, far up the height,
Excelsior!

At break of day, as heavenward
the pious monks of Saint Bernard
Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,
A voice cried through the startled air,
Excelsior!

A traveler, by the faithful hound,
Half-buried in the snow was found,
Sill grasping in his hand of ice
That banner with the strange device,
Excelsior!

There in the twilight cold and gray,
Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,
And from the sky, serene and far,
A voice fell like a falling star,
Excelsior!

LIGHTS OUT Kate’s Journal


The final goodbye always comes as an unpleasant gut-wrenching surprise no matter how long its approach. I knew that at my father’s passing the mournful sound of “Taps” would echo over the hills of Southern Oregon. What better place to say goodbye to this son of the Rogue River, surrounded by his long-gone family, and sheltered by lichen-covered maple trees with leaves just tinged with the blotchy blood red of imminent goodbye.

Though expected, the intrusion of the bugler and two other Navy personnel, snapped me out of memories of this strong and proud man. He was an Oregon country boy, but he was Navy through and through. Therefore, we were also Navy, moving as we were sent and staying at their pleasure. It was his life, and the love of the sea never left him.

As the bugler raised his instrument to his lips, I wondered where this familiar twenty-four note melody came from. It signals soldiers to prepare for the day’s final roll call. In use since 1835 it was known as “Scott’s Tatoo” and named for army chief Winfield Scott.

The tune was a said to be a revision of a French bugle signal called tatoo, which notified soldiers to cease their evening drinking and return to their barracks. The word was an alteration of “tapto” which was derived from Dutch “tap-toe” or to shut the tap of a keg.

In the Civil War Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield thought the sound of the tatoo was too harsh, so he ordered his 23 year old bugler to polish it up and make it softer and more melodious. It is also known as Butterfield’s Lullaby.

The echo of the last note hung in the air, the sound of a volley of shots rang out over the valley, and roll call was over.

“Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me
Here he lies where he longed to be.
Home is the sailor home from the sea
And the hunter home from the hill.”

Requium poem by Robert Louis Stevenson

HAPPINESS


San Juan

Happiness is the gold ring on the Merry-Go-Round,the swell of the ocean under your board, the sound of crickets on a warm summer evening. The word itself is an altruistic phenomenon meaning different things to different people and requiring different paths to get there.

As Eric Hoffer once said, “When you are young you can never get enough of what you don’t need to make you happy”. As you age you have too much of what you don’t need, and some people still aren’t happy.

I once heard two woman friends tell me they weren’t happy, which sent a shiver of sadness tumbling to my toes. I found myself wondering why they weren’t happy. Some older people who are widowed, perhaps without family nearby, feel alone. They forget that there is a huge reservoir of life and happiness within themselves.

There are people who rely on others to make them happy, which will ultimately fail because it’s not their business to be the happiness purveyors. Happiness is one of those things we have to do for ourselves; no one else can do it for us.

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It’s far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity. (Carl Jung)

COMPENSATION
If it were not for the shadows
We would never have the sun;
If we never had the night-fall
Then day had not begun.
If we never knew a heartache
Then our soul would never sing;
If we never had a winter
We would never see the spring.
If we never knew the tempest
We would never love the calm;
If we never knew the wounding
We would never feel the balm.
If we never knew some sorrow
Then our hearts could not be gay.
There may never be tomorrow
But we always have today.

Webster devotes half a page to simply defining the word happy, but where is it? Is it memory, or a place, or both? We all have a memory of a place wonderfully rich and satisfying. A sight or a place where you caught your breath in amazement, or comfortably settled in and stored it away in your memory bank to draw on when your funds run short.

Remember the old song telling us to “Make someone Happy, Make just one someone happy, and you will be happy too.”

FORGIVING OUR FATHERS


Taos Man 2
“Taos Man” stoneware sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen

“Forgiving Our Fathers” poem by Dick Lourie

Maybe in a dream; he’s in your power
you twist his arm but you’re not sure it was
he that stole your money you feel calmer
and you decide to let him go free

or he’s the one (as in a dream of mine)
I must pull from the water but I never
knew it or wouldn’t have done it until
I saw the street-theater play so close up
I was moved to actions I’d never before taken

maybe for leaving us too often or
forever when we were little maybe
for scaring us with unexpected rage
or making us nervous because there seemed
never to be any rage there at all

for marrying or not marrying our mothers
for divorcing or not divorcing our mothers
and shall we forgive them for their excesses
of warmth or coldness shall we forgive them

for pushing or leaning for shutting doors
for speaking only through layers of cloth
or never speaking or never being silent

in our age or in theirs or in their deaths
saying it to them or not saying it –
if we forgive our fathers what is left.

Taos Man