PAY ATTENTION TO THE SILENCE Kate’s Journal


Tucked away on a back street in the town of Dublin, California an old cemetery lies under the sheltering arms of ancient trees.

A cemetery holds the history of a time, a place, and a people. The artifacts and the stone architecture remain as a reminder–a record of their existence.

The valley was settled by Danish and Irish immigrants, in the middle of the 19th century, and along with the mercantile establishments which made a village, the cemetery came into being, roughly divided into Catholic and Protestant gravesites.

St Raymond's St. Raymond’s Catholic Church, Dublin, CA

I was once saddened to see that a young Irishman had fallen to his death while roofing the church, and later found that he had been an ancestor of a friend, now buried in the Catholic side.

Though the church was the earliest Catholic church in the area, it is no longer used for services, but is available for other uses in the community. The best funeral I ever went to was held there some years ago when a cousin of Dr. A’s said her goodbyes, ending with the marching of a New Orleans jazz band leading us to her final resting place in the Rasmussen plot. True to her individual style she opted for a large rough rock as her marker instead of the usual cold granite.

Each of the old plots holds a sign proclaiming the original settler’s history, thereby giving the cemetery a guide to each original family. The Rasmussen plot lies at the extreme rear of the place though there are family members scattered throughout the cemetery. A baby’s marble crib in the middle of the plot tells of the passing of a baby brother of Dr. A’s father, however family lore tells us “he” is not there but hurriedly buried somewhere in the unmarked ground since the family did not have their plot at the time of his demise. I had often attempted to plant flowers in the crib, including Bleeding Heart, but due to the heat and lack of water it never worked. There are many marble reminders of children taken too early, as in most old cemeteries.

The cemetery lies behind the church, and behind the old school where my father-in-law attended classes. For many years the property was managed by a “Cemetery Board” to which we all belonged with occasional meetings to decide grave cleaning, tree pruning etc. after which we all went out to dinner nearby. It was a social gathering of old family friends, who sometimes gathered for a picnic under the trees. Then as more people moved into the area, it was handed over to the City of Dublin to manage. and it lost its familial feel.

There have been many changes through the years since the City took control, but then, Life is change, forcing all of us tho choose, resist, or roll with it. The large home of a former settler has been moved into the neighboring property making the entire area a park where school children are often brought to learn about the early settlers who were primarily farmers in the fertile valley. While the valley was once carpeted with fruit trees and poppies, today it abounds with business parks and homes. The absent fruit trees and poppies are a reminder that we are all transient visitors.

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In another valley, this one in Grants Pass, Oregon, is the cemetery where generations of the Sweetland family, as well as those who married out of it, repose for eternity. As in Dr. A’s family cemetery it is divided into Catholic and Protestant Masonic.

It is situated on the top of a low rise overlooking the town and shielded by large oak trees planted in the 19th century after the movement to the West. These people were primarily ranchers and farmers. My grandfather was a rancher and the town butcher.

-It's_the_Climate-_sign_in_Grants_Pass,_Oregon

Early Hudson’s Bay Company hunters and trappers, following the Siskiyou Trail, passed through the site beginning in the 1820’s. In the 1840’s settlers following the Applegate Trail began traveling through the area on their way to the Willametter Valley. The city states that the name of General Ulysses S. Grant was selected to honor Grant’s victory at Vicksburg.

The town is situated idyllically beside the Rogue River which flows west to the sea. The river abounds with fish and entices fishermen and outdoorsmen as a vacation destination.

It has never been a hub of business or financial activity, but serves as a direct route north and south. A sugar beet factory was built in 1916, but due to labor shortage and low acreage planted the company was moved to Toppenish, Washington. There still remain acreage of hop fields, where I as a teenager during the War, picked hops because of the shortage of labor.

When my father, a son of Grants Pass, passed away in 1993, Dr. Advice dug his last resting place, as he had done for his mother in Dublin, CA. An honor guard saluted him with the playing of Taps to honor his military service, and as the final notes rang out over the town of his birth I was comforted by the thought that he had returned safely to the place he had longed for.

As the few people said their goodbyes and headed for their cars, a caretaker came through with his happy frolicking black lab. He looked at the stone and said “Oh–Walter’s gone is he?” I nodded and he apologized for the dog sniffing the grave, saying they passed by there every day and the dog was accustomed to walking through the plots. I told him my father, a great dog lover, would be happy to know that the dog would be coming to pay his respects.

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.

FUNERARY GRADE POINTS


St Raymond'sAs funerals go, it was a 3.8. Yes, I believe in awarding credit to a good funeral when it is deserved. Nearly everybody has one at some time or other, so it is important to do it right. My husband’s cousin, Louise Ann, lived for some time in Kansas City, but when the time was right, she moved back home. She didn’t want a large monument like some of the others in our large family plot, so she brought a large stone she found somewhere to serve the purpose. It was unique, and since she was a rather well-known artist/interior designer, quite fitting.

Some of my husband’s late relatives are living out eternity in the old Pioneer Heritage Cemetery in Dublin, Ca., which has as its cornerstone the Old St. Raymond’s Catholic church, the oldest Catholic church in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Built in 1859 by some of the original pioneers in the Valley, and while no longer used for general services, it is occasionally used for a funeral of a pioneer descendent. The cemetery itself, and the small museum beside it, relate the history of the area, as does signage at the head of some of the family plots, telling the individual history of that family.
the museum was originally the tiny schoolhouse, and my father-in-law and his ten brothers and sisters began their academic studies in it.

The Valley was settled by both Irish and Scandinavian immigrants, many, including our family, still living in the vicinity.
Small, but charming, it is exactly the place Louise Ann would choose for her final departure. The creaky little building was filled with long-lost cousins, a few friends, family and ex-husbands. There were three of the latter, but the second one chose not to make an apprearance, and I don’t remember him anyway. The first one was the father of her three children, but the temperature had become so heated at the end, she decided to change all of her three children’s surnames to her own maiden name.

One daughter, who had been estranged from Louise for some time, did not come to say farewell, however her husband, who had always had a prickly hedgehog relationship with Louise, came, stood and spoke a few words in her favor. His memorable description of her was that “Louise never saw anything or anyone she felt she couldn’t make better.” The last ex-husband agreed with that statement, and it is likely that that was the reason he became an “ex-husband.” The daughter who planned the occasion per Louises’s instructions, had placed a large photo of her mother at the front of the church, beside a collection of small sheep sculptures to which we were invited to help ourselves. She said she had never been able to convince her mother to stop wearing bright red lipstick, as it did not become ladies beyond a certain age. I doubt that Louise cared very much what anybody thought.

There was no minister, no service beyond the exchanging of memories, and all in all, it was a happy, friendly atmosphere. Unobserved by most of us, a small New Orleans jazz band dressed in appropriate white uniforms and hats, struck up the first notes of “When The Saints Come Marching In”. It was a delightful and surprising ending, and we all marched out behind them as we wound our way through the cemetery to the burial site, coffee cups or wine glasses in hand, and some singing the words to the music on the way.

Her Kansas City rock had been placed, a few flowers scattered, and we said a fond farewell to an indomitable lady who never cared if anybody liked her red lipstick, or anything else. I liked her style.

R.I.P. Louise Ann.