No Stranger to Change: The Oyster Bay of Katie Gale

No Stranger to Change: The Oyster Bay of Katie Gale

Presented at NW History meetings in Portland in Spring 2014

LLyn De Danaan, Ph.D.

Emerita, The Evergreen State College

June 2014

“History is usually written by the winners. Their lives comprise the archival collections, and historically these have been white men enjoying political and economic privilege. So long as we rely on the materials at hand, we keep telling the same old stories.” — Jean Barman (BCBW, Volume 23, No 3, Autumn 2007)

Introduction

This conference and its theme of Migration, Encounter, Exchange gave me a good reason to revisit the Native American woman whom I’ve studied and written about during the past decade. My book based on her life was produced for a general audience and though well researched it is not as critical as it would have been for historians of the American West.  Today I want to explore, though briefly, how Albert Hurtado and Ann Laura Stoler’s notes on “intimate frontiers” and the post-colonial concept “aesthetic regime” offer interpretative strategies that are useful in understanding of Katie Gale’s life with her non-Native husband Joseph.

At the end of the piece, I’ll introduce, also briefly, two other layers of imposed sensibilities…the tourist eye and the nostalgic eye…as they molded and distorted the presentation of Native American women in late 19th and early 20th century.

The story of Katie Gale’s late 19th century life as an oyster farmer on Oyster Bay, Totten Inlet, southern Puget Sound is in some ways a uniquely new story. There were many women laboring in the rural west during this period. Some biographies examine these women’s lives in detail. Some novels such as Willa Cather’s My Antonia or Ole Edvart Rolvaag’s Giants in the Earth, have given these women an indelible place in literature.   Bold Spirit, the memorable story of Helga Estby by Linda Lawrence Hunt, makes us wonder what other tales we have yet to learn about and makes us dig deeper. But what is perhaps exceptional about the Katie Gale story is that she was a Native American woman, one of many whose lives off-reservation during the early post-treaty period are seldom examined or given treatment in our texts.

My representation of her life is also somewhat exceptional. A straightforward biography of Katie Gale was not possible given the paucity of material about her or written by her. In fact, the only mark in the record decisively made by her hand is an X firmly inscribed on several court documents. Thus I strove to bring to what I knew of her life a perspective, and to work from what Monique Wittig called an angle of approach that allows us to understand something of her in the context of her time if only from “out of the corner of the eye”. I have more particularly attempted in my book and in this essay to articulate when possible the dynamic interplay of gender, race, and class as these operated in her life. That is I have tried to understand her life from the perspective of a woman marginalized by the dominant culture not just by gender but also by race.   My depiction is a history from, so much as possible, “below,” that is, from the perspective of the margin and told from the point of view of a subaltern experience of the period.

Though documents produced by either Gale are limited, I try through a study of other sources to examine her life through the examination of a particular place and time period, Oyster Bay in the mid to late 1800s. Oyster Bay is a kind of social historical laboratory…one that because it is in the developing west…offers many archival documents:  homestead and donation claim papers, censuses, some diaries and journals, some letters, newspapers, and reports and letters associated with the United States Indian agencies and their officers.  Thus it is not just Katie Gale’s life that I represent (and in no way does the book claim to be a story of the Coast Salish people or any particular band or tribe), but a depiction of a maritime community of great diversity during the early commercialization and exploitation of its resources and statehood. The people of the Bay in many ways did form a community of place and interaction in a shared historical period in a era of great change.

Karen Leong wrote an essay in which she rather optimistically said that biographical studies of non-white women have released a “plethora of unbound voices” that have reshaped the discourse of the Western historical experience. Still, most biography of western women is not analytical, and the majority of these remain “fixated on white women.” and, as Susan Armitage has said, do not challenge much at all.

However critical attention to women’s stories, where it occurs, allows us to understand how gender and race, interacted with structures of power in the west. In Katie Gale’s case, these dynamics take on different significance due to her status in the post-treaty /early statehood period of Washington. Hers is not simply a tale of “survival” or a depiction of daily life on the “frontier” with all its challenges and tragedies.

Katie Gale’s story is in fact primarily a story of gender, racial inequality and the power exerted over her, her kin, her work and her body by an occupying colonial force embodied by her husband, Joseph.  Indeed, Katie Gale’s life exemplifies, I believe, Hurtado’s notion of the “intimate frontiers” of empire “a social and cultural space where racial classifications were defined and defied, where relations between colonizer and colonized could powerfully confound or confirm the strictures of governance:”

When I began work on Katie Gale’s story, everyone I spoke with and everything I found in print about her assumed that she was married “Indian style” to Joseph Gale or was at best his common law wife.  Indeed, I was told that white men married Indian women so that they could acquire their families’ tidelands. Oystermen, some prominent in the area, were known to have had such wives, legal or not, and fathered children by them, but the women are unacknowledged in local histories and biographies.  Katie Gale’s story does not follow this oft-repeated narrative and my guess is that many of these other women who have been dismissed from the history books would have a rather different and significant tale to tell as well.

Katie Gale, probably from a village up river from Puget Sound, had lived through the occupation of Oregon and Washington territory by colonial forces.  She and other western Washington indigenous people, those who lived in drainages of rivers and streams that flow to Puget Sound, had been forcibly removed to prison encampments when they embarked upon a war of resistance (1855-56) with complaints about treaty provisions and reservations. After the war, they were expected to go to reserves.  There, their customary activities, including hunting, gathering, and religious practices, were frowned upon if not outright outlawed. Promised goods and services, spelled out in the treaties made with the United States, were late in coming if they came at all.  The peoples’ ways of relating to one another, the land and water, and their children were undermined by these new rules and the placement and condition of the reserves. Children were taken from the influence of their families and assigned to schools that sought to destroy every semblance of their past lives and values.

In addition, Katie Gale and other Native people had been subjected on all fronts to what the literature of colonization calls a new “sensory regime.” All of the peoples’ lives and bodies including their senses/and sensory experience of home and land, were affected by institutional, white, western controls imposed upon them.  The “civilizing” political society made use of schools, churches, newspapers, and, on reservations, there were enforcers of change such as agents, doctors, farmers and schoolmasters.  It was during this post- treaty time, and after the war, that Katie Gale apparently joined her extended kin in the southern Puget Sound and with them sought work and livelihood off their inadequate reservation, Squaxin Island, and away from direct control of the agency administering the reservation. This is the context in which we must understand the life of Katie Gale and probably the lives and choices available to most Native women throughout the region during this period. 

The imposition of EuroAmerican hegemony was unlike anything that had been experienced by Northwest peoples. It is not as if the indigenous people did not know of and experience differences. Through loose or temporary alliances, trade with others, travel, and intermarriage, they had a vast understanding of and familiarity with a large territory, one Whaley calls Illahee. Contacts and trade included all the people of the Puget Sound, far north along the coast and into the interior with trails across the Cascades and along the Columbia and south at least to northern California. Many indigenous people were familiar with or fluent in several languages and some villages were bilingual. However, they did not organize for power or build empires or have rigid boundaries or borders but instead embraced relatively permeable home territories that were usually welcoming of others. They were especially welcoming to those with kinship ties for these extended rights to hunt or fish or gather. These were loosely structured social systems.  The word “tribe” was a term that in its strictest definition did not accurately describe how indigenous people of western Oregon and Washington territories were organized. Bands or small villages on drainages did, upon occasion, become allies in times of war. But the appellation tribe was applied and became commonly used to refer to those bands of people that were consolidated on reservations and compelled to live together.

Oyster Bay

Oyster Bay, at the head of Totten Inlet, was home to one of the richest native oyster beds in Puget Sound. In addition to the resident T’peeksin, a band of Coast Salish people that lived at the head of the Bay, the bounty of thumb- sized delicacies attracted Native American pickers from all around Puget Sound and beyond, probably for centuries. After treaties of the 1850s and the arrival of homesteading Euro-Americans and Europeans, things changed dramatically for the indigenous people and for Oyster Bay.

In the post 1850s Puget Sound war era, a Coast Salish woman named Katie Gale and her kin and friends, some from bands resident in the South Sound pre-treaty era and some not, were picking and selling Oyster Bay shellfish to non-Natives and making a life off reservation by lumbering, farming, fishing, and working for non-Native settlers.  Women were fully engaged in this work and some had their own “picking grounds.” They were forging unique lives and livelihoods in the post-1856 treaty economy.

Oyster Bay lay largely within what was then called Sawamish County, named after one of the bands of Native Americans who inhabited the territory. The earliest census figures for the area (post-1856) lists a population that includes Native Americans plus people from Scotland, Ireland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (not part of the Canada Federation until 1867), Northwest Territory (joined the Canadian Confederation in 1870), Russia, and France. Many were farmers or small-scale loggers, relatively benign neighbors and friends to indigenous people. By 1870, some Swedes and Norwegians had joined the mix. In 1878, what Raban calls the  “the great self-important juggernaut of American capitalism”  came to Oyster Bay in the guise of Joseph Gale and his partner. Joseph joined forces with Katie Gale whose family provided a work force, and had the resources, and the skills with which to cultivate and harvest oysters. Thus began commercial oystering on Oyster Bay. With this came more intensive gathering and parceling out of tidelands to non-Natives (and some Natives) as well as new territorial and then state laws (post 1889) governing the cultivation and harvesting of oysters.  At the same time, other institutions were well established or become established: fraternal lodges, transport, banks, newspapers (one bank rolled by Joseph Gale), steamboats, mills, bridges, and churches. The work of settlement and colonization was in full swing now, and the population grew with people intent on making this territory their own. By 1879, there were Danes, Newfoundlanders, Italians, an Australian or two and some Swiss on Oyster Bay. There were eight Chinese, a number that remained steady until 1889, the year of the Chinese Exclusion Case. Still, Chinese came back quickly: twenty-three on the census rolls, by 1892. There was a floating Chinese laundry on Oyster Bay and a upland one at New Kamilche. Katie Gale and Joseph had Chinese workmen and a foreman who was Cowlitz/Chinese mix. During that same period, the early 1890s and beginning in the late 1880s, right after Washington became a state, there was a large influx of “Canadians” and Norwegians. More than 300 Canadians were on the census roles in 1892.

Thus Katie Gale’s Oyster Bay, where she lived and worked from around 1860 to her death was cosmopolitan and rapidly changing. People from Europe and elsewhere who applied for homesteads would be working for citizenship at the same time in order to qualify and “prove” their claim. They would not be leaving.

The Gale union, a formally legalized and documented marriage, was one of the countless cross- cultural unions that involved Native American women and European or Euro-American men in the region and on Oyster Bay. Such marriages or common law unions are recorded in journals, diaries and letters from the early days of Fort Astoria, Fort Vancouver, and Fort Nisqually to name a few.Through these “tender ties” bonds were made between and among whole groups of people. Though much of the discussion in the literature concerns the marriages between trappers, esp. French and indigenous women, a fair amount has been published that depicts Native women in alliance with men who were either in positions of leadership, for example, in Hudson Bay Company, at Fort Astoria, or in nascent European villages or towns, and or rose to those positions during the relationship.  In many ways, these cross-cultural marriages could be positive and could change the climate or character of a community from one exclusively Eurocentric to one decidedly more cosmopolitan (given that the woman usually joined the husbands business or home). They could shift the meaning of home to one that was local rather than distant for the male. They certainly could and often did establish a reciprocating bond with the local indigenous community of the wife’s family. They also provided for intimacy for both partners. For the woman, given the depredations of the era, the loss of home and home territory, and the uncertainty of the future, the marriages provided or helped her to establish a certain stability and economic as well as social space. Of course the cultural differences between the pair often continued to be obstacles to truly successful relationships as did racism and the rules and legal obstacles the surrounding community of laws and prejudice placed in the way even when husbands defended and fully embraced wives. The children of these marriages, often referred to as Metis informally, were variously accepted, assimilated, and/or faced with ambiguous or changing legal status during the last half of the 19th century of Washington. In terms of official United States policy viz the indigenous population, this period is known as the Assimilation Era.  In keeping with the dominant culture’s sentiment,  in some instances, a husband wanted to eradicate any relationship or identification the children of the marriage had to Indian roots. He might also wish to erase or eradicate the woman’s own race and culture in any way possible. This was the case of Joseph Gale.  Thus, to quote Stoler and Hurtado, The “tender ties” were also “sites of production of colonial inequities and therefore of tense ties as well.”   Stoler writes that “matters of the intimate are critical sites for the consolidation of colonial power, that management of those domains provides a strong pulse on how relations of empire are exercised, and that affairs of the intimate are strategic for empire-driven states.”

During the economic panic of 1893, Katie Gale feared that Joseph, in whose name their tidelands were recorded, would lose their wealth. Also, she had, she said, been treated as a menial laborer though she was a full partner in their enterprise. Joseph paid her for her labors at the same rate he paid other piecework laborers he employed. She sued, ultimately ran her own oyster business, and left considerable holdings to their two children. Her modest home was on the site of what is now the still successful Olympia Oyster Company. Her story from the point of her suit against Joseph is one of many that reflect the perseverance of women during territorial and early statehood as well as the complexity of the “encounters” between and among people in the early territorial days of the Northwest. She went to court to protect her holdings and during the proceedings she defined and spoke from her subaltern status as Native woman.

She is an Indian Woman

Pre-colonization Native American women in the region were full participants in economic activities of their families and bands.  There are many instances of leadership of women in the literature and oral histories. There were a number of paths by which women attained power, including spiritual power. Women might be shaman. Women could indirectly influence economic activity through their husbands. Some women transformed themselves and became “male” in order to exert power.  Native women in the Northwest, however, were nearly immediately compared negatively with European and EuroAmerican women by European explorers and entrepreneurs. Their “nakedness” offended, they bathed in the river, were deemed “devoid of shame and decency” and were called prostitutes. Denigrating language such as this is found in the letters and reports of agents assigned to the Squaxin Island Reservation, the reservation where Oyster Bay Native Americans would have been expected to reside. Women were often called “squaws” and Katie, married to an enterprising and upwardly mobile white man did not escape these judgments and deprecations.  In court Joseph repeatedly spoke of her disparagingly. “If she couldn’t support herself with the money he paid her, he suggested, it is because she behaves like an Indian. That is, she works until she received payment (and this was true, he added, before they married), “then she would go off and stay with the Indians sometimes for months.” He complained that she would, “get up in the night,” and be gone for days. He claimed she was, “running with Indian men.”He portrayed her as erratic and unpredictable. He denigrates her work habits.

Dismayed by such behavior, he complained that, “she usually returned broke and affiant would give her employment again.” She had, he said, “wild Indian ways.” She squandered her money he said, giving it to her, “tillicum and kindred.” Then there was her temper, he continued. “She is an Indian woman of vulgar taste violent and unruly temper and has often made life a burden for him.” Even her voice offended him and his mates. It was too loud and her language unseemly. She could not be trained into being a proper EuroAmerican ideal of womanhood. Indeed, some of the language used to describe Katie Gale by Joseph Gale and his friends (in courtroom settings) is almost identical to that found in the European and Euroamerican journals from the early 1800s. Katie Gale and other Native women were caught up in a new aesthetic regime that sought to colonize their minds and bodies.

The Colonization of Women’s Bodies

In the time remaining, I want to speak briefly of one of the many ways in which Native American women’s bodies were colonized and paradoxically idealized by the new regime.

From the moment Vancouver first admired the coasts, the waters, the woods, and the inlets of the Pacific Northwest, the dream was of colonization

From the first, what was here needed, it seemed to those entrepreneurial visitors, was Europeanizing. Vancouver did not see what was actually in front of him. He saw dreams of the future and the promise of a new land made to serve the interests of his country. He saw hedges and gardens. Drawings made by European artists and laypersons on Vancouver’s ship and those of French and Spanish voyages and later travelers such as Paul Kane may have depicted what was “seen” in sketches, but these were dressed up by engravers or by themselves in studios as they produced finished paintings or before publication. Composition was constructed by a European or EuroAmerican eye.   And European paintings informed what was “seen.” As Raban writes, “The ghost of Salvator Rosa, hugely popular in England at the time (of Vancouver’s voyage) hangs over the midshipmen’s efforts as they labor to translate the giddy heights and vacant solitudes of the Northwest into familiar pictorial terms.”

The new aesthetic regime began its work in these earliest of encounters and it worked hand in hand with the privilege of  “discovery.”  That is, the discoverer is privileged to mold a landscape to his liking either by name, by design, or by force. This is the privilege of discovery. This is how the discoverer fabricates a land it can colonize. From making hedges, importing Scotch Broom, to sending Native children to boarding schools and putting them into unfamiliar clothing. Not just minds are colonized, but the hills, water ways, body and the skin …..everything.

European and EuroAmericans, particularly men, carried with them to the Northwest the will to colonize and this will was informed by a largely Victorian sensibility with respect to women (Victoria reigned from 1837-1901, roughly covering the period of the settlement of the Oregon Territory to the end of Katie Gale’s life) that translated into very specific expectation of women’s behavior, sexuality, and bodies.

Behaviors or dress that fell outside that expectation and sensibility were open to critical scrutiny and labeling. Women who challenged the Victorian ideal were chastised…whether in America or Europe or elsewhere in the colonial world.

Mid to late 18th century Victorian standards for women put previously uncluttered lives of powerful women from communities of Native people into literal and metaphorical strait jackets of corsets and stays…and the burden of bustles and layers of fabric popular from about………..These were totally unsuitable for the “usual an accustomed” work of the daily lives of rural women generally and Native women like Katie Gale working on mud flats culling and cultivating oysters.

Still, the EuroAmerican ideal for Native peoples included American dress of the time and order and sensibilities that were American. By boarding school times, post mid 1800s in Washington Territory, young people were extracted from homes and sent off to mission schools or consolidated agency schools shorn and dressed in buttons and bows, vests, floppy ties and creased trousers. Even music was used as a tool of assimilation. Bands were popular at Chemawa school for the order and structure they required. Uniforms were military style and followed the model established by Henry Pratt at the Carlisle Indian School.The schools often changed students’ names and images of the now “civilized” children were published in order to gain support for funding. They were also groomed for work in northern cities, the girls to act as servants during school breaks. Ostensibly such work would help further the assimilation process.  And with the coats and dresses and boots and bands came the rest: lessons, books, manners and European and Euroamerican ideas of propriety, gender, and power. Ersatz European or Boston ideologies and aesthetic regimes came to overlay everything in the world of Pacific Northwest. Even the animals brought with them in their feed and dung the seeds of foreign plants that changed the landscape and the nostalgia for home led settlers to import plants like the Scotch Broom that is now ubiquitous.  Nothing was quite right. All had to be “tamed.”

Katie Gale’s as Katie Gale struggled to retain rights to live her life, make gifts and give money to relatives, stay within the Native community, and raise her children. But ultimately, her daughter Maud was kidnapped by Joseph Gale and, with the court’s approval, sent to an Olympia Sisters of Providence school where her husband complained even of visits by her mother and her mother’s Native American women relatives and friends. Though many of Katie Gale’s family had assumed the trappings of the dominant culture (see wedding picture from 1903), they were still Indian. Here in the Olympia school, though Maud had been doing well in the local mixed school on Oyster Bay, she was subjected to a regimen that truly distanced her from her mother’s Native influence. After Katie Gale died in 1898, her son was also sent to school in Olympia, attended the People’s University there, and became a bottler at the local brewery. Maud and Ray both married non -Natives and were absorbed by the dominant society.

Curiously, the corsets and bustles and the gingham dresses and aprons many Native women were wearing by the late 19th century became symbols of loss by the early 20th century. Newspapers marked the passing of aged Indian men and women with nostalgic obituaries. Many were said to be the “last of their tribe.” Edward Curtis passed through Puget Sound, removed the dresses and bustles, dressed women in woven cattail mats, let down their hair, and photographed these women in tableau-like reenactments of a life they no longer lived. These portraits became objects of “art” for an appreciative EuroAmerican audience.   End oral presentation.  The North American Indian project, of which these photographs were a part, was financed by J.P. Morgan and began in 1906. Other what might be called “end of the trail” art flourished in photographs and documentaries such as Curtis’ Land of the Headhunter, premiering in 1914, Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North, 1922, and the work of Marius Barbeau in Canada. It is no accident that songs such as Pale Moon with lyrics by Jesse Glick were popular in the 1920s and also employed “stereotypes that anchor Indian people firmly in a timeless, primordial way of life.” The operettas Pocahontas and The Captain of Plymouth and the song By the Waters of Minnetonka were also popular and depicted the “Indianist” music and confirmed many “non-Indian ideas about Indian culture.”

At the same time, tourism grew and with it the notion of collecting and seeing Indians first hand as part of a Northwest experience. Basket making was encouraged by the Department of Interior as a means of earning income and with the baskets, photographs of the basket makers were made and even sold as postcards. Through the early 20th century, literally hundreds of tourists traveled by day rail to see Indians in the Puyallup hop fields. “See them play their native games” one promotion reads, and “secure one of the beautiful Native Woven Baskets.”  Tourists visited the Lake Quinault Lodge on the Olympic Peninsula and were feted by Indian performances and treated to the opportunity to purchase from Indian basket makers. (see picture) Now it was authenticity that was longed for by the EuroAmerican audience.

There is much more to mine from Katie Gale’s story and the history of Native American women living on Oyster Bay….for example how did the off-reservation women interact with and support each other? How did they interact with reservation women? How did they interact with EuroAmerican women? For example, we know of many stories of Native women acting as healers and midwives to white and Native women in the region. This includes Louisa Tobin, a cousin of Katie Gale. What were the boundaries of their acceptance beyond that role and others they played in their maritime communities?

NOTES:

Research Files, Katie Gale’s Tombstone: The Work of Researching a Life

by Llyn De Danaan. Oregon Historical Quarterly. Winter 2005.

See “The Straight Mind and Other Essays” by Monique Wittig. She defines “angle of approach in the context of discussing Djuna Barne’s work: “a constant shifting which, when the text is read, produces an effect comparable to what I call an ou-of-the corner-of-the-eye perception; the text bears the mark of that ‘estrangement’. P. 62.

I owe much to the work of bell hooks, “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center,” and Gramsci’s post-colonial theories. See Kate A.F. Crehan, “Gramsci, Culture and Anthropology.” Chapter five of Crehan’s book discusses the power relations that maintain subordination of the subaltern and the “cracks and fissures that could potentially lead to their overcoming it.”

Karen Leong cited by Margaret Jacobs, Pacific Historic Review, p. 592 and      Susan Armitage   “Wetern Women’s Biographies,” Western American Literature, 41, No. 1 (spring 2006), 72. Cited by Margaret Jacobs, ibid.

For example the wonderful and popular book Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America by Linda Lawrence Hunt, Anchor, 2005. A great story of an exceptional  Norwegian immigrant woman in late 19th century Washington State.

Quoted in Margaret D. Jacobs, “Getting Out of Rut: Decolonizing Western Women’s History,” Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 79, No. 4, pages 585-604. 2010. P. 592.

Cited by Margaret D. Jacobs, ibid., Susan Armitage, “Western Women’s Biographies, “ Western American Literature, 41, No. 1, (Spring 2006), 72.

Albert Hurtado, Intimate Frontiers: Sex, Gender, and Culture in Old California (Albuquerque, 1999). See also “Settler Women and Frontier Women: The Unsettling Past of Western Women’s History,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies, Vol. 22, No. 3, Women’s West (2001), pp. 1-5.

A story of Katie Gale’s contemporary, Sally, is an example. She was married to a white man and lived and laboured with him for years as his spouse but was never allowed in his sister’s house and was denied any of their jointly earned wealth after his death and in the aftermath of two lengthy court hearings. The legality of her marriage was challenged by the dead man’s birth family and her legal standing was examined in courts and denied. She had been picking oysters from her “own bed” before she met and married the man and was well known to be making a good living on her own.

I am indebted to Margaret D. Jacobs for introducing me to the concept of “sensory regime” and the conversations about it in post-colonialism literature. See: “White Mother to a Dark Race,” by Margaret D. Jacobs, “The Anthropology of Colonialism,” Peter Pels, Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol 26 (1997), pp. 163-183; “Racial Malleability and the Sensory Regime of Politically Conscious Brazilian Hip Hop, Jennifer Roth-Gordon, 7 July 2013, American Anthropological Association.

Gray H. Whaley, “Oregon and the Collapse of Illahee: U.S. Empire and the Transformation of an Indigenous World, 1792-1859.”

Not in the sense in which this term is used to describe Thai society. I mean it in the sense of the fluidity of the bilateral kinship system and marriage as well as the relative lack of structurally determined leadership and interaction between and among bands and individuals.

Other terms…nation, consolidated bands of…..etc.

Stevens treaties, 1854-55.  Donation Land Claims Act, 1850.  Homestead Act, .

Sally

Renamed Mason County in 1864 in honor of Charles H. Mason, the first Secretary of Washington Territory. One of the signs of increasing white settlement and EuroAmericanizing/colonizing is the substitution of Euro-names for Native names.

Jonathan Raban, “Passage to Juneau: The Sea and Its Meanings”, Vintage, 2000. p. 70.

The Canadian influx may have to do with the fortunes of the Simpson and Grisdale families who emigrated from Quebec. S.G. Simpson formed the Simpson Logging Company in Mason County 1890 and was joined by a relative and neighbor George Grisdale in 1889. George’s letters to his brother Bill may have been typical of the seductive descriptions of the area being written home. The trees, he said, were “really big and tall and thick” and had to be seen to be believed. At the same time, more thousands left the Maritimes due to worsening economic conditions. (cite Thornton)

Japanese do not appear in the area census rolls until the early 1900s.

The Homestead Act of 1862 Declared that any citizen or intended citizen could claim 160 acres of surveyed government land. The Indian Homestead Act  of 1875 extended the Homestad Act of 1862 to Indians provided they gave up their tribal affiliation.

Forthcoming book by Candace Wellman, The Peace Weavers: 19th Century Intermarriages at the Edge of the Salish Sea. This is to be a group of biographies of indigenous women married to army officers and settlers on the 1850s in one geographic cluster of intermarriages in the Bellingham Bay in Washington Territory. Also see Jean Barman’s new book, French Canadians, Furs and Indigenous Women in the Making of the Pacific Northwest.  Jean Barman  September 2014 University of Washington Press. (UBC Press)

See “Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670-1870. Sylvia Van Kirk. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1983. Also Gray H. Whaley, “Oregon and the Collapse of Illahee,” University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

Assimilation Era in Federal Indian Policy was 1887, the beginning of the allotment period, and 1943.

“Tense and Tender Ties: The Politics of Comparison in North American History and (Post) Colonial Studies,” Ann Laura Stoler, The Journal of American History, Vol. 88, No. 3. December 2001. P.4. “Settler Women and Frontier Women: The Unsettling Past of Western Women’s History,” Albert L. Hurtado. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Vol. 22, No. 3, Women’s West (2001) pp. 1-5.

  Ann Laura Stoler “Intimidations of Empire: Predicaments of the Tactile and Unseen” in Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History, Duke University Press,  2006. page 4,   Quoted in Margaret Jacobs page 602

Example of one female shaman is the prophet Kauxuma-nupika who traveled from the plains and plateau to the lower Columbia in the early 1800s warning of coming disease and whites. Whaley discusses the role of “Madame Coalpo in the Columbia fur trade and comments that women were often at “the helm” of fur trading expeditions. Gray H. Whaley, “Oregon and the Collapse of Illahee,” University of North Carolina Press, 2010, p. 42.

Many biographies, including those of contemporary women leaders, are available. See Esther Ross’s (Stillaguamish) biography, Betty Mae Jumper’s autobiography, with Patsy West, A Seminole Legend: The Life of Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, Lakota Woman, by Mary Crow Dog and Richard Erdoes , or Wilma Mankiller and Michael Wallace’s Mankiller: A Chief and Her People (1993). Also see stories of Lozen, the prominent Chiricahua Apache warrier and prophetess, and Mildred Cleghorn, first tribal chairwoman at the Fort Sill Reservation.

Whaley, ibid. p. 45.

This term was used to denote certain relationships between Indian women and EuroAmerican men on Oyster Bay. Indian Country Today ( HYPERLINK “http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/01/31/word-squaw-offensive-or-not-153328″ http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/01/31/word-squaw-offensive-or-not-153328) circulated an account of the historical uses of the term written by Vincent Schilling.

Raban p. 161 and the painting of the loom.

Jonathan Raban p. 160

A new exhibit at MOHAI (Seattle’s wonderful revitalized Museum of History and Industry in its new home on South Lake Union) allows spectators to push buttons and watch hills around Seattle and Elliot Bay disappear as these features rise into the sky on long fish lines and vanish into the “clouds” as it were. With just the push of a button, the course of the Duwamish River becomes a straight line rather than the meandering oxbow it once was. There seems to be no ironic commentary or critique of this….we push buttons and “poof!” there goes Denny Hill. 

To Win the Indian Heart: Music at Chemawa Indian School, Melissa D. Parkhurst, First Peoples, Oregon State University Press, Corvallis. 2014. p. 34.

Ibid. p. 28.

Sisters of Providence were especially active in establishing schools for Metis children.

For a story of Edward Curtis’ life and work see Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan. 2012 Houghton Mifflen. The book further glorifies  an already glamourized man and it’s a “good read.”

Melissa Parkhurst, To Win the Indian Heart. First Peoples. Oregon State University Press. Corvallis. 2014. p. 58

Ibid. p. 59

Authentic Indians: Episodes of Encounter from the Late-Nineteenth Century.  Paige Raibmon. Duke University Press. June 2005.

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Two Hills

Two Hills

For my cousin Pete Patterson

June 2017

There was a standpipe

On the highest rise,

Above my Grandma’s house.

And to the west, a cemetery

Always neatly shorn

Forbidding to a child born from its ceremony.

It was a maze of polished granite

And of mounds

The length and shape of bodies

And all about, the smell of rotting flowers.

There was nothing there that could be trod upon

Though once a year, we Baptists made

A pilgrimage to decorate

And dump the putrid water from the vessels by the stones.

The Catholics were not there, my Mother said.

They had their own hill above a fen

Outside the town where guileless cicadas sang and crows

And Irish bachelors lay in straight flat rows

Beside the matriarch and spinster kin.

“Where Grandma Pat will go,” my Mother said.

Below the standpipe was a gentle slope of grass

Where cousins played with balls and bats

And dogs could run without a leash.

And did.

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All the Dogs Died and the People Got Old

All the Dogs Died and the People Got Old

LLyn De Danaan

June  2017

The Ash tree had never looked so grand. It was a burning bush of red-orange, a color that glowed, seemingly from an inner source though it was clearly the rising sun behind it that caused it to shimmer with light. Sylvia looked at it for a long time. Then she looked at the yellowing plate-sized leaves of the maple and then out at  ripples on the bay, the  concentric ever widening circles moving out from a disturbed center. The chum were already beginning their journey to the spawning grounds and their occasional jumps and wags were irritating the otherwise smooth surface out there. The sky was clear today and the sun rose sluggishly but methodically from behind a bank of ragged trees that marked the grey, cloudless horizon. October. It wouldn’t be cloudless for many more days. It was already prudent, she thought, to wear a sweater or even a jacket when walking outside.


She studied everything this morning, tried to commit it all to memory. How many more Octobers would she see, she wondered. Not many. Remember this one. Remember each burnished leaf. Remember this brilliant, light morning and the quank quank of the distant ducks calling for one another. I’m here. I exist. I must have this to remember, she thought.

Sylvia was the kind of woman who had no waistline but was not given to fat. She didn’t care about either the waist or the fat. She cared about being strong and capable and able to clean the gutters and the beach stairs.


The raccoons had been defecating on the beach stairs. Again. They were a nuisance. Their families had multiplied and their visits had become frequent now that all the dogs were dead. Sylvia’s dog, a fearless, kinky haired dachshund that lived to a grumpy, incontinent fifteen years, had kept wild animals at bay for its entire life. Not one raccoon or deer dared creep up the gentle incline to the garden much less come into the yard. They all fled at the sound of one cranky yip from the little beast.


Now, with the helpful and companionable dog gone, it was up to Sylvia to develop strategies that might thwart the generations of raccoon and deer to come far into the foreseeable future as well as the rascally present ones. The goal, with respect to raccoon, was to prevent them from dropping their toxic shit in places where she or her guests might walk. The deer, of course, were to be frustrated in their attempt to eat all the fruit she undertook to grow.


Sylvia’s face had begun to shatter and crack like a too far gone dried apple or a left-outside -all-winter pumpkin squash. She blamed the demise of her blameless forehead and soft cheeks, in part, on the bother caused by raccoons. She found herself  this morning wondering if they’d been back to the steps after her last cleaning, just a few days ago. She felt the deep creases between her eyes folding into themselves as she frowned with the anticipation of her irritation and displeasure. She felt the pathways that traveled a worn trek from the corners of her mouth to where her jaw line used to be deepen as she perseverated. Raccoons are aging me, she thought.


No one else in the neighborhood had a dog either. Well, there was one. It was not much of a dog and was not even allowed outside. But it could be heard, often, and  especially during periods of its owners’ prolonged daily absences.  It was reportedly, according to neighbors who had caught sight of it lunging at them from behind a glass door, small and pathetically lonely. It had to be confined. It would make a breakfast snack for a coyote, but that would be about all.

Another dog, the aptly named Old Hefty, had died two years ago. That was Sylvia’s closet neighbor’s dog. He was a frightening, mammoth black lab who had been observed tearing raccoons into small pieces, albeit one beast at a time. Hefty had been wrapped in an eponymous black plastic trash bag and laid solemnly at the bottom of a  deep grave into which fresh flowers were scattered. Most of the neighbors came and stood  around the hole with more respect than they showed each other most of the time.  They stayed until the last shovel full of dirt had been tossed on to the top of the grizzled old body. As she watched, Sylvia thought again that she would be cremated and scattered on the bay.

While alive, Hefty had nearly knocked out the raccoon population though the only time there were no raccoons around at all was when the distemper virus took hold. Not one live animal was seen for a year or two. Hefty and the other dogs became as dreary as sloths and loathed their luckless, empty lives during that period.

The only person left from from the old original set of neighbors from the early days was Simone. Sylvia and Simone had shared the same long, rutted driveway, for almost fifty years but they’d never been in each others’ houses. They spoke or waved when they passed on the drive. They saw each other when they went out to help the men buck up trees that fell over the driveway in the winter. They sat opposite each other in neighborhood meetings when the community well had to be improved or the driveway needed to be graded. Neither of them spoke in these meetings. Discussion was dominated by the men, each of whom was easily set off by the others.  These gatherings were grim. They were mostly about money and how much each household would need to pitch in to solve this or that problem. It was hard for some to stay on topic. The men debated and even shouted over each other. Whether or not Simone and Sylvia or any other women spoke, the outcome would be the same. At least that’s what they believed. An occasional smirk passed between Sylvia and Simone as they listened to the men rage.


Sometimes a new, ambitious neighbor would mount a workshop on septic tank maintenance and suggest people bring a potluck dish to share after each had learned to de-lid their tanks and check the level of the sludge. Sometimes a guest from the county attended and handed out leaflets. It was all boring, but Sylvia and Simone grudged through it. They never got to know much about each other. Sometimes a neighbor would invite them to a birthday party. They’d both go, Simone with her husband when he was still around. They were alway polite to each other but nothing of substance passed between them.


Sylvia decided many years ago that they had nothing in common, she and Simone, so if she talked at these gatherings, it was with the new people, the younger people, who slowly replaced all of her old friends and neighbors.

Now it was only Simone left from the old days. And the new people. Simone was the one who knew what it used to be like. Who had known all the dogs. Who remembered the ice storms and the power outages and the big snows and the high tides that carried one neighbor’s wood stash out to sea and the time the driveway turned into a syrupy slurry for five days, and the Thanksgivings when they had to sled their turkeys from the main road if they were to have anything to roast.


Simone lived alone since her vintage spouse had left her for a Korean woman he met at the PX. This new woman reminded him of a girlfriend he’d had while he was in the service.


This new woman worked in a massage parlor, completely legit and catering primarily to Asian and Caucasian women. The Asian women liked to rub their calves and thighs raw between repeated dips in a hot, viscous pool housed in a long cement trough. The almost liquid resembled soup and smelled of woody herbs and the stuff of cow pastures and soy bean fields. Small twigs floated here and there. The Asian women were interested in smooth, sensual bodies. They worked hard to maintain the allure of supple, ripple free skin and tight twats, willing to steam and manipulate for as long as it took. These bodies would be a delight for others. The Caucasian women, on the other hand, preferred to be rubbed raw by someone other than themselves but only if also covered with cucumbers or buttered with honey before or after the peelings or, preferably, both before and after. The Caucasian women were interested in the immediate pleasure of being palpated and not in stage setting their bodies for someone else.

Simone’s husband’s girlfriend delighted in the ritual exfoliation of these naked pale-skinned bodies while gossiping in a loud voice with the masseuse at the next table over the vegetable laden breasts and sugared thighs of clients. The clients, who understood not a word, sunk deeply into otherwise rarely achieved deep dreams and erotic fantasies.
Simone’s husband’s girlfriend was rough with the women and they loved it. Her tips were handsome and she had many repeat customers.


The girlfriend, in fact, not a girl at all but a woman in her fifties, had a small flat near the Army base and only a mile or two from the PX. It was decorated with Japanese screens, the only thing she could find that reminded her slightly of home, and cloisonné pots and dolls from around the world. She was very, very tidy. The husband and the girlfriend began to meet there each time the husband made a trip to the PX for groceries. Now he lived there. It was, he found, nice to eat regularly and to have a masseuse in the house.


Simone, kept in the dark both literally and figuratively, was surprised but not disappointed when he packed his bag to leave. She had been preparing to face the future, grim as the prospects were, with this old man who did little other than drink and watch television news 24 hours a day when not occupied with noisy naps and massive bowls of macaroni and cheese from a box.

                                                           ……
The stairs to up to Simone’s house were made of bare but treated six by twos. Each step had a heavy veneering of moss and mildew. They’d be a terror to negotiate when the rains came and slicked the coating.


Simone had heard Sylvia’s footsteps and opened a door that, near its bottom, still bore the muddy scratch marks made by Simone’s former dog in its desperate hope to be let inside. Simone had sometimes confused the sounds the dog made at the door with her husband’s scuffling about. So dog had learned to keep it up, sometimes for half an hour or more. The door was landscaped with the animal’s deep frustration.


Simone grinned a heavily lipsticked smile of welcome as she opened the door to Sylvia. “Well hello, neighbor,” she said. “What you doing girl?” Simone’s spiked, sparse hair was a deep shade of burgundy and her cheek rouge matched.


Simone had always been small. Now her stove pipe calves and thighs, elements of limbs that attached to her torso some where up under an enthusiastically large tent of a denim shirt embroidered with flowers, seemed too thin to support any weight let alone propel a body. Her pant legs were straight up and down, the circumference of the ankle the same as the circumference at that top of the thigh and that was the approximate circumference of an average size biscuit cutter.


Simone’s nails were too long to be functional. And they were sharp. Sylvia thought of all the things she could not do if she had such nails: pick up a dropped coin, type a letter, manage a pinch of salt. She wondered if Simone’s lengthy nails were glued over or on top of some average, sensible ones or if she had actually grown these daggers and if so, how? They were painted, each one, with the images of a green and blue Sea Hawk. Sylvia’s own buffed ovals seemed underdressed in Simone’s company.


That same blue and green image was on a beach towel tacked on to the wall over one of the Lazy Boy chairs in the room. There was a tiger striped cat on the arm of that same chair. His possum sized body was centered on yet another Sea Hawk towel, this one serving as a kind of drool rag. Long strings of this hung trembling from the cat’s lower jaw. They seemed caught in time and space, a slow motion, miniature waterfall.


On the wall behind the second Lazy Boy, beside which was a table with a half empty bottle of Coke and a full ashtray, both on an off-white, crocheted dolly, was an unidentifiable animal’s pelt. Peering out from deep brown fur were two glass eyes and a dark, seemingly leather, nose. The eyes were peering down in the direction of the Lazy Boy below them.
The floor boards, made of a narrow grained pine, were nearly but not quite covered by a tatty Kilim, torn here and there no doubt by the cat in his younger, pounce-driven days. Or maybe by a predecessor cat.


There was a smell of burnt coffee in the room, a hint of wood smoke, and just a passing, ghostly whiff of cat urine.


“Take a load off,” Simone said and made a flourishing gesture toward the Lazy Boy below the pelt. “How about some coffee.”


Well, I’m here now, thought Sylvia. “I’d love some,” she said and fell into the Lazy Boy. Her feet did not nearly reach the floor. She felt trapped by the oversized chair. Child like. She tried to feel at ease.


The kitchen was separated from the living room by an imposing oak counter that served as a divider. It was something that might once have prevented a prisoner from storming a judge on his bench. Now it simply drew a line between guest versus host, or it did at this point. Simone could see Sylvia hovering over the stove. The two talked while Simone set to brewing the coffee in an antique percolator. At least Sylvia thought of it as antique. She herself had an espresso machine, all chrome and dials, and such, in her kitchen and had considered switching to a single serving pot, one of the new ones that allowed a person to make all kinds of hot drinks, one at a time.

“Milk?”

“No thanks. I like mine black. Maybe just a pinch of sugar if you have it.”
“Do you want me to do the pinching?” Simone said. And then winked and laughed.

Sylvia didn’t quite get the joke. And when she did she felt herself blush.

                                                                         ……..
As the two old women sat and talked together. Simone, Sylvia noted as they reminisced, had lovely lips, the lower one still full and both upper and lower pink and even, though age had surrounded them with cavernous creases that arced from the corners of her mouth to her chin. Two other deep lines made their way from each edge of her nostrils to below the zygomatic bones and caused the bit of flesh above them to accentuate a slightly rosy though somewhat sunken cheek. Her eyes were rimmed with pinkish flesh and there was only the hint of eyelash or even an eye brow. Of course. She must have been a redhead or very fair when she was younger. There were intimations of a deep bittersweet left in the mostly grey though it was difficult to see for the green scarf she had wound around her head.

Her lids, her eyelids were lovely. They were the kind of eyelids seen in classic paintings, clearly, fully present, unlike her own hooded Celtic ones that sometimes actually obscured the printed page and caused her to strain to keep the curtain from coming down altogether. Simone’s lids were smooth and there was nothing under the eyes that suggested the dreaded swelling in the morning that Sylvia experienced after just a glass of wine or a bit too much salt with dinner the night before. True, there were hundreds of minute lines there on Simone’s face. But they were attractive in their way. She did not have furrows between her eyebrows but lines on the forehead so many and so even that they could have served as a staff for a series of musical notes. She chuckled as she imagined painting in a G, and A, and F and maybe a Bb. Or perhaps, she thought, a tattooed note here and there.
Simone’s neck was lean and the jawline soft but still defined. It was a nice neck. Simone was, all in all, pleasant to behold.

“How about another coffee, Hon? Or would you rather have a drink. It’s after 3 I think. My Dad always said you aren’t a drunk if you don’t start in till after 3.”

“Maybe a glass of white wine if you have it.”


“I must have some around here somewhere.”


Simone got up and went back into the poorly lit kitchen area. She put finger to lip and stood staring as if  wondering if the bottle of detergent on her sink might be the wine in disguise. Then she suddenly dove under the sink. Or at least appeared to from where Sylvia sat. There was the noise of glass and metal bumping and grating. Sylvia wondered how Simone might be protecting her nails during this search.

After a bit more rattling about, up she rose, like Venus, clutching a bottle against her breast with her right arm, her scarf gone, and her hair falling like coils of rope all around and in her face. There was something funny and triumphant in the way she angled herself across the oak  divider toward Sylvia and then raised the bottle above her head.

“I knew it was back in there! Now to find a corkscrew. No, wait a minute, its a twist top. That makes it easy.”


Simone opened a cabinet to the left of the sink and grabbed a couple of logo tumblers. One was from a 1983 oyster festival and the other was from a logging show held in the next county ten years ago. Of course the wine would be hot. It had been, obviously, living under the sink next to the hot water pipe Sylvia supposed. Yet, it was maybe a red. Still, probably very old and cheap. But what the hell. If she wanted to have company, she had to over look little things like that.


A tumbler full was thrust into her hand. She took a sip. It was warm. And it was sweet. She glanced at the label on the bottle Simone had placed on the floor next to her chair. Moscato. Sylvia never drank Moscato. Loathed it. Usually drank red wine, deep, heavy, almost syrupy red wine. Usually from a bottle she’d purchased after a tasting at a smart wine bar or during a visit to a winery. If she drank anything else, it was a gin or vodka martini but made only with upscale brands of gin and vodka. She associated Moscato with people who drank to get drunk. Or with her ex sister in law.

Still. Here she was. Getting to know her neighbor.

                                                              ……

Simone adjusted the damper on her wood stove. It wasn’t really obvious that there was a fire in it, but when the door was opened, she could see a glow. Simone threw in a small log. Just enough to keep a little heat in the house. Then she fell into her own lounger.

Simone pulled at the glass the way a beer drinker might pull at a mug of brew. Then her lips formed a crenellated pucker just visible over the rim of the glass. The lips mimicked the scalloped edges of the painting of the oyster shell on the glass. Tiny channels had darted the flesh around her mouth and the dabs of color from her lips had found their way into them. Sylvia, who rarely wore lipstick, thought, “This could be avoided with the use of lip liner.” She knew that from reading glamour magazines while waiting for dental appointments. Then laughed out loud at herself. She realized that she wasn’t giving Simone the credit she deserved.  Of course Sylvia knew about lip liner.  But who cares.

“TOO SWEET!“ Simone announced abruptly from the depths of the faux leather chair. “This is some junk he left.”


There was a sudden accompanying movement. The ginger cat was awakened by the shout, leapt, and found purchase on the knee of Sylvia’s denim trousers. She felt the stinging prickle of tenfold untrimmed claws. From the knee, the cat moved quickly up and crumpled itself into Sylvia’s lap and began to wheeze and hum. Sylvia imagined it might be pleasant to pet the cat’s head, but an audible grumbled reproach caused her to think better before the hand made a landing. The cat resumed its hum and began to drool.


“Wine’s not really my drink,” Simone continued. “I’m a scotch woman.”

“Oh.” Said Sylvia. She could think of nothing else to say.


“Want one?”


Anything to avoid the Moscato.


Simone took Sylvia’s glass and hers to the sink and ran them both under water to rinse any trace of the wine away. She found the scotch easily, up in the cupboard above the stove. It was a brand Sylvia did not recognize. Simone poured a couple of inches into each tumbler. No ice. No water.
It was getting warm, even cosy, in the room. The cat dribbled. Sylvia kicked off her shoes and tucked her feet up under her thighs and settled more deeply into the Lazy Boy.


The women drank.


What to do about the raccoons could wait for another day.

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New Verse: March 2017

Meta-Foray* at Character’s Corner

March 7, 2017

The basket that she puts before me

Gives off memory of county fairs.

Deep fried things all smell the same no matter where you are.

“What are we drinking?” she inquires.

“An IPA on tap,” I say.

Our beers are named for rivers and for fish.

They taste of Douglas Fir and goodness

And of all the life that comes from forest floors.

“Des Chutes?” she asks.

I pass as one of them,

In cap, and fries with catsup, and a pint to cheer

On such a rainy day.

I listen as the people tell their tales.

*Thanks to Robin Wall Kimmerer for the term.

The Geese

March 2, 2017

Early, just before dawn?

Hard to tell in that deep dense winter sky.

Still winter for this year it stretches on in grey and variations on that theme.

That it was early,

I was certain.

Bare trees’ black, outlines of their leafless selves just visible.

And far beyond them

I heard geese.

Hard to guess if they were heading south or north or anywhere at all.

I saw no shadows—nothing of their shapes.

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Saturday March 12, 2016

Much thanks to Marilyn Frasca for her journal workshop today.

 

Fracking

Push deep into your soul

Don’t hold back

Breathe into that space you’ve made

And see what happens.

Bored

Bound by my diary

and the illusion of a blank future

I decide to rip the book’s spine

And scatter loosened pages

to the wind.

 

 

 

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Spoil and Gob: The Remainders of Life March 2016

Spoil and Gob: The Remainders of Lifehebble-homes                        The author with her father and mother as they inspect a model of the house he later built.

 

by LLyn De Danaan

It could begin with fear of the Internal Revenue Service. That’s how hanging on to things started for my father. He kept all the bills and receipts and delivery notices and cancelled checks for a house he built in the early 1950s. He lived in dread of an audit. True, these piles of papers, held together by gummy rubber bands, long past their use by dates, represented the history of a worthy endeavor. My father did not go to the South Pole, but he made for us a home. Here is the evidence of the concrete he ordered for the foundation and of the purchase of a small cast iron solder pot. Here is a bill stamped paid from a quarry where he handpicked the stones for the fireplace and chimney he built. And more. The asphalt tiles for the flooring, the tabs for the roof, the lumber for the studs, the yards of wiring and gallons of paint. A large panel of glass for the “picture window” that was a must in all suburban 1950s houses. It’s all there. I can reconstruct the stages in building the house in my mind as I read through these. I can visualize his line levels and saws, his shovels and trowels. The retractable cloth tape measure and folding carpenter’s rule. His heavy hammers and the manual hand drill with its interlocking cog wheels. With those tools and all those receipts, I could order all the same materials he used and build a replica of our house on my own land.
My father packed these and other papers in heavy cardboard cartons and moved them all over the United States with him and my mother. They left, the papers, Beavercreek, Ohio and found a home in a storage container in Sacramento. They rode a U-Haul truck back to Wellston, Ohio. They hitched a ride on a moving van to Olympia, Washington. The original house itself had long since been sold and the IRS, presumably, had long since lost interest in it. Or how much the cost of the nails and staples that held it, if not my family, together. Still, the papers, the proof of the enterprise and its cost, lived on.
And those were not the only papers that gathered dust and mold and lay yellowing, if not decaying, in boxes. There were letters sent from the South Pacific to his parents and my mother during World War II, correspondence with the Canadian Air Force (he had been rejected by the United States Army Air Corps—too old and bad teeth I believe), Army discharge papers, divorce and remarriage certificates (my parents’ bad spell), and, yes, more, carefully labeled and bound materials for the IRS.
My father was a life long employee of the United States Government. He was a rule abiding man who, as he made his way home from “the base” each day, passed through a gate arched by a sign that read, “What you see, what you hear, when you leave, leave it here.” He took no part in politics of any kind. He seemed to have over interpreted the Hatch Act, a bit of 1939 legislation that dictates the degree to which Federal Employees can be involved in the democratic process. My mother, meanwhile, ran for office and campaigned vigorously for Democrats. My father remained silent on such matters.
He was, in fact, timid in many ways. His matte black lunch bucket certainly drew no attention. His work overalls hid anything that might have individualized him. A nice man, “well thought of,” who did not smoke or drink (a concession to my Baptist mother and grandmother), had little or no ambition to be other than he was, make more money, or buy better cars. He did not pursue higher education though he could have (the G.I. Bill), and was content, it seemed, to slump into the cushions of my mother’s maple Ethan Allen colonial themed furniture with the Dayton Daily News after a work day. We ate dinner, served on her Russell Wright cobalt blue cutlery (the glaze of which may or may not have been slowly poisoning us) set formally on her Ethan Allen maple table (Refinished periodically by my father and polished by my mother after each use. ) around 5:30, soon after his predictable return.
There was with him, however, some underlying fear of and disdain for the government. He seemed to be a man who “lay low.” He wouldn’t fly, at least not after WWII. He did not enjoy driving, at least not when I knew him.

……
The asphalt tile on the floors of each room of the house was also killing us. The popular tile was made of asbestos fibers that sometimes comprised over 70 percent of the thin, brittle squares. Laid for a floor, they created a cold and hard surface that caused anything dropped to shatter. (My mother’s marble coffee table was shattered, but that was by a bowling ball which my father let loose while practicing in the living room one evening.)
The tile in our living room was a dark green shot with off white. Mother must have disliked it because she covered it with a fairly thin red medium-shag carpet. This carpet was vacuumed everyday when she returned from work even before she removed and hung her coat. This manic vacuuming was, I presume, done to enliven the rug’s limp, lusterless nap. In the front door, open the closet, drag out the vacuum, freshen the rug, return vacuum to closet, take off coat, plump furniture cushions, generally “straighten things.” A typical 1950s home? No footprints on the carpet and no fingerprints on the furniture. No body impressions. A place for everything and everything in its place. No trace of human activity. Or crab grass. It was one of my regular household chores to make rounds with a metal digger and root out starts of plants certain to spoil the golf course look of our “lawn.”
The “picture window”, a typical a feature of “ranch style” houses, was enormous and from it we had a view of the scraggly sugar maples planted in our front yard, and, across Hanes Road and a field of red sorrel, bittersweet, golden rod and Queen Anne’s lace, a forest of beech and ash and hawthorne and elm in which, now and then, roamed a herd of hapless Guenseys. These were probably Mrs. Johnnnes’ errant cows. They had the highest butterfat content in the county and were the pride of Mrs. Johannes whose other claim to fame was that she regularly forgot to remove the rollers from her hair.
Mother often reminded us that unlike tasteless women in the other ranch style houses, the likes of which abounded in Beavercreek, she had not placed a large table lamp in the middle of HER window. She was one who did not like to “follow the crowd.” (I was advised to be similarly unconventional in thought and behavior.) The mullionless oversized pane, she believed, was meant to provide access to the outdoors without actually having to be outdoors. Mother, in her dark moods, preferred the curtains to be drawn closed.
At the level of this long window sill and outdoors was a stone planter box filled with unruly phitzer junipers, a nonnative popular landscaping shrub of the period. Mother did not do flowers. We had, probably my father and I, planted long rows of multiflora roses to demark the boundaries of our half-acre lot. These grew quickly and produced beautiful though small white blooms. The multiflora formed a “living fence” and is now considered one of the peskiest invasives in Ohio. I pray that the intruders did not get their first footholds on our property.

…….
My father’s fear of the government may have been as much a fear of men in uniform as anything else. He had, after being turned down by the Air Corps and Navy, managed to get into the Army. He was committed to being part of the American fighting force. Even though he had a new baby (me) and was the only male support of my mother and grandmother, he persevered. He was 30 years old with a great mop of dark hair and, if pictures tell the story, a certain swagger. He had been a football star and in a small town like Wellston, that gave him a certain cachet. After high school he went to Oklahoma for flight training and came back home as a daredevil of a pilot who owned his own biplane and a colorful guy who rode a motorcycle and had actually been out of the county. Today, he’d be the kind of fellow who would have a lot of friends on Facebook and would post pictures of himself riding into the wind with a white silk scarf flowing behind. He’d brag about a trout he’d caught or show us pictures of his girlfriends. That is, before his marriage to his real “catch,” the glam, redhead Doris, whom he had followed home after she paid a utility bill in his father’s appliance shop. What happened to that dashing spirit? My theory is that he initially chaffed against being told what to do by some fellow with Sergeant stripes or by an officer who was five years younger than he. Then he learned to take a deep breath and do what he was told. Something tamed him. Maybe it was his desperate, apparently nearly suicidal need to marry my mother. There was hell to pay and there were rules to live by. Just like in the Army.
Once coming across the Canadian border back into the United States, he was nearly frozen with terror when he was, inevitably and not surprisingly, asked if he had purchased anything while in Canada. The border guard, fully decked out in his border guard best, leaned menacingly into the driver side car window. My father began a recital that included recollections of every meal he had consumed, each piece of fruit he’d eaten, the chewing gum packet he’d bought at a news stand, a newspaper. I believe he surrendered an apricot. The border guard was quickly bored and flagged us on. My father, his brow dripping with sweat, seemed triumphant and righteous. The rest of the family were mortified with embarrassment.
Yes. It might have been uniforms. Or my mother. Or perhaps he really had done something terribly wrong. Perhaps he had to hang on to proofs of his labors, his existence, his movements. Perhaps he was in a witness protection program.
…….
It was his sister Susan who saved and, more than that, cherished the clippings and photographs that told the story of a family of Irish and Scots-Irish predecessors. My father’s father and grandfather look dour in portraits. Dour or maybe hard and perhaps slightly paranoid. All but Will and Uncle Charlie who are reputed to have been a “bit off.” Still, such mementos did not seem to interest my father. He did make a drawing, once, of the family farm on which he lived when he was a boy. And recorded a lengthy description of how to make a kite, something he did regularly with his mother, the apparent genius and inventor in the family, and brother.

……..
What was left to whom was a discussion I overheard often as a child. Wellston, Ohio, it seemed, was rife with battles for the remainders of lives, those vases and crystal glasses and silver tea services that filled grand Victorian houses all up and down the tree lined main street of town. I was, it seemed, related in some distant way, to almost all of those householders. When the wakes were over, the bodies removed from the parlors to the cemetery, and the last tea sandwiches consumed, bits and pieces of a legacy were found to have gone home with the guests or even preceded them out the door. At least that’s how it seemed to me. I listened through grates and at doors to stories of Aunt Minnie’s vaseline glass and Aunt Lulu’s gold rimmed dinner plates. Gone with the crystal and the cutlery. The stories were similar: some relative would have beaten the others to the house after the death of the loved one and taken something she (or he) had been eyeing for years. Relatives who lived out of town were out of luck. Relatives who cared for the dear one at the time of death got the best of everything. And who could fault a caregiver? Well, one could suspect that the caregiving was double-edged, that is, perhaps done with a hope for material gain. From the plush backseat of our Plymouth or the depths of my out- of- the- way bedroom with Jenny Lind walnut spool bed, I listened to speculation regarding the sincerity of distant cousins or great great aunts, all of whom seemed gushily loving to me. They held me close to their cushy perfumed breasts and required that I kiss their powdered cheeks. They could not be two-faced, could they? And anyway, who, I wondered, would sacrifice “the best years of her life” for a piece of bone china. Hard for a child to fathom.
But, yes, remainders were hotly contested but the heat was under the breath, whispered and indirect and the contest might go on for years. Again, under the breath or from across any room the suspect dared to enter.
My grandmothers did not, so far as I know, play the game. One was relatively poor and seemed not to mind, at least in the eyes of a child. The other got rid of nearly everything she had owned when she “set up housekeeping” and after her husband died. Even his law books were gone and the only things left to remind her of her only son, Ralph, who died in a plane crash, a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps, were his hat, his Sam Browne belt, and a tinted portrait of his agreeable, smiling face. No letters, no memorabilia. It is as if she had purged herself of all of it in order to live. Of her life, I have boxes of costume jewelry, a few hat pins, and a one or two hats. Nothing more.
…….
Photographs. Yes, boxes and albums full of photographs. Because in our family looking through photograph albums was a regular happy pastime. The pages were made of a course black paper. Photos were held to the pages by little black sticky corners. Each was identified by neat notations made with white ink. I loved sitting with “Nan” and mother looking at these images of my antique relatives and my young mother and father and me, a nude baby on a sheep skin or pinafored and imprisoned in an elegant red leather cushioned high chair or oaken play pen placed in a sleepy summer lawn. And these remain, though cannibalised through the years in order to create other albums.

……

Remainders of a life. What is it we save and why? What burdens do we place on those left behind when they are left to sort and toss and make the trips to thrift shops with clothing we ourselves have not worn in years? Will the things upon which we place such value mean anything to those we’ve left behind?
Some of my mother’s maple furniture went to my brother and sister in law with my blessings. I wanted nothing. The maple is still quite serviceable as is the silver cutlery mother kept in a velvet coffin-like box and used only on special occasion. The silver tea set made its way, I am glad to know, to my eldest niece. My father’s receipts, well, I believe they are long gone. I hope. Some were eaten by a dog I had when they were stored in my Olympia Decatur Street garage. He was a living shredder and did away with small piles of papers my father had stored there without my permission. I didn’t care.
But the albums. The photographs. I have boxes and boxes of them, the remains of several lives. These I cannot toss. These I cannot burn. I mean, always, to take a few days to sort them, repackage them, put them into labeled files or envelopes. For whom? I have no direct descendants. No one sits and looks through albums with me. But I hold on to these images, just as my father held on to the receipts from the house he built.
The remainders are, after all, evidence, like the drawings in caves of Sulawesi or Chauvet, that we once walked this earth and did something of value.

*Spoil and gob are terms used in association with abandoned coal mines. In the early 1900s, my family were associated with mining in southeastern Ohio and West Virginia. Reclamation projects, especially of old strip mines, often reference the spoil tips and gob piles left over from years of pretty questionable practices.

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A Note on the Passing of Rudy Martin March 2016

My Snowman’s Burning Down

Rudy Martin, Willie Parsons, and I were deans together at The Evergreen State College in the early to mid 1970s. Rudy had been one of the 18  planners and schemers who worked together for a year before the college opened. He had as much of a stake in the place as anyone and as 50 or so teaching staff with our own passions and quirks, came on board in 1971, faculty meetings became, well, interesting. So much was unformed, nascent, and possible. So much had been unforeseen. Our own hopes, many fired by the idealism of the 1960s, began to mold the still pliable institution into new forms. We were all over the place. The lacunae in the original plan allowed for off campus reservation based programming to gain a foothold. Mary Hillaire*, said, “you say you are an experimental college? Let’s see how experimental you are.” Maxine Mimms began meeting students around her kitchen table in Tacoma. We had a farm. We had students on individual contracts with journals and backpacks hoofing it all over the globe! Dogs were running through the halls. Some, faculty not dogs, already wanted to tear down the narrative evaluation system and go to grades. Rudy stayed the course. He and colleague, David Marr, wrote a critical memo called, “Help! My Snowman’s Burning Down.” (after the 1965 film) Marr and Martin. The M and M Manifesto. The piece helped set the agenda for a critical look at our work. And then we were co-deans. We were charged, if only in our own minds, to bring some order to this chaos. And we three, Parsons and Martin and (then) Patterson, were under enormous pressure. Two African American men and one white woman, all relatively young, as deans? This was unheard of in 1973. The expectations and the scrutiny were equally daunting. And this still young, college, bombarded by negative press almost daily, was, in many ways, ours to bottle feed and nuture. We had to wipe its bottom but we had to keep it free…to let it take its first steps…to see what it would become. Rudy was part of all that. And so much more.

He is to be thanked for his fierceness and dedication to teaching because without both we would not have had our Evergreen. Thanks, Rudy.

*Mary Hillaire (Lummi) was a first year faculty at Evergreen. Her vision initiated the long, successful relationship Evergreen has had with Native American tribes and people.

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Sleep, Putter, Die March 6, 2016

SLEEP, PUTTER, DIE

LLyn De Danaan
March 6, 2016

I’ve been floundering around, as in writhing in my own existential quasi-despair, for some time, and the recent death of a close friend finally did me in. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t experienced the death of a friend before. A few years ago, a woman my age and of my acquaintance, was found dead. It was sudden, no known disease, no warning. Women much younger than I or near my age have died of hideous cancers, ovarian among them. They endured illnesses, many unsuccessful treatments that prolonged lives or perhaps the agonies. Men I cared for have passed on of complications: diabetes, heart disease, and, yes, cancer. I have a cabinet full of memorial programs. I keep them. Near the little basket that once held my mother’s ashes. A few grey particles are still embedded in the twines of sweet grass and bear grass and sift themselves through into a fine powder offering to all the other dear ones kept close to me on that oaken, glass fronted shelf. The shelf, or rather the bookcase it is part of, is itself a memorial to my Aunt Dorothy. I was given it by her, though I think it may have been part of the furniture in my grandfather Zora’s law office.

It is not as if I pay much attention to that shelf and its contents. But I do pass it each day. And last October, I made an altar for Dios de los Muertos and placed all of those programs, face forward, on the altar. I wanted to remember my friends. But now I believe I was tempting the fates.

I had not until this past month lost anyone who was so inextricably part of my life, someone who had been with me on some of the most significant adventures of my robust younger life. This was a different kind of loss. This was the loss of a comrade, a fellow traveler, a confidant and a chunk of myself.

I managed to limp through the planning of an afternoon of tributes, the writing of an obituary. I managed to compose my own tribute and to stand and read it to the friends and family. I managed to make a public appearance, and to visit friends in Portland.

I’ve stopped looking at photographs of my friend. Although I’ll never know if her life passed before her eyes before she died, I know that mine has. There we were at 25, at 30, at 40. Here we are living in Portland. Here we are in San Francisco. And each photograph has a backstory and its own clothing and its shoes and its own setting. Reviewing them is like reading a hundred short stories or watching a 50 act play with superb costuming and intricately painted realistic backdrops. It was exhausting. And how many times I exclaimed aloud, Who is that? when I saw myself. Memories were alive with color and with dialogue. Hairstyles and bodies, like flip card animation, changed quickly: short long curly straight big small straight stooped.

I put the albums away. I told myself I was ready to get on with my life.

But my life still felt and still feels hollow in some new way. I’ve always had periods that might be called slumps or even minor depressions. These used to worry me because my mother was bipolar and I had some deep, long term depressions in the 1970s and even a couple in the 1980s. But the past 20 years or so have been happy, almost deliriously happy, with only short lived downs. I have come to recognize these and know that I just have to wait them out. They are short term breaks from my usual highly productive, generally positive and optimistic self. During these few days or even weeks, I can focus on physical tasks. I may not have terrific ideas for stories, but I can edit. I may not have sudden inspirations for new garden structures, but I can weed. I don’t shut down and I don’t feel bored.

Something about this loss, this friend’s departure, has made me feel the inevitability of death. Not simply my death, but the death of my friends, the death of dreams, the death of the world we knew and hoped for, the death of our planet. It is as if my ticket is already stamped, the show is over, and the credits are running. It is time to get up and leave but I’m going to wait until I see who wrote the music and who catered the crew. Damn it, I’m going to see it through.

I go to bed too early and stay in bed too late. And in between, I don’t sleep well. I am hot, then cold. The covers tangle around my legs. The top sheet tries to strangle me. The cat, somewhere in the vast outdoors, screams at 2 a.m., pursued, perhaps, by the neighbor feline or a raccoon or a ghost. I leap out of the bed and pound vigorously on windows. I switch lights on and off hoping to scare monsters away. Because, I think, maybe it is I who is screaming. I turn on my bedside lamp and read for a while. I have to pee. I make my way down the familiar stairs and into the bathroom. I think may as well get up. I read a bit more. Then fall asleep and wake an hour later, groggy and unrested.

When I am finally really awake, I think, almost always, of my friend. The one I used to call with news. But there is no news and no one to call. It seems pointless to start anything that might take years of commitment. As a friend once said, “Don’t plant anything that requires 10 or more years before it bears fruit.” There is so little time left. I try to talk myself out of this thought. I remind myself that I could live another, oh, 17 years. Seventeen years? Then I wonder if my money will last that long. I count it. Divide by 17. I wonder how I will fare in those years? I wonder if I will stay in my house and continue muttering to my coffee and monitoring my diet and forcing myself to exercise every day. Again I wonder, what is the point?

While I putter around doing my laundry, organizing bookshelves, dusting lampshades, and scrubbing the shower stall, I give myself pep talks. Just think, one such speech begins, some of the presidential candidates are nearly your age. You don’t think they are giving it up. I read obituaries to cheer myself. Just look at that. Everyone who died this week was nearly 90 or beyond 90. See? You have a long way to go.

That thought is counter productive in someways. It would be a thrilling thought if I could be interested in something. But to imagine another 20 years of feeling like THIS without an exit strategy is hellish. And my pressing fear is that as I grow older, there will be more and more losses and more and more lengthy periods of trying to recover.

…….

When I was still in high school, a car in which several Girl Scouts and their leaders were packed, was crushed by a train at a crossing near my school. Things like that happened in those days. Even my mother and I had been hit by a train once. We didn’t have adequately marked crossings or, more often, the crossings weren’t marked at all. You might start across the track and suddenly there was the engine baring down on you. That happened with mother. She slammed on the brakes and stalled the engine. Our car was sent careening off the tracks and left hung up on the edge of a deep escarpment. This crossing, near the school, was one of those bad ones.

Everyone in that car died. One of them, Anne North, was a young friend of mine. I was a junior leader in 4-H and she admired me. I liked her, though because of the age difference, we didn’t become close. Over her open casket, her mother told me that I had an obligation to live the best life I could because Anne would not have the opportunity to live at all. I had to sort of, I think she said, live for myself and for Anne.

So as I dawdle around the house aimlessly rearranging pillows, carrying the garbage up the hill, and vacuuming the same rug twice in the same day, I wonder if I need to think about that again. My friend is gone. I’m here. Do I have an obligation to her? Do I have a responsibility to life that is different from the one I had two months ago? Or will I simply bow and submit to the increasingly unreasonable demands of an aging body and sleep, putter and wait for death.

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2016 Speaking Engagements (as of March 3, 2016)

Elma, Washington April 12

Chehalis, Washington April 12

Ephrata, Washington April 26

Moses Lake, Washington April 27

Leavenworth, Washington April 28

Bainbridge Island, Washington April 30

Port Townsend, Washington May 6

Gig Harbor, Washington July 7

All of these events are open to the public and sponsored by Humanities Washington.

 

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Karen Maria James: a very personal tribute to a life well led

Camp Karen and LLyn et alKaren Maria James: a very personal tribute to a life well led
By LLyn De Danaan February 27, 2016

 

We always said we’d grow old together. We did…we just didn’t notice.
For we whose glory days were arguably the 1960s, becoming old seems an illusion.
We were stardust, we were golden, we are billion year old carbon……….but time comes when you have to get yourself back to the garden.

I wasn’t ready for her to return that day, this year. Why didn’t I know? Why wasn’t I there?
Because in the mythology of today’s world of “50 is the new 30 ,” we were still only late middle age.  Weren’t we? I denied entrance to the harbingers who said otherwise. I was still out there flying…..on the road again….out of reach. And now I’m left behind. My memories have been on full dress parade.

She was the sunshine of our lives… her caring self, always ready for a little adventure.
When I asked Karen to take a road trip with me, to deliver my mother’s ashes to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico, she didn’t hesitate. We visited her friend in Taos Pueblo for guidance. We went to the mountains, above the high village of Truchas, past the studios of the Cordova weavers, beyond the paddock of painted ponies and of goats, above where the owls were calling, above where the water flows from the high peaks to the Rio Grande and then to the gulf and all around the world. We are stardust.We were on the journey already. The magical mystery tour was already taking us away.

We returned to Washington, the car vibrating with song: I Heard it on the Grapevine. Marvin Gay. Stories she’d never told, the glories and pains of our lives. Hours on the highway allows for that. Once, she imagined she saw her brother’s face in the clouds. Like Thelma and Louise we could dream alternative lives while driving free and out of time, hurtling through deserts at 75 miles per hour. We walked and rode through Cornwall, watched the dolphins play near Land’s End and visited her ancestral farms. Cornwall was soon after 9/11 and we wondered if the anthrax scare would keep us in Britain forever. We spent some days in Leamington Spa to visit an eccentric friend of her Dad. It was all fodder for an imagined future we laughed about.

It was not so farfetched. In Cornwall, an ancient historian who was Victorian in dress and manner fell in love with her. Everybody did.

A woman in Uzbekistan ran across the plaza in Tashkent and asked her to please come home with her…she would make her a dinner and sew her a dress. It was like that. People felt her spirit.

We watched the first walk on the moon in 1968. From the deck of her parents’ Hood Canal cabin we gazed at passing satellites, still in their first decade of circling the earth. Incredible to us, these stars with such grave intention moving above us. We suffered the 1968 murder of Martin Luther King and the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. We marched in the streets of Seattle during Vietnam.

And we grieved when her brother Evan, a Vietnam veteran, died.

We marked each of these heart wrenching moments with tears but never abandoned hope. They were all times for rededication of our life work.

We travelled to Camp Grisdale, in the mountains, with her Dad. It was the last of the old logging camps. We watched the men in tin-pants take down surviving giants of the forest and joined the fallers in lunches of T-bone steaks .

We lived in farm labor camps and went to Delano to join Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Viva la Huelga, we sang. Long live the strike. Sam Martinez, Tomas Villanueva and others in United Farmworkers helped us forge a perspective on our work and how anthropology was nothing if not political. We worked with her beloved, Subiyay, Bruce Miller, to document the basketry art of Mrs. Pulsifer and Emily Miller. Once we uprooted an entire Oregon Grape and presented it to her to peel for her yellow dye. Bruce brandished it like a first kill offering. “You only need a little bit,” she said as she chuckled at our trophy. We fetched bucket after bucket of the wrong mud for the black dye. Mrs. Pulsifer was patient. We were humble beginners in this work of life. Yes, we all got it wrong sometimes. But we learned. And that is part of the being human.

And there was fun, abundant fun. We saw Hair in San Francisco. We flung our own hair at Eagles Auditorium in the sweet glow of watery light shows and. pulsing strobes. The Doors, Cream, Pink Floyd. Country Joe and the Fish. University AVE, Helix magazine with its psychedelic rainbow covers, all part of the fabric of our lives. I was there when Dex and Karen married and with the McCulloch family for exhilarating after hour repasts of pizza and song. She was dedicated to family: to her Aunt (Täti) and Uncle Hugh, just a short Boston Whaler trip across the canal and famous for their sauna and Russian music and vodka; to her cousin Alice, their daughter, for whom she cared through catastrophic illnesses; to the James family….the annual picnic, the newsletter and those encyclopedias brought all the way from Cornwall.

And then there were the births of her adored sons and grandchildren…and her hopes for their lives and wish that they would appreciate the treasured objects, like her grandmother’s needlework, with which she surrounded herself, she, the self anointed curator of the family legacy.

Karen… human kindness over flowing…so present in all her work and relationships….and a passion for justice and for her dear dear friends.

I was numb when I heard Karen was gone…she didn’t warn us…or did she? When I talked to her sons, one said, I swear she left us messages in between the pages of her inevitable, ever present stacks of papers. I didn’t doubt it. When I walked in Olympia for the first time after she had left us, the Olympic Mountains were as clear as I’d ever seen them from the boardwalk along Budd Inlet. I had walked that walk for fifty years but I saw for the first time, from there, the Traveller….a formation that is visible when the snow lays itself between and below the crevices and declivities that make that feature stand out. The Traveller. I saw her cloak, her staff, her hat and realized that our dear traveller was on her way and would always greet us and the crows and the dog friends and all the humans and other creatures who ever knew her from high on those beloved mountains, the mountains she gazed at all her life.

But even that assurance does not relieve the pain, does not sew the rent in the fabric of our lives, does assuage the feelings we will have when we miss her at the table, on the boat or on the telephone…we will feel it….at unexpected moments…again and again and that’s just how it will be…

Human kindness overflowing
….I think it’s going to rain today

We didn’t go back to the garden together….but today we celebrate her journey….and know that she is teaching us, showing us and always will be.
One year when I was away A giant cedar tree that had stood for over 100 years near where my house is fell. There must have been a tremendous silence when it settled. I mourned that tree. It was a tree that I looked at everyday. It was a cradle for birds and a home for lichen and moss and generations of squirrels. It overlooked the bay and reached for the sky. But when I came home, everything was different with that tree gone. There was a emptiness and confusion among the creatures. But where roots had been I dug in rich, loamy soil and planted a garden and now the open sky lets the sun shine on the garden and it is nourished. Deer come and help themselves, and the raccoons and the crows…the crows now perch with eagle and heron atop a nearby madonna and call out and fuss and live out their lives with memories of the old cedar. I like to think they tell their children…I like to think they pass her story on and honor her and thank her for the sheltering strength of her life, for the garden that grows where her feet once stood.

Across the Bay at sunrise I often see Mt. Rainier where another friend was killed in an avalanche. And in my yard are plants that honor other beloveds. They bloom in their season and remind me of them and of the fragility of life. All is impermanent means more and more.

I will plant something for Karen…something that reminds me of her smile…something that a cat would like to wind itself around to listen for her call….or a dog to pounce from……
Something.

**Songs quoted: Woodstock, Joanie Mitchell. 1970; The Sunshine of My Life, Stevie Wonder, 1973; The Magical Mystery Tour, McCartney and Lennon, 1967; I Think its Going to Rain Today, Randy Newman, 1968; Huelga Song from Viva La Causa, 1966 and !Huelga en General, 1973.

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