Friday, June 29, 2012

Sea Shells

A Walk By The Sea - written by Davy Rasmussen

There's one sound that we all can recognize. We know exactly where we are when we hear it. It's the sound of crashing waves. The sound of the sea splashing against the earth and retreating again. Mix into that symphony the song of the seagulls as they glide along the beach. If we were to loose that amazing sense of sound we would still know exactly where we stood from the feel of the sand between our toes and that feeling of those tiny fragments of rocks, shells and bones being tugged back out to sea. The sweet smell of salt and that unique fragrance of the ocean is something that will always place us all too.

One moment I'm packing my luggage in the hills of Tennessee, where it is 95 degrees outside. A plane or two later and the pilgrimage to the sea begins. We pull the rental car over at the first Maine lighthouse we can find.  Off go the shoes and into the cool Atlantic ocean I go.

(I recorded the music to this instrumental the day before we left as I was thinking about our trip. The sounds of the waves I added in this morning)

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Hub of the Wheel

Polk Salad Pickin - written by Davy Rasmussen
Song Lyrics

Sometimes the best things in life are free.  Outside our farmhouse window is a mulberry tree.  Most think of these saplings as a nuisance because of the purple fruit they drop every spring and stick to our shoes and find their way into the house, or because of the purple rain drops that get scattered all over our cars from the birds that nibble on them too.   Today our tree is the hub, the center, the revolving point to which the life flows around.  I sit out here this morning and am watching a family of blue birds fly in and make breakfast.  There are over ten red headed wood peckers that have also made reservations for the morning meal and are hanging upside down on the branches, plucking the juicy, plump,  purple berries.   If you are not familiar with mulberries, they look and taste similar to a blackberry, but much sweeter, even the unripe ones are tasty and won't cause you to pucker up like the blackberry does.  They are a good source of resveratrol, a potent phytonutrient that researchers believe can prevent cancer and aid in the fight of existing cancers.  Because of this content, several studies have shown that mulberries can even extend life.    I'm thinking that this is truly a fruit from God.  

By the time I finish my first cup of coffee while watching the hub of the wheel spin, I witness over 20 varieties of birds fly in and partake of the goodness.   Why earlier this morning, I was a part of the celebration too.  Each evening we cover the ground with old sheets and by the time the sun rises, they are covered in berries.   Some fall on their own, but many fall in the night because of the raccoons and opossums that stop by for dinner and shake the limbs as they are climbing.   Yesterday I woke up to harvest my bounty and found a Doe and her fawn nibbling from my sheets.  "Hey", I yelled.... "those are mine!!"   They ran off snorting and puffing with their white tails up, which I translated to "Screw you mister... we'll be back before the sun comes up tomorrow."  And they were, but I still emptied about four gallons worth from the sheets into a bucket this morning.  

Ruby and Ed
There is a hub in our community too, to which life and love have circled around.  When we first moved here, some 16 year ago, we met our older neighbors down the road, Ruby and Ed.  We feel lucky,  in that somehow they kind of adopted us into their amazing family of children, grand children and great grand kids.  It probably started because Ed's family tree is connected to the history of our farmhouse, but it grew over the years.   We look at them as role models in their marriage and the love they have for each other and their family.  Most all their children live on the hillsides close to their home and after being married 53 years, they would still ride up to see us on their four wheeler, were always holding hands, and would often say out loud how much they love each other.   

It wasn't long before Ed and I knew that we both had a common connection and that the two of us had a love for wild edibles.  Once his health took a turn for the worst, I began surprising him each spring with bag of polk salad, which is a southern wild treasure.  His memory started slipping through the years and he started repeating himself and old stories, which was quite alright.  I never got tired of hearing him talk about his love for polk, how his Momma would cook it when he was growing up and how you have to add a piece of bacon to make it taste just right.  

Ed went to be with God this past week and the last time I was able to see him was a month or so ago.  I had picked a couple bags of polk for Ed earlier that day and Sharon and I stopped by to deliver them while we were taking a bicycle ride.  Sharon stayed outside talking to Ruby, as she was planting some marigolds and I went in to wake Ed up from a nap.  I walked into his bedroom with my bike helmet, sun glasses, and shorts on and as I was pulling off my helmet, he opened his eyes wide.  I think he thought I was an alien.  I said " Hi Ed, this is David from up in the hollow.  I brought you some Polk Salad".   I think all he heard was "blah blah blah blah.. POLK SALAD"   There were many times when we visited that his memory would fail and he would no longer know who I was, but he stood up and said " I love Polk, let's go in the kitchen and talk for a while".  He probably thought I was a Martian, but it didn't matter.  He would welcome anybody from Mars, a stranger or just some weird neighbor that wore a funny hat, especially if they brought along some Poke.  It turned out to be a good memory day and he finally did recognize me and walked out to the porch to wave hello to Sharon.  Ed always told us that he loved us and his last words each time we got to be with him was always "Come back and see us again when you can".    

The hub and center for our little rural community only has one main branch now.   I heard Ms. Ruby ride up on her four wheeler the other day and unfortunately I didn't get outside in time to say hello.  But I did see her driving away, and as always she had a great grand child or two sitting on the back.  

So I've collected a little over 10 gallons of mulberries so far.  I am so grateful for this little tree and the life that lives because of it.   I think I'll make some mulberry pancakes for breakfast.  

Friday, June 15, 2012


Its Been A Long Time - written by Davy Rasmussen
Song Lyrics

Father's day is on Sunday and I hope this is the right song to share.  You see, I'm lucky enough to have been given two fathers.  One that I call Dad, that gave me life, and one I call Pop, that taught me about life.   Now in my mid 40's,  I consider it as a good thing that my parent's relationship didn't work out and that everything came together as it should,  but I remember as a child being quite confused when my mother and Dad divorced.   I had the fear of abandonment, that I guess just about any kid goes through when one of the family members leaves the nest.  Once Mom and Pop got married I had issues trying to figure out where my loyalty should lie.   I spent a lot of time with doctors in therapy growing up and I give them the kudos for helping me put my arms around our broken home and to get over myself enough to learn to move beyond it.   

They say time heals everything and usually the truths about the past get lost somewhere and eventually they become unimportant too.   One day I found myself smiling again in a happy home, filled with love, support and everything a child needs to grow and be healthy.   I had a beautiful Mom, a wonderful Pop, and a little sister that I loved to tease.  They pulled up their New York roots when I was in 5th grade and moved us all to a little cabin in the hills of Tennessee for a fresh new beginning, and it was here that the seeds to everything that is important to me now got planted.

Pop, Me and some friends enjoying a drum circle
  My sister and I grew very close to Pop through the years and he tried quite often to instill so many of his honorable traits in both of us.   We moved to Tennessee so he could teach music at a local University, and it was his passion for rhythms and beats that lead me further into music, playing drums and being in a band.   One of my fondest memories of the two of us together is of the 1000 mile bicycle ride we took when I was a senior in High School to raise money for the American Cancer Society.   The crazy part is that even in the best of days, when the family circle was as tight as it could be, all it would take was a phone call or a post card in the mail from my Dad that would send me spiraling in another direction.  I would slip back into a world of "what if's, why not's, and what's wrong with me".    Dad worked in many places across the world and when we spoke on the phone, he would have a way of describing the people and scenery that made me feel I was right next to him.  He would mix in a little of their broken language too when ever he could, which even made it seem more adventurous and exciting.  I would hang up the phone or close the letter that I was reading and my little cabin in the woods, my happy family, suddenly felt like a trap and I wanted out.   

Often, lots of time passed between the calls, visits and post cards and looking back now, that was probably a good thing.   Mom and Pop knew the routine.  I would carry the wad of  Quetzal (Guatemala currency) that he sent in the letter,  around in my pocket for a few weeks.    Show it to my friends at school and talk about how one day I was going to travel and exaggerated about my Dad and probably described him to my pals as if he was Indiana Jones.    A few weeks later I would finally slip the foreign money into the folder I kept with all the rest of them and dragged myself back - to the terrible reality of living in a secure, warm, loving, happy home.   This routine followed me all the way through high school and even into early adulthood.  

It's been a little over six years now that Pop suddenly left this world.   There is so much more to share about him, but I'll have to save that for another time.   It still amazes me how when a doors closes a new one will open somewhere.  He and I would often meet for lunch when we were both working in Nashville.   I remember when he returned home from New York to visit Grandpa (his Dad) who was in the hospital, he asked me about my biological father.   The subject was never taboo, it was just at a time when over five years had passed since I had spoken or heard from him.  Pop told me that there might be some things about myself that I could understand better if I met him as an adult.  If nothing else I needed to learn more about that half of my family genes and things health-wise that I should know about as I grew older.  A few days later I found a fax number for Dad and we started communicating again.   A year or so later I had a plane ticket to Miami to see him for the first time since I was teenager.   

Dad and I sipping a Molson in Montreal
This song started on a napkin in the airport as I was waiting for the plane.   The door that eventually opened is that my Dad and I have finally became friends.  We are quite different, though I've learned that I have some great family genetics.  We still don't see or speak with each other that often, but I've learned more about myself getting to know him, have been to some wonderful places because of him and I smile now every time Sharon and I get to travel, visit a foreign country and I slip a Euro, Pound,  Franc or Peso into my pocket to take back home to my collection.  

Friday, June 8, 2012

Life is like a piece of cake

Where are the words - written by Davy Rasmussen
Song Lyrics

So there it was, proudly displayed in front of the bride and groom.  It wasn't just any wedding cake, this one was so tastefully decorated with butter cream frosting and with fresh rose petals placed perfectly all around it.  The two layer chocolate wedding cake was filled with a creamy, rich fudge between each layer and was exactly as the bride had dreamed it would be.  So was the entire wedding day leading up to this pinnacle moment.    But just one second later, she had tears in her eyes and stormed up the stairs to our guest room screaming, and left us, her groom and all her guests staring awkwardly at each other, thinking ...   "What the (&*(%*  just happened?"

Sometimes the biggest changes in our lives can boil down to one word, one action, one thought or the lack there of.  At that instant a new realty begins to develop and within moments the changes begin and we can never really go back again.  Many times we aren't even aware that we've cross over a threshold until the day when we look back and try to figure out how we got here,  and ask ourselves "What the (*&^(^  happened?"

Can you believe that 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, according to the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri.  I wonder if one word, one action or one thought could have prevented one of these divorces?   Or could one word, action or thought actually cause it?    

In the beginning of our 22 year marriage, I had a problem communicating.  I think a lot of men do.   I would hold things inside, let them marinate and season my feelings and eventually they would find their way on to the table.   The problem is, she was long done eating the meal and I was opening up a fresh dish of left overs.    My rebuttal to that was that I eventually shut down and just didn't talk and let the rug of time just sweep all the things we needed to talk about into the cracks in our relationship.  They widened with time and became more ugly with each silent treatment.   I'm so grateful for the day that I somehow saw through the cracks and realized that our foundation was starting to fall.   It was then that I began reading books about how Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus and tried to become a better communicator and a partner in our relationship.   I still have a ways to go....

So let me get you back to the cake story.  This wedding day truly felt magical.   We had been planning and communicating with the bride and groom for almost a year and a half and finally the day arrived.   There wasn't a cloud in the sky.  The temperature was perfect.   There were well over 1000 butterflies flying around and landing on guests.    She looked like an angel walking from the bed and breakfast to our wedding gazebo and he stood proudly waiting in his tux and cowboy hat.   They spoke beautiful words to each other that were heartfelt and true.  After the lovely kiss, they had pictures taken and eventually worked their way back to the bed and breakfast for the cake cutting ceremony.     They toasted with a glass of champagne and something began to misfire in the grooms head.  They slice a piece of cake so they can have the traditional moment of feeding each other and the groom makes that one decision that changed the wedding.  He SMASHES the entire piece of cake into her face.  It felt like time went into slow motion as we gasped and waitedfor him to pull his arm back.  I thought to myself that this had to be something they had talked about and maybe planned to do.   No such luck.   She stands there in shock with chocolate fudge dripping down her cleavage,  frosting stuck to her cheeks, as if she fell into a snow bank.  He slowly pulls his hand away and all you can see are her blue eyes with big tear drops forming and a mask of chocolate cake and white frosting slowly dropping into her dress and on to the floor.    

The deafening silence that we were all left with after she made her exit was only broken by the few choice words we could overhear being screamed after the groom went up to apologize.   We finished cutting the cake into pieces for everyone to have and after 30 minutes of waiting and listening, it became obvious that our cake cutting ceremony was over.   I whispered to a few of the guest asking them if they wanted a piece of cake and they each smiled and politely said " NO Way.   I'm not having any."   Finally one of the younger guests picked up a plate and went outside to secretly eat it and word quickly spread that this was a cake like no other and soon one by one we all ate cake while we listened to the drama upstairs unfold.   Finally the groom comes down defeated.  Sharon goes up with a warm wash cloth, a comforting smile and a few stories of how men can be stupid sometimes,  and emerges thirty minutes later with a bride.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Power of A Hat

All Hat and No Saddle - written by Davy and Sharon Rasmussen 
Song Lyrics

Mom has always had a fetish for hats and sported them quite well with any outfit she put on.  I guess it only made sense to plop one on her little bundle of joy too.   I can't find it now, but I remember somewhere a picture of me as an infant with some cute, little blue hat on.   

For some reason hats have always played a significant roll in our culture.  They often define a generation.  The first hat I remember was one I wore as an outfielder playing for a little league team called Nunley's, in Freeport New York.  That blue and gold hat brought such a distinguished honor in elementary school to the 20 boys that wore it.  The more dirt on it and the more rounded the rim, the prouder we were.   It didn't matter that I rarely got off  the bench, missed every fly ball that came to me and my bat only connected with one piece of leather in all my "career".   The hat gave me an identity.  When I wore it, I was part of something.   With it on, I was bigger than myself,  and in my mind everyone that saw me wearing it, thought that I was a slugger.

Eventually that hat got put on the shelf and was replaced by a vintage boy scout hat,  that I "borrowed" from my Pop and his collection of hats.   I wasn't in scouts yet, but swiped his, put it in my knapsack and wore it at school without him knowing.  In my 9 year old mind, I was already a teenager, full of adventure, with a love for the outdoors and of course emanated that I was trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.   I eventually got busted and had to turn in my hat, but I did replace it a few years later with a real scout hat, a few other little league base ball hats,  school hats and eventually... a cowboy hat.

Me and my first horse "Bucky"
Somewhere in my dreams as a child, the images of horses and a life of riding them and working with them got planted.  A couple of my close cousins had family that had a horse farm in Connecticut and I remember a few great summer trips as a kid, when we visited and I got to ride for the first time.   I think it was the smell of their mane and that moment when I put my nose next to their nose and we both inhaled and exhaled at the same time, that set a direction on my compass.  In their peak in my life,  they filled the hillsides around our home.  We gave trail rides and offered natural horsemanship clinics to our B&B guests.  I rode almost every day.   I wish I could remember the faces of all the beautiful foals that Sharon and I helped raise.  

I'll share more about my time with my equestrian family later, but as with all of life, seasons change, and that dusty cowboy hat one day found a shelf too.  I think it got replaced with a hat that I got for free from the Farmers Co-Op and I guess I wore it to help me end my horse era and make me feel a little more like "one of the boys"  in our rural community.  I finally came to the conclusion that it wasn't the hat for me and it too found a shelf.   I was in a "hat-less" state for quite some time until this past April when Sharon and I went to New Orleans for a few days.  We rented a house in the Treme' area, which is close to the french quarter. When we travel we usually try to go off the path,  meet locals, blend in and learn about the area, it's people and their customs.  On our second day, I discovered a vintage Pub style hat,  that the owner of the house we were staying in, had left near the front door.  While I was waiting for Sharon to finish getting ready for this new day's adventure, I put it on and snapped a few pictures on the iphone to make her smile later.  Unknown to me, a transformation was beginning.   By the time she was ready.... the new David was high-steppin',  N'awlins style, filled with Jazz and sounds of Louis Armstrong  and ready to soak in the tastes and sounds of the Big Easy.  
In Congo Square

I wore the hat every day on our trip,  but did leave it cleaned and back in it's place for the owner when he returned.   On our last stroll around Jackson Square before our flight home, my lovely bride whisked me into a hat shop where I bought one.  I wear it now every time I feel the spirit of Nola and the pull of the Mississippi river stir inside.