DAILINESS


Print by Marvin Oliver

The hot days of summer make us move a little slower, taking time for puttering. But they also give us time for introspection; for taking stock of what is important. Dailiness sounds like my childhood diary, where page after page said “Nothing happened today.” But of course something happens every day. I’m happy with our morning routine where Dr. A presents me with a latte to start the day. It’s a nice gesture intended to soften the TV news of fires and politics which is never good. We keep thinking we will turn the news off and cancel the newspaper which is nothing more than two or three pages of what was seen the night before. But we do not, because the habits of a lifetime keep us curious, and that constitutes dailiness.

Greek mythology relates how a large white bird fell from favor and was transformed into a large black raven, a favorite omen of warning, tragedy or disaster, and the negative messenger in Poe’s famous poem.

The image above is by my friend Marvin Oliver, Professor of Indian Studies at University of Washington. The interpretation of Art is in the eyes of the beholder, without which there is no Art. To me the broken heart he is presenting to the ancient abandoned village in the background signifies loss. Loss of a way of life and of a proud people whose Dailiness was not enough to sustain their culture. The tribal Journey Paddle to Puyallup brought canoes from as far away as Alaska and from California, which shows that the culture is alive and well.

The days of our youth and unyouth did not include frequent trips to visit the doctor, or the quack as my British friend calls him. Today if I miss calling a friend I find that he/she has had a hip or a knee replaced in the meantime and is already up and ready to go. Our capacity to maintain seems to lessen as we grow older, so I was not surprised to learn yesterday from the young foreign-born eye quack that I am now considered legally blind. Of course that term is broad and subject to qualification. I cannot drive, which I accept as another of those things I don’t have to worry about. One learns to gracefully say goodbye to things with as little regret as possible. The handicapped have so many options for a so-called “normal” life today, we should be grateful. The good new that day was from the leg surgeon who said he would see me in one year.

While waiting somewhat patiently for the pretty young retinal specialist to appear, I thought of the days when if you went to a doctor he could fix your hang nail, clean your ears, offer advice on every part of your body, and possibly tell you to stop complaining. Today each of those parts needs someone whose expertise seems to have ended after they learned to spell their discipline.

The interesting thing about Dailiness, is that it really does change every day. If it doesn’t try using the new app GOYA; Get Off Your Apps. Turn the TV off, stop looking at your e-mail, go for a walk. It’s a beautiful summer day.

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THE LURE OF THE CANAL


I felt that I had arrived at home the first time I saw the Hood Canal, a natural waterway about a mile and a half wide with the proper amount of trees and water. The ancient trees grow down to the shoreline, and large rocks make a fine place for sun bathing or simply watching the gulls in their ever present search for food. It beckons one to pick up a fishing rod or a snorkel.

Often in the night the swish of killer whales rushing downstream reminds you that you are not alone in your love of the water. Sometimes at night when the moon is just right, the water becomes phosphorescent, and you aren’t quite sure what lies beneath.

The Hood Canal is the home of our friend and mentor Emmett Oliver, who passed away recently at the age of 102. In 1989 Emmett realized his hope that the tribal canoe culture could be renewed, as part of the centennial celebration for the State of Washington. It was called the Paddle to Seattle. Since then the number of tribes taking part in the Journey has increased each year. This year’s Paddle to Puyallup is well under way with many members of the same families plying the waters their ancestors visited. At the end of their destination there is a huge powwow featuring a salmon bake and many vendors offering native food such as a frybread hamburger.

The Oliver family is well represented, with Emmett’s grandchildren pulling. Son Marvin Oliver, professor of Art at the University of Washington, designs many of the canoes. His youngest son, 12 year old Sam, was a puller for the first time this year. Emmett’s daughter Marylin who has been a puller each year, took her new grandson along this year. To watch these colorful canoes moving through the water is to see the past through their eyes. The Willapa Spirit, with some of the Oliver clan aboard sailed slowly down the Canal past Emmett’s home, with paddles raised in salute to a great gentleman who had a great idea which came to fruition.

IN T HE PRESENCE OF ANCESTORS


The Paddle to Seattle in 1989 was coordinated by our good friend Emmett Oliver (1913-2016) a member of the Quinalt Nation, retired Coast Guard commander, and educator, was serving on one of the State of Washington’s centennial committees. Tall ships would be participating in the celebration, and Oliver felt the state’s indigenous population was being ignored.

The high profile return of Coast Salish canoes to ancestral waters was a shot in the arm to Native cultures. A new generation of canoe carvers emerged. Young ones began learning their Native language. Elders who as children were punished for speaking their language, began teaching their dances, songs and stories.

Then, in 1993, in response to an invitation issued during the Paddle to Seattle, canoes traveled to Heiltsuk First Nation in Bella Bella, British Columbia, and the Tribal canoe Journey was born.

Villages long separated were once more connected by Native pride. Once more Arts and Culture were exchanged.

Emmett Oliver is gone, but his legacy burns on in his descendants. Son Marvin Oliver, professor of Art at the University of Washington, and daughter Marilyn Bard, are involved in the Journey, even the youngest grandchildren, too young to be pullers are learning their heritage. In the water, in their canoes, as they are traveling the highways of their ancestors, they cannot help but feel the powerful connection to their people’s lifeways, and for the connection to the other tribal territories they now visit.

THE GIRL FROM ISLETA


“GEORGIA ABEITA OLIVER” watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen]

“What color would you call my hair?” I asked her once. “Mouse”, she quickly replied, so I made her a giant wire sculpture of a rat. We found that we could laugh at each other until the tears flowed down our cheeks, and not remember why. She was a girl from a village I never heard of and a culture I only guessed at.

I painted pictures of Indians I had never seen, in landscapes I had never traveled, until she became my daughter’s teacher.

On “Back To School” night I met Georgia Oliver, fifth grade teacher, and as my daughter had told me: “A REAL Indian”, as opposed to what I had painted.

Georgia Abeita, by photography class at University of New Mexico

Georgia and her husband, Emmett Oliver, became extended family over a period of time, and together introduced us to Native America. Georgia Abeita came from Isleta, a small pueblo in New Mexico, and Emmett, a Quinalt, from Washington state. Both became teachers and there are untold numbers of former students who are grateful for having had either as their teacher. Their son, Marvin Oliver, has carried on the teaching profession as Art Professor at the University of Washington, and has become famous as a North Coast artist.

A turning point cor me as an artist came when Georgia invited me to spend time with her at her home in New Mexico. From that time on, I no longer had to look for pictures to copy when painting an Indian.

More important, I found a very special friend.

IT ISN’T EASY BEING OLD


Crow Print by Marvin Oliver

It’s a shame that just when you get comfortable being youngish, you suddenly find yourself being classified as “elderly”. You see strangers being referred to as elderly when in their 70’s. I suppose we are lucky that the longest period of our lives is called middle age. But the middle of what?

What makes us “old”? Since Dr. A, at the age of 91, is often seen out and about, either walking Charlie or sweeping leaves, he is often offered help; either to get up if he is pulling a weed, or loading a bag of compost into the car. Shaking his head, he wonders if they think he is old. I always use the line uttered by Hermine Gingold to Maurice Chevalier “Oh no, not you.”

The question is not so much how we look. Obviously the years take their toll in ways we would rather not think about. The story inside a beat-up second hand book is just as good as when the book was new. I a heard young man the age of forty something complain that he was getting “old”.

The First Wednesday group met last week and celebrated two more 90th birthdays. We were joined this time by two daughters, one granddaughter, and a little great-grandson. Generations in action. I began paying more attention to the questions my friends asked. One asked me if any of Dr. A’s old friends were left.The answer has been “no” for many years. Another asked if I were still cooking. The answer is “yes”, she was not. Another asked if my hearing was still good. She had just got hearing aids, and doesn’t like them. I have never heard of anyone who loved wearing them. They fall into the same category as false teeth; an unavoidable necessity.

Do all these things make us old? No, they are the exterior signs of lives well spent. If we are given the gift of age, it behooves us to do the best we can to get on with it. Dwelling on what we have lost is boring and non-productive.

Having said that, I visited the eye doctor again yesterday for a new glasses prescription. Something glamorous and sexy and makes me look 65 again would be nice. Before this can be achieved, you review the same old tests everyone takes to determine how much you can actually see. The result was neither more nor less than I expected, since my eyesight has been failing regrettably faster than I thought.

On the last visit, they showed me a few magnifying devices said to help failing eyesight. Yesterday there were a whole shelf full of lighted ones, a couple to wear on your head, though I couldn’t find the buttons meant to work like binoculars. Strange looking things which would scare the dog into thinking you came down from an unknown planet.

I have found that some things, like youth, cannot be recaptured; sight being one of them. We need to go with the flow as long as the river runs.

Back to my original question, “What makes us old?” It isn’t the loss of our looks, or the loss of our capabilities. It’s the loss of hope. The loss of interest in new things. The loss of someone or something to care about, or who cares for us. All those things are at the core of Life. If we lose them, yes, we are old, and it isn’t easy being old.
As a good friend called over his shoulder the other day while leaving the house, “Old age sucks!”

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.

R.I.P. OUR FRIEND, EMMETT OLIVER


Emmett

Our dear friend, educator and mentor, Emmett Oliver has completed his long journey at the age of 102. He was the oldest member of the Quinault Nation, and a true hero. The following is a reprint from KING NEWS.

“Oliver was born in South Bend, Washington, and served in World War 11 and the Korean War, before going on to make his mark as a teacher and coach.

“Emmett will be dearly missed. He achieved so much in his life and leaves a legacy that will truly last forever.” Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp said in a release. He was a United States Coast Guard Commander, an educator in and out of the classroom, an equal rights activist and a cultural icon. He was known and loved by thousands of people near and far, and will be remembered as a man who gave of himself throughout his life, always with the objective of helping others foremost in his mind.” she said.

After serving as an educator in the classroom, Oliver continued working to improve tribal education by serving as director of Indian student programs at UCLA and the University of Washington before becoming the supervisor of Indian education for the State of Washington.

In 1989 he established the Paddle to Seattle, an event that taught physical and spiritual discipline, and shared his culture with countless people.

“The fact is that Emmett saved hundreds if not thousands of lives. It is hard to underestimate the great positive impact that the resurgence of the canoe culture has had on American Indians in this country. It has helped somany of our children and adults turn away from drugs and alcohol, and displaced depression and despair with hope and culture-based principles. People are learning their culture again. So many more know their language, their songs, their history. They have pride again, and they are staying in school. Emmett Oliver was a true hero among our people, said Sharp.

Born December 2, 1913, Oliver was a stand-out scholar and athlete at Sherman Institute in California, before studying at Baconne Cllege ( a two-year Indian college) and the University of Redlands.

He and his wife, Georgia, have three children, nine grandchildren, eight great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.”

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Our family was blessed to have Emmett as our good friend and mentor for the past fifty-six years, even being responsible for our move to the Northwest. They unstintingly shared their home on the Hood Canal with our family and friends.

I am reflecting today on the many lessons that Emmett, and his wife Georgia, taught me. To have the opportunity to learn their separate cultures, and to love them and their extended family, has been a true blessing.

Beginning with our first meeting when Emmett was a high school counselor and coach, and continuing through the next years, my horizons widened as I became aware that under the fun that Emmett brought to every gathering, a very serious educator always resided.

His efforts to understand and help his people have been legion. Some years ago the book “Two Paths” was written about Emmett’s life and was self-published by him. It was distributed free to schools on the Washington State reservations as an inspiration to young students as to what can be achieved with education.

Goodbye Emmett, our memories of you will leave a happy glow within our hearts. You and Georgia introduced me to Indian America for which I am forever grateful.