“Swirling Colors” original watercolor painting by kayti sweetland Rasmussen
We each live many lives. While looking out my kitchen window this morning, watching the life of my neighborhood, I realized, that I have not always lived in a neighborhood, and it’s really quite nice. Color swirls about us moving us through to the next phase of our existence.
There are the new neighbors from Burma trimming their garden painstakingly. A young girl passes by frequently and we wonder about her. She is sad looking and does not look up nor answer a greeting. She just plods along to somewhere. There is the man we call the “Rock man” because we thought he always had a load of rocks in his backpack. It turned out to be his groceries. We recognize the neighborhood dogs being led on their daily excursions. It is through them that we ask their names and finally the names of their guides.
An old couple go by holding hands. They are stooped and have that peculiar rocking motion old people frequently have. The ethnic diversity has changed through the years. Instead of predominately blond, blue-eyed children walking to local schools, we see more dark hair these days. Mothers who help teachers walk past on field trips to the nearby children’s museum, frequently wear head scarves or saris. Through the years, the clothing may have changed, but the quirky behavior of the kids remains the same. Each year we seem to lose a few plants in the parking strip as energetic boys push each other into them. The language has changed however, with an inordinate use of the “F” word.
It also made me think of all the places I have lived in my life. I am a “Navy Brat”, which is what the children of Navy personnel are called. It is a proud appellation, and I’m sure all the “Army Brats” feel the same pride in their father’s career. The actor, Robert Duvall is an Army Brat, and has the same history of moving to new ports. You learn to make friends fast because you probably won’t stay long. During my school years up till the end of high school, it meant an annual migration for me. Even the birds migrate. We lived in a series of forgotten apartments, a couple of which had bathrooms down the hall.
I got used to always being “the new kid” at school. The routine was always the same. Someone took you to the right room and the teacher introduced you to the class, who then looked you over closely, and determined immediately whether you were worth knowing. The boys took the opportunity to make faces at their friends and the girls narrowed their eyes and sent the message that you were not “one of them”. I was never invited to an “overnight” stay until I was thirteen, and my father would not have allowed it anyway. The argument “all the other kids get to do it”, never went over with him. Girl Scouts and Campfire Girls were out of the question.
On my tenth birthday I had a birthday party with three other little girls in our neighborhood in Long Beach, California. I wore a peach-colored dress and a birthday hat. In New London, Connecticut, I was invited to a party when I was eleven, at which “Spin The Bottle” was played. I wore a new yellow silk dress, and when I found out the game meant you had to actually kiss a boy, I called my mother to come and take me home! We went as a family to see “Gone With The Wind” in 1939 when it opened in Hartford, Connecticut. I had a new pink coat, and hat with a streamer. My mother had a new dress and my father was out of uniform in a new suit which I had never seen before.
Strange how I always remember what I wore on various special occasions. In my last two years of high school, I joined the ROTC and wore a cool uniform. When I graduated from high School in Alameda, California, I wanted to join the Navy and wear a WAVE uniform, but being only 17 and underage, and my Navy father would not sign.
Though I love color, I have always identified myself as a sculptor who happens to paint. In sculpture, color merely enhances what the lines have already accomplished. We are all a mass of swirling colors hurrying to the next phase of our existence.