MA Rasmussen died in September at the age of 87.
She lived a jam packed life – full of interests and adventures that spanned decades and locales. She was a dynamic and creative soul – and it seemed everything she turned her attention to was an outlet for her creativity.
Born in Yakima, WA, she eloped with her soon-to-be-husband to CA when she was 17 – and by the time she was 20, she had 3 children. Even though her children were all under the age of 3, she still managed to write poetry, go to night-school, and hang out with well known Beat-Poets. The poets Gael Turnbull, Cid Corman, and Basil Bunting she counted as friends.
When the family moved to a house a block from the ocean in Oxnard, she learned to scuba dive and surf the waves. She brought home so much abalone that her kids were sick of eating it; and once she came home with a swordfish. She became a single mother when she was 23.
Her move to Santa Barbara and her marriage to her second husband, Paul opened whole new worlds. She and Paul created gardens for vegetables and flowers and she became enamored with succulents. There was always at least one cat in the house, and often snakes, mice, hamsters, lizards – not to mention the various chickens in the yard who were named after opera characters- Tosca, Aida and Brunhilde.
Through the Adult Ed program – she took many many classes – made dulcimers, was a part of the Great Books courses for years, took language and guitar classes. She played recorders, krumhorn, guitar, dulcimer and took part in the Ancient Music Society concerts. She would often bring baked goodies with her – those ‘blondies’ and brownies were always a big hit.
One year, she knitted huge thick sweaters for everyone in the family; she beaded necklaces, painted renditions of microscopic plankton on a table top, fostered wounded raptors (red tailed, golden, sparrow hawks), delved into clay and threw pots, made platters and fired pieces at the pot-wars up on Camino Cielo in the early ’60s.
She and Paul were avid cyclists – and completed many a Century and Double Century rides – often on a tandem. With her three swimming buddies – she won many records for Masters Swim meets. Being in the pool wasn’t enough for her Piscean spirit – she loved kayaking around the harbor, and later, took up windsailing along East Beach. The High Sierras called to her, and every summer she took the family backpacking – until she and her sprained ankle were airlifted by helicopter from the High Sierra Trail. She never did like flying. She loved the outdoors – she seemed to know all the birds and flora and fauna and would exclaim excitedly “look look! A red tanager!!” Or “There! A ruby throated hummingbird!!”
When one of her daughters got into Balkan Folkdancing in the late ’60s- MA embraced the music and the fancy footwork and became a regular on Thursday nights at Oak Park.
She and her folkdancing friends would hit the thrift stores after Sunday afternoon folkdancing at the beach.
And she loved poetry – reading, writing, teaching. As a poet, she published in many small presses and brought her skill and passion for poetry to children via the California Poets in the Schools program.
Her three children received so many gifts from their remarkable mother – and each of them, in turn, offered her gifts in their own ways. One gifted MA with her first Abyssinian cat, one gifted MA with grandchildren and one encouraged MA to pick up the pen and write poetry again.
MA was outspoken, irreverent and could be quite hilarious. She left a lasting impression on those who knew her – and she will be dearly missed.
And yet – in her own words – she is still among us:
When I came back
look for me under the trees
in the duff
popping up with spring
in mushroom nests
or scaling trees slowly
on lichen frosted trunks
year by year until I drape
pendant in my green and lacy shawl
When I came back
I will be found
in hummer’s nests
first in the rough
out parts, small twig and leaf
and later as soft fluff from tiny feathers
woven smooth to cradle spotted eggs
sure camouflage at forked branch end
and after that
I will march down
the canyon walls in all the golden splendor
of a million wild nasturtiums
as I escaped from civil gardens up above
I’ll bide my time, mark this season’s trail
with many wrinkled seeds
and next year come triumphant up the other side
into gardens once again
When I came back
A celebration of her life will be held in early March, 2023
contact Tere Carranza for details: email@example.com