My Feet Are Stretching Like Happy Cats

My feet have been attached to sandals
most of the summer (fear of stepping on prickles
in bare feet). But on the first day of autumn
I walk barefoot in the field, and it tickles
my sole and my soul – where the grass is green
I feel my feet sinking into its soft sheen
and where the grass is dry I expect it to feel
brittle and scratchy, but it doesn’t! My feet
are walking on golden velvet. It feels luxurious.
My feet are stretching
like happy cats
on the grass
underneathe them.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Karen in her twirly dress. Photo by Xander Terrell.

I Felt Dad with Me Today

I felt Dad with me today as I drove down Chuckanut through the changing autumn leaves. Autumn was his favorite time of year. October was his favorite month. The last few years of his 101 years, he was my companion on almost-daily drives – and I used to love driving him through forests full of gold and copper this time of year. Sometimes we wouldn’t say anything, and sometimes he’d tell me about the geology or the history of the places we drove. I miss seeing him sitting in the seat next to me, his alpine hat on his head. I miss his gravelly voice giving me lectures on glacial till and glacial moraines…

Dad: This is beautiful farm country. There used to be ice 5,000 meters deep here. (He points to the hills surrounding the flats.) Those are glacial moraines. They were created by glaciers.

(Excerpted from The Second Hundred Years: Further Adventures with Dad.)

Dad is just finishing up his breakfast when I get there. We put shoes on his feet, his alpine hat on his head, and a sweater over his shoulders and load him up in my car for a drive. First stop: Sisters Espresso for his root beer float.

As we’re driving through the Skagit flats…

Dad: What kind of bird would you like to be if you were a bird? A seagull?

Karen: Yeah, maybe. (Thinking.) Or a kingfisher… those are pretty cool… they dodge up and down and skim the water… how about you?

Dad: (Thinking.) A seagull, I guess.

(We drive along the water for a bit.)

Dad: How’d you like to be a seabird, just sitting on the water, waiting for your next meal to turn up…

(On impulse, I turn down the airport road and head towards the little Skagit airport. Every now and then I stop to take pictures of the autumnal trees.)

Karen: I love autumn!

Dad: (Nodding his head…) Yeah. I think my favorite time of year is late October.

(I discover there’s a flight museum at the airport I never knew was there and pull over to take a picture of an old propeller. Dad’s turning his head from left to right – checking things out.)

Dad: I really appreciate you taking me on these scenic drives. Thank you.

Karen: I enjoy these drives.

(We head back to Dad’s home and pull into the driveway.)

Dad: This looks familiar.

Karen: Yup. You’re home!

Dad: Are they expecting me?

Karen: Yes, they are.

Dad: What are their names?

(I tell him the names of the people who care for him, and he nods his head – I think he’s trying to remember the names of his hosts, so he can be a good guest.)

I bought Dad a pair of headphones for his television – I’m hoping they can help him hear the dialogue. Gwen and Cindy and I play around with the headphones for a while – trying to get them to work – and we finally find success! I lead Dad to his room and put the headphones on him, and he can hear the conversation on the television. We settle him onto his bed.)

Karen: (Waving good-bye…) I love you, Daddy!

Dad: (Waving back…) I love you, too!

(Excerpted from Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad.)

Having Fun with People

I love encountering people I can have fun with.

Today on my walk in Bellingham I crossed the road at the same time a young man with his hair in a bun and a Hollywood smile was crossing the road from the other direction. When we were a few yards away from each other, in an attempt to get around each other, we both shifted – but we shifted in the same direction, and then shifted together in the other direction. For a moment we went back-and-forth like this, and then he started grinning at the same time I did. Then he crouched over a little and put his arms out – in the position a football player might take if he was trying to keep the running back from making a touchdown. We both started cracking up, and I said, “I’ll just go this direction,” and, laughing together, we finally managed to get around each other.

What a great way to start the day!

On the airplane to Pennsylvania:

With some trepidation, I go back to the restroom on the plane. Plane toilets always scare me a little. I peak around the partition to the flight attendants sitting at their station and say, “Airplane bathrooms freak me out. I’m always afraid I’m going to get sucked out of the plane.”

The attendants start laughing and wish me luck.

When I emerge from the biffy, I tell them, “I survived!”

“Oh my God, I’m so glad to see you!” the one closest to me exclaims, his eyes laughing behind his glasses.

Later the same attendant comes to serve beverages and I ask him for a ginger ale. “Are you sure you want to drink that?” he says, grinning, and pointing to the biffy at the back of the plane. I start cracking up. This man could be a stand-up comic.

I’m at the Beans on Broad Coffee Shop in Grove City, Pennsylvania. I’ve just ordered a 12 oz mocha. I watch as the barista makes my drink for me. He adds whipped cream and then starts squirting a back-and-forth line of chocolate on top of the cream. “Oh,” I sigh happily, “you’re adding more chocolate.”

He looks at me and raises an eyebrow and I know he’s about to have fun with me. “Too much?” he asks. “You want me to take it off?”

“Yeah, let’s scrape that right off,” I say, laughing, and taking it from him before he can actually remove the topping.

We’re in the Philadelphia airport, waiting for our flight. Scott and I have found a quiet place to sit at the end of the concourse. There’s no one else down there except airport employees. I leave my backpack with Scott, and go in search of a bathroom. I pass a young Black cleaning woman pulling a cart of cleaning supplies. I want to smile at her, and greet her – but her head is down and I doubt she’ll look up. Then – magic! – she lifts her head and smiles at me before I can smile at her – and her smile is a beautiful full-faced friendly smile – and before I can greet her, she says, “Hi! How are you?” And that simple natural greeting brings me such joy that I want to skip. I return her greeting – tell her I’m fine and ask her how she is. And she smiles that beautiful smile again and says, “I’m good. Thank you!”

I’m sitting on the plane as my fellow passengers board. A young woman with a blond pony tail walks by with two toddlers in tow. “Keep going,” she’s telling the toddler in the front, patiently waiting for him to take another step. I remember what traveling with small children is like – but she seems to have everything under control. I say to her, “You’re doing great!” She laughs and thanks me. Later, as the plane begins to land, I hear her reading a book to her children in a perfect audiobook voice – using one voice for one character, and another voice for another character – and I think how blessed her children are to have her for their mum.

I’m sitting between Scott – who’s on the aisle – and a young man – who’s sitting next to the window. As the plane begins to take off, I tell the young man that this is my favorite part of the flight – when the wheels leave the earth – and he agrees. We stare out the window together and turn and smile at each other when the plane pulls away from the ground. “Thank you for sharing that with me!” I say, and he thanks me in turn.

I learn that my new friend didn’t get much sleep the night before. He asks if I’d like the window open or closed and I tell him to go ahead and close it and try to get some sleep. He thanks me.

The landing is uneventful and as we’re waiting to disembark, the young man and I chat some more. I learn he was born in Korea – English isn’t his first language, but I never would have guessed that by listening to him. He’s a mechanical engineer and he has a job listening to the accoustics of dolphins – which seems like a very cool job to me – and he agrees. As we get off the plane and start up the ramp, Scotty is way ahead of me, being following by another woman – and I start laughing and tell my new friend that I think my husband thinks that woman behind him is me. I tell him Scott’s going to be surprised when he gets to the concourse and turns around to talk to me. My new friend starts laughing, and says his girlfriend does this to him, too – she lets him think he’s being followed by her, and then has fun watching his reaction when he realizes he isn’t. When we reach the concourse we wish each other a good day and part on our separate journeys.

I order my mocha at the coffee shop and the barista asks for my name. “Karen,” I tell her.

“Kari?” she asks.

“Yeah… yeah… that’ll work,” I say, kind of liking the sound of “Kari.” When I was in college I sometimes signed letters to my mom with “Kari” and she started sometimes calling me that. I get a flash of Mom’s face as she calls me “Kari.”

“I’m sorry – did I get that wrong?” the barista asked.

“Well. I’m Karen. But ‘Kari’ sounds good. Could I pass for a ‘Kari’?” I ask her, laughing. And she says I COULD pass for a ‘Kari,’ but ‘Karen’ is good, too.

The barista has passed my “Karen” test with honors.


So here’s a kind of cool thing: I was in a restaurant, heading for the restroom, and I saw this friendly-looking gray-haired lady – plump, but healthy-looking and pretty in an open, cheerful way – and I thought, “I like her!” and I could tell she was just about to smile at me, so I smiled – and she smiled at the exact same time – and I realized I was looking in a mirror!

This was really eye-opening to me. In my own head I have this image of how I think I appear to others that… well, it doesn’t match with the confident, happy woman I saw looking back at me in the mirror. It was cool to get a chance to see how I would see myself if I was looking at me from someone else’s perspective.

And this experience was cool, too, because I can remember another time – back when I was a university student – when I saw a slender young woman looking at me from a window – and she was pretty in the traditional way, but she looked harried and preoccupied and a little cranky, and she didn’t look like someone who was going to smile back at me – and I realized I was looking at myself.

I’d rather be the gray-haired woman I saw in the mirror today than the pretty young woman I saw in the window forty years ago.

September Morning

Perfect September morning.
A soft breeze
ruffles the changing leaves
– rubies and gold are just starting
to jewel the trees –
and there’s just
enough chill in the air
to make me tingly aware,
refreshed and waking
from the semi-hibernating
of a long, hot summer.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Photo of Lake Padden reflection by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

Autumn Mist on Lake Padden

Never Outside Infinite Mind

Mind is infinite never-ending
intelligence,wisdom, intuition,
memory without limit or restriction
not dependent on “brain, blood,
bones and other material elements.” *

I am the reflection of infinite Mind –
the expression of eternal Intelligence –
without cracks, gaps, holes, or dents –
whole and complete –
the image of Love, not physique. *

Matter can’t destroy Mind or usurp
Mind’s governing of Her own creation –
for Mind is the one and only causation
and Mind is Spirit, and Spirit is Mind –
and matter and Spirit never intertwine.

I am never outside infinite Mind –
never separated from the infinite Source –
infinite gigabytes of memory – the Force
that guides and directs all Her creation
in perfect, harmonious murmuration.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

* “Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements. The Fleshly factors unrealScriptures inform us that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Matter is not that likeness. The likeness of Spirit cannot be so unlike Spirit. Man is spiritual and perfect; and because he is spiritual and perfect, he must be so understood in Christian Science. Man is idea, the image, of Love; he is not physique.”
-Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p 475

“If delusion says, ‘I have lost my memory,’ contradict it. No faculty of Mind is lost. In Science, all being is eternal, spiritual, perfect, harmonious in every action. Let the perfect model be present in your thoughts instead of its demoralized opposite. This spiritualization of thought lets in the light, and brings the divine Mind, Life not death, into your consciousness.”
– Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
, p. 407

Blue Cosmos (photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)

Right Now I’m Just Right

Aunt Junie told me she’d heard these words once in a CS lecture:
“It is never too little; too much; too late; or too soon.”
And now, as I wake in the middle of the night, these words dance
in my thoughts as I gaze up at the moon.

I am never too old or too young,
too heavy or too thin,
with too little time or too much
to do what Love needs me to do,
or to feel the power of Love’s touch.

I’m neither too rich or too poor,
too masculine or too feminine,
too dark-skinned or too light
to be the perfect expression of Good
right NOW I’m just right.

-Karen Molenaar Terrell

An alpine butterfly flits among the flowers on Table Mountain. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

Traveling Companions

I wake in the night to a light coming through the curtain
I pull it aside and see the moon shining down on me
and a bright star underneath her
I watch the moon move slowly from one side of the window pane
to the other
and feel connected to the moon
and the star
and the universe beyond the star
and my home 2500 miles away
We are both travelers – the moon and I –
traveling companions in the night
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Blue Cosmos (photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)

Swinging from Branches and Balancing on Logs and Playing Like a Little Kid Again

Scott and the sons and I headed up to Artist’s Point in the North Cascades for a family hike, but it was really smoky up there – so, after a little jaunt to the first pond, we headed back down. We made a quick stop at Heather Meadows for a walk along the nature trail there – it was smoky there, too – but I wanted to share the laughing little creek I’d found there on my adventure the week before.

Then, with Andrew directing us, we drove down to a turnoff and an unnamed, unmarked trail that Andrew had discovered through a friend a few years ago. It was so cool in there! Massive trees! We scrambled up on top of a fallen tree that stretched a couple hundred feet and walked the length of it. The sons and Scott went back to where we’d climbed aboard and got down that way, but I hopped off the end of the log and found myself surrounded by Devil’s Club and fallen trees and – although I knew the direction I needed to go, I couldn’t figure out how to get through the brush around me.

Xander hollered to me and waved his hand so I could see where he was and then, balancing along long logs and hopping over bushes, managed to get to me and helped show me the way back to the trail. Ohmygosh! It was so fun! I felt like my young self again, swinging from branches and balancing along logs, and playing.

But eventually I came to a log that seemed too big for me to climb over. Xander reached out to me from the top, and Andrew pushed me from the back, and at last I was back on the trail again.

I love adventuring with my family!
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Morning Companion at the Lake

in the quiet stillness of the morning
a lone duck grooms himself on a rock
near the shore of a lake as smooth
as obsidian
gold reflections of the forest swirl
around him as he plucks his feathers
and then leans over to drink
from the lake
and then throws his whole duck body
into the cool water for a morning bath
it is just him and me – me and the duck –
in companionable quiet, enjoying
the peace of the morning together
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Below: Lone duck at Lake Padden, Bellingham, Washington. Photos by Karen Molenaar Terrell.