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!

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CONSIDER THE FORK


Not Your Average Chicken “Not Your Average Chicken” stoneware sculpture bykayti sweetland rasmussen

We spend a lot of time hunting, catching and cooking our food, but how much time do we devote to the way we transport it from the plate to our mouths?

The original method was probably a knife. It was pointed, sharp and handy, and if someone objected to a second or third helping, it made a good weapon. The problem arose when LouisXIV, the Sun King, proclaimed the practice of picking ones teeth with the knife was disgusting.

When nomadic people stopped roaming from place to place, the and the eating of soup became common, people needed a means of getting it out of the pot into their bowls, so spoons became the method of choice. One major plus in the use of a spoon is that they could not be used as a weapon which was a civilizing aspect, as the pot of bubbling soup was a welcoming sight to weary travelers.

Sardine_fork_main_art.jpg.CROP.article568-large Sardine Fork

The fork is a late comer in the history of human tools, derived when something was needed to scoop food up out of boiling liquid, however, Poseidon was brandishing his trident centuries before it caught on as an eating tool. Bear in mind the old adage: “there’s nothing new under the sun” each time you pick up a fork, and wonder what the next new tool will be.

A SHORT VACATION Kate’s Journal


dancer“Dancer” stoneware sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Dr. Advice does not cook. I mean he REALLY does not cook, so in preparation for my short vacation for a tune-up, I am preparing a bit of sustenance in advance. So far a chicken vegetable soup, a chocolate cake and a few enchiladas. He used to feel sorry for our friend Emmett Oliver after Georgia passed away when Emmett stocked his fridge with frozen dinners. Personally I think that was very smart.

This appointment for surgery popped out of the blue a day or so after the stress test. One of those “voices” informed me that the doctor was ready. There was no chance to say “Wait a darn minute–HE may be ready but I haven’t finished reading the brochure”.

Having a bypass of a leg artery may or may not correct my “spaghetti” legs. I don’t think there is a need to drag out my dancing shoes again, but perhaps I can pass along my wheeled transportation. It seems a very positive endeavor. I just hate to be rushed.

THE NEWNESS NEVER WORE OUT Kate’s Journal


Episode 34 Kirkland 1969-1974

051 “Inuit Mother and Child” watercolor by kayti sweetlanhd rasmussen

There was some success selling my sculptures in Seattle, and a minor bit of chicanery. If someone doesn’t try to cheat you, you haven’t made an impression.

For our second Christmas in the Northwest, Dr. A with the aid of a large truck and a large friend, brought home an enormous tree which reached to the ceiling of the barn, and became home to a number of enormous papier mache elves, while several more elves, dressed in colorful velvet clothes, straddled the rafters. The California family arrived in full force. and audience participation prevailed while serving up the old Rasmussen Christmas breakfast, with a few aebleskivers thrown in.

We learned that a family isn’t complete without a new generation, and in 1973 our California daughter gave us what we knew to be the world’s smartest and cutest grandson. It was troubling that he lived in California while we presently lived in Washington.

The flu can make a wet dishrag out of you, and in the midst of feeling sick and sorry for myself, alone on Valentine’s Day, our youngest daughter announced that she wanted to get married on St. Patrick’s Day. Better than that, she wanted to get married in our barn. Dr. Advice was traveling two weeks out of every month, so he was slow in getting the news, good or not so good.

marvin Oiver Large print by Marvin Oliver, Professor of Indian Studies, University of Washington

It’s amazing how fast a wedding or a climatic catastrophe (there isn’t much difference between the two) can get you out of bed. The amount of time spent on wedding arrangements today can give you plenty of time to change your mind on the whole thing. We had a month, and our daughter was in the middle of finals.

Handmade invitations, wedding clothes and food appeared in the appropriate time with the help of friends including pickled oysters from the Hood Canal from Georgia and Emmett. When everything else was set, we needed someone to marry them, and believe me, it isn’t easy when you do it at your home cold turkey. After a number of rejections, including all the regular churches, someone had a relative who was an unemployed Mennonite minister who would come.

The day of the wedding gave a display of weather the Northwest is famous for; rain, snow, hail and brilliant sunshine, not necessarily in that order. The bride walked down through our meadow on the arm of her handsome father and into a warm and cozy barn with sunshine pouring down through a large window near the ceiling. The groom was a lapsed Catholic, the bride was unaffiliated, and we were just guests, and we built a chuppah which was covered with daffodils and daisies. The new grandson slept peacefully in my arms throughout the service, undisturbed by the festivities.

North Coast Shaman “North Coast Shaman” sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen

We sent the new couple off with the bride carrying a small cage of crickets (don’t ask) and found that the Mennonite minister had not signed the wedding certificate. Ominous? Everything got straightened out eventually.

There are strange sights in the country which you don’t usually see in the suburbs, a lot of them involving animals. A small Shetland pony being led down our road at 5:30 Christmas morning would be one of them, an entire line of cars at morning commute time regularly stopping to let a row of ducks cross the road, a couple of escaped horses stomping through our newly planted lawn., and of course, the belching goat.

One of our friends was a weaver of lovely things, which led me to try my hand with the warp and woof, but without her expertise. It seemed a shame not to be able to even weave a reasonable set of place mats and napkins, but it was a nice feeling to sit and try on a rainy morning.

The barn allowed us to have more parties involving more than four people. On one such occasion, a woman guest left in a huff when her husband told a raunchy joke. She just didn’t fit in or got tired of her husband’s boorish behavior. At another party, planned to entertain guests from California, fell apart when the belly dancer planned for the entertainment, refused to come when she discovered one of the guests was Jewish. Later, when our house was for sale, she wanted to buy it to use the barn to teach belly dancing in. She couldn’t come up with the money.

Seattle is one of those places where float planes fly in and out to Lake Union, taking you to places further north, and if you want to, you can go even further north to see the Iditerod races, fishing and meet new friends.

A 12 pound turkey graced our table on our last Thanksgiving in Kirkland. Complete with all the trimmings; potatoes, gravy, dressing and pumpkin pie, it brought home the fact that we had a 12 pound grandson waiting in California. Not that he was eating all this stuff by then, but you couldn’t ignore the weight or cuteness similarity.

Dr. A had supervised the building of the Alaska pipeline, caught a respectable number of fish, and made a lot of new friends, so we semi-reluctantly pulled up stakes and headed back to California.

chilcat blanket

Addendum: This post was written without using the word “I” even once. In this day and age of people like Donald Trump who seems to have a monopoly on the word, and even nice people who don’t realize they are doing it, it seemed a good lesson.

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

EVOLUTION OF A GARDEN


Sachi
“Sachi” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

The Japanese period began with teaching my Campfire Girls troop about children’s holidays in Japan. There were many little Japanese friends while growing up in Long Beach, California, and it was fun to hear about “Girls and Boys Day celebrations. When a CampFire Girls troop opened up it seemed like a good project to teach them about children’s customs in Japan, so a lot of study began on my part first.

What started with the CampFire group, extended to studying the language, and to the decoration of a new home and garden.

Japanese screen
Antique Japanese Screen

Japanese Lady
“Japanese Lady” stoneware sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen

While we tore the house apart and rebuilt, restored and re-imaged it, we began to tackle the flat, uninteresting patch of grass in the backyard. We suggested a swimming pool, but our girls said they would rather go to the two neighborhood pools where their friends swam.

San Francisco has a world famous Japanese garden which we frequented often getting ideas for a garden of our own. It had to begin with a pool of course, and Dr. Advice spent many evenings after work digging. The hole was soon about 4′ deep, 12′ long and 8’wide, so I suggested he stop. Ultimately, there was another pond with waterfall at the other end of the yard, and a red moon bridge over the larger pool, leading to a small teahouse among the trees at the other side. A wooden finial on the top of the roof was carved by a woodcarver friend. We were indebted to our late brother-in-law and another friend for joining us in all the digging, hammering and celebratory beer drinking after the job was finished. Our good friend Tak Fudenna helped us get rocks and offered suggestions.

gete Japanese garden

J Garden 2 (2)

J Garden 2 (1)

J Garden 4 (1)

J Garden 4 (2)
The bridge had a slight accident a few years later when it groaned under the stress of about 15 high school girls posing for a photo-op before graduation. Dr. A groaned a bit himself when he called home from a business trip and heard the news.

A visiting Japanese friend who came during a home and garden tour, said “It’s lovely now, but wait another ten years and it will be spectacular.” I visited it several years ago, and he was right.

BAREFOOT HUMMINGBIRD


beato_harris_1

She lived a life that would have been considered outrageous even by today’s standards, but Beatrice Woods began her life in 1893 as a daughter of a wealthy, socially conscious family in San Francisco. Ultimately, it was her exposure to the arts that ruined her mother’s hopes for her in 1912, when Beatrice rejected plans for a coming-out party and decided she wanted to become a painter.

Supervised by a chaperone, Beatrice went to Paris to study, but it was in Giverney, home of Monet, that rebellious Beatrice ditched the chaperone and moved into an attic with her painted canvases.

220px-Beatrice_Wood_and_Marcel_Duchamp

Moving to Paris, she decided to become an actress, and while taking acting lessons, Beatrice became became part of a Bohemian group of artists, and where she was introduced to the artist Marcel Duchamp. “We immediately fell for each other,” Beatrice recalled. “He was an enchanting person.” Duchamp introduced her to Henri-Pierre Roche, a French diplomat, writer and art collector, who became her first lover. He was also the first man to break her heart. Beatrice had found herself surrounded by Bohemian men who thought little of bourgeois morality. During this time she became known as the “Mama of Dada”.

“Marcel shocked me because he said that sex and love are two different things,” Beatrice later recalled. Yet she fell into a relationship with both men, and remained life-long friends with Duchamp. In 1953 Roche wrote a semi-autobiographical novel called Jules et Jim, about a threesome, which some some erroneously suggested may have been inspired by the association of Woods, Duchamp and Roche.

In 1948, Beatrice moved to Ojai, California, to be close to the Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti. She built a home in the small peaceful village of artists a little south of Santa Barbara and surrounded by lovely rolling hills. There she taught and pursued her art for the next sixty years. At age 90, at the urging of her friend Anais Nin, she became a writer. Her most famous book is “I Shock Myself”.
220px-Beatrice_Wood_Luster_Chalice

I first became interested in Beatrice in 1985 while teaching a class in conceptual art and Marcel Duchamp, and when I learned that she was living in Ojai, I welcomed an opportunity to visit her.

If you want the local lowdown in Ojai, California, a resident says “People rarely ask what you do—they ask, ‘what brought you to Oja?’ I love that. Ojai is a beautiful sleepy small community of artists, farmers, and a few people who simply want to relax and enjoy life.

The prospect of seeing poppies drew us up into the green hills above the town. We had been graced with the sight of enormous 5 inch wide white flowers along highway 101, and Ojai thought enough of them to name a park Matilija—Ma-till-a-hah.

Matilija Poppies
Matilija Poppies, watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Winding up through the hills we came upon Beatrice’s little house where she lived, worked and had a small gallery of her work. The door was answered by a diminutive Indian man who introduced himself as “her humble servant.” Beatrice was momentarily engaged in another room but we saw her as she darted past the doorway like a barefoot hummingbird. Draped in colorful sari and Native American jewelry, she was an iconic figure, even better than I had thought

When she floated into the gallery and found my interest in art, her “humble servant” brought cups of tea and she described the art displayed in the room. She was quite open about her relationships with Duchamp and Roche, and introduced us to her German Shepherd dog,
Roche” who wandered into the room in search of a pat on the head.

Her sculptures were funky, funny and engaging and told a wry story of her life. One large piece was of a brothel on fire, with girls leaning out the front windows while a variety of men were pouring out the back doors. Beatrice explained that the men were “the mayor, the police chief, etc.” It was plain that her way to get even with the men who had hurt her throughout her life was to put them all in erratic or hazardous situations in her art.

To what did she attribute her longevity? Her stock answer was “I owe it all to chocolate and young men.” Beatrice Woods died in Ojai at the age of 105 in 1998.

Her personal and artistic style intrigued me, and I developed a number of pieces as a dedication to Beatrice.

Out Of The Woods
“Out Of The Woods” clay sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Beatrice Lives
“Beatrice Lives” clay sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen