I slipped out of the house early on Sunday to give myself a quick walk on the Bellingham boardwalk – I wanted to go on my walk before the streets got busy; finding a parking space became a challenge; and the temperature became uncomfortable. I have found, on my Bellingham walks, that the early morning holds a peace and special beauty.
It was quiet and the boardwalk was mostly empty when I started my walk just before 8:00. But as I got closer to Boulevard Park I started seeing more people, and more pups, too. And this is when I met Wally, and his human, Beth. Wally was special – I recognized that immediately. An older gent of a dog, he made his slow way across the boardwalk to greet me and to let me pet him. My heart melted. I asked Beth to tell me about Wally – what was Wally’s story? She told me that her husband had found Wally when he’d been out on a snowmobile ride near Yakima ten years ago. Wally had been young then – maybe two – and he was starving and abandoned and eating from a deer carcass when her husband came upon him. Wally was in a bad way. Her husband brought him home where he and Beth nursed Wally back to health. When Wally was well again, her husband said it was probably time to find him a home. To which Beth replied, “I think he already has one.”
As Beth told his story, Wally – who Beth said was part beagle and part pitbull – let me scratch him behind the ears and pet him. I was filled with gratitude that Beth’s husband had found Wally and that Life had brought Wally to a home with good people who loved him.
As I was talking to Beth, another dog and his humans approached from the other end of the boardwalk, and this is when I met dapper little Hans. Hans and Wally quickly got acquainted in the fashion of dogs and I snapped both their photos.
After Hans and his humans left, a man coming from the direction of the park with a coffee cup in his hand, cheerily greeted Beth like they were old friends. He said everyone knows Beth and Wally and joined us for a friendly chat. The man introduced himself as “Cash” and we talked for a bit about his name. He said “Cash” was his middle name and that his first name was actually “Petty.” Beth immediately started cracking up. I’m embarrassed to admit it took me an extra second to put “Petty” and “Cash” together and realize that Cash was having fun with his name. I introduced myself as “Karen” then and we had some fun with MY name for a while, too.
After chatting a bit more with these fine people, and giving Wally one last pet, I continued on my walk to the other end of the park. As I was coming back from the far end, I saw a photographer had taken up position on the beach and was taking pictures of a woman doing yoga poses. I looked at the photographer, who was holding a position that demanded some strength and balance, and thought, “There’s an athlete!” – and then I stopped short. Her face had the exact same profile as a friend I’d worked with forty years ago on Mount Rainier. I knew my friend’s daughter, Freya, was a photographer now in Bellingham, and that she was also, by a wonderful coincidence, the partner of the son of one of my Dad’s old climbing buddies, Jim Whittaker. I don’t think I’d seen Freya since she was a baby – more than thirty years ago – but I suddenly just knew that I was looking at a grown-up Freya now. “Is this Freya?!” I asked. And she looked up at me and smiled her mother’s smile and confirmed her identity. WHOAH. I quickly introduced myself as “Dee Molenaar‘s daughter” and her mother’s old friend from Rainier. I told her she looked just like her mom – that that’s how I’d recognized her. Freya laughed and smiled and graciously let me snap a quick picture of her before she got back to work.
Running into Freya in the park was cosmic, my friends – a wonderful gift and reminder of the connections we all share with each other.
As I was leaving the park and heading back on the boardwalk I heard someone yell, “Karen!” I looked ahead of me, I looked behind me, I looked up in the trees (because I would not be surprised to find my friends hanging out in trees), and finally saw my friend and former teaching colleague, Elizabeth, waving her arms from the park. I hurried back to the park to give my friend a hug. It was good to see Elizabeth again – another gift on my early morning walk.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell