To the Mountain!

“In Two Days You’ll Be in Paradise”
June 21, 2018

There’s a film-maker at Dad’s home to capture his 100th birthday celebration. Eric and his cameraman, Chip, are waiting for me when I arrive to visit Dad. They want to film me walking into Dad’s home – and I’m thinking, “Oh, this is good – my big old 61 year-old backside is someday going to be seen in indy theatres across the nation. Why couldn’t this have happened 20 years ago?” (.Ahem. I have some vanity issues.) I go through the door again for them, and go into the home to find Dad at the table finishing up his breakfast.

Karen: We’re heading up to Rainier tomorrow. You’ll get to see your mountain again.
Dad: It’s not my mountain. It belongs to anyone who loves mountains.
Karen: (smiling) Tomorrow we’ll drive up to the Beech House in Ashford. And then on Saturday we’ll go up to Paradise.
Dad: We’re going to the Beech House?
Karen: Yes. It’s Jimmy Beech’s old house. Remember your old friend Jimmy Beech? He took me on my first plane ride. He took us on a plane ride around Mount Rainier. We got really close to the glaciers…
Dad: (nodding, remembering) Is Jimmy still alive?
Karen: No. He’s gone now. But Rick and Jana Johnson have remodeled his old house and that’s where we’ll be staying this weekend. And on Saturday we’ll go up to Paradise.
Dad: (nods his head) What day is today?
Karen: Today is your 100th birthday. Today is Thursday. So in two days you’ll be back at Paradise.
Dad: I don’t want to climb the mountain again, though.
Karen: (laughing) No, you don’t have to climb it. If you want you can just stay right in the car and look at your mountain from there.
Dad: Maybe just to Alta Vista.
Karen: (smiling) Okay. Maybe Alta Vista.

The phone rings and it’s Dad’s old mountaineering friend, Tom Hornbein, calling to wish him a happy 100th birthday. We put Tom on speaker phone so we can all hear him. Tom asks if anyone has an I-phone so we can get a live picture of him as he and Dad talk. The cameraman, Chip, pulls out his I-phone and they rig things up so we can see Tom and he can see Dad as they converse. Dad and Tom talk for a while about old friends, and what it feels like for Dad to be turning 100 (Dad says it doesn’t feel any different than yesterday). I’ve moved to the back so the film-makers can catch the conversation on camera, but as the conversation comes to an end I hear Tom say, “Bye, Dee.” And there’s something about the way Tom says this – something very sweet and dear – that has me tearing up.

Scott and our son, Andrew, and Dad’s friend, Bob Ader, arrive to celebrate Dad’s birthday. Andrew arm wrestles his grandpa at the dining room table – it ends in a tie, with both of them grinning at each other.

Eric and Chip follow Dad back into his room so they can share some old 8 mm movies Dad shot years ago and that they’ve digitalized for him. I can see that Dad is enjoying watching the old films.

Eric knows we’re taking Dad up to Paradise on Saturday and he says he needs to capture every moment of the ride to Paradise. He plans to bring his camera into the car with Dad and my family as we make the drive from Ashford to Dad’s old stomping grounds. This is not what I’d envisioned when I’d imagined the drive with Dad to Paradise – I’d been expecting my family to have Dad all to ourselves in the car – imagined myself leaning forward from the back seat to see Dad’s reaction when he saw his mountain again. It was not going to be the same sharing the back seat with Eric and his camera.

“Let’s Go to Longmire!”
June 22, 2018

We help Dad into his care-giver’s car. I lean through the car window and explain to Dad that we’ll be in the car right in front of him. He nods his head in understanding. “We’re going up to Ashford today,” I remind him, “and then tomorrow we’ll drive up to Paradise and you’ll be on your mountain again.” I kiss his cheek.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen.

We ride in a caravan to Rainier: Scott and I in the first car; Gwen, Gwen’s grandson, and Dad in the second car; Bob Ader and Xander in the third car. We’re anticipating that we’ll need to negotiate huge traffic jams through Seattle, but somehow we manage to maneuver around the mess and soon we find ourselves past the metro congestion and driving on country highways through green farmland and headed towards Ashford.
About an hour outside of Ashford I get a text from my brother, Dave, letting me know that Kristianne Schoening (whose father Pete Schoening had saved my dad and four others with his famous belay on K2) and her nephew and his family were at the Beech House. They’d thought the potluck party was today and had come a day early. I texted my brother back to tell him we would be there in an hour and that we had Bob Ader with us. Dave said, “Oh! Kristianne was hoping to see Bob again! I’ll let her know.”

It has been an overcast day with no sign of Rainier. But now, as we near “Dad’s Mountain” the clouds start breaking up and we begin to see patches of Rainier’s glaciered slopes. I’m thinking, “Of course the mountain is revealing herself! She wouldn’t stay hidden from Dad!” And I begin to think about the possibility of maybe getting Dad into the park and up to Longmire today to see his mountain – if he’s up for it. I mean – why wait, right? The film-maker can still ride with us up to Paradise on Saturday – but maybe today we can sneak in a quick drive to Longmire with Dad – and Xander, Scott and I can have him to ourselves in the car for that precious moment when he sees Rainier again up-close.

When we get to Ashford I suggest to Scott that we stop at Rick and Jana’s pottery shop before going to the Beech House. There we run into Kristianne and her nephew, Gabriel, Gabriel’s wife, Terese, and their baby daughter. Gwen pulls her car in next to us and Bob parks his car a few spaces down.
Gwen: (smiling)Your dad was so excited when he saw the glimpse of the mountain. He was crying. He doesn’t want to stop here. He wants to go all the way up to Paradise right now.
Karen: Let’s do it! We don’t have time to go up to Paradise – but let’s go up to Longmire!

We confer with the Schoening family, Scott, Xander, Bob, and my brother, Dave, and we decide to go for it! The Schoenings had been up to Paradise earlier in the day, but couldn’t see the mountain for the clouds. They’re ready to give it another go.
We stop first at the Beech House to drop off our bags, and then pile into three cars and head for Longmire.

Dad is in the car with Scott and Xander and I. He’s sitting in the front seat and I’m sitting behind him. This is how I’d originally imagined it would be. I lean forward and put my hand on his shoulder and Dad reaches up and squeezes my hand. In that moment I am completely happy.

We travel to Longmire, park the car, and help Dad to a bench where he can see his mountain. There’s a small tree in his line of vision, but Dad really needs to sit and rest awhile, tree or no tree. His eyes are fastened on Rainier. He begins to describe the routes he’s taken up its slopes, pointing with his finger.
Karen: It’s been a while since you’ve been up here. How long has it been?
Dad: (thinking) Yeah. It’s been a few years.
Karen: It’s good to see it again, isn’t it?
Dad: Yeah. (He stretches the word out so it sounds like three syllables.)

After a while my husband moves a chair off the Longmire Inn’s porch and sets it out in the open, facing Rainier – there are no obstacles to a full line of sight of Rainier from that chair. We help Dad towards the chair, but when he’s about three yards out from it he says he can get to the chair on his own. I instinctively reach out to help him, but Gwen (wisely) shakes her head at me and says, “He can do this.” And we watch Dad climb another mountain as he makes it to the seat and settles into it.

Dad crosses his legs and makes himself comfortable in the chair. Aidan brings Dad an ice cream cone. He is surrounded by family and old friends, and Rainier is full in front of him. Life does not get any better than this. It is momentous.

After a morning spent in the clouds, the Schoenings are able to see Rainier now. I’m thinking they were meant to come today.
A tanned and spry woman – in her eighties maybe – approaches me and introduces herself. Her name is Annemarie and she’s a climber and she’d heard from our mutual friend, Rick Johnson, that Dad would be coming up to Paradise tomorrow and she was afraid she’d miss him. So to see him NOW – right in front of her in Longmire – is like a miracle to her. She’s clutching Dad’s book, The Challenge of Rainier, and she’s wondering if he would sign it for her. I give her a hug and take the book to Dad.

I explain to Dad who Annemarie is – write her name down on a piece of paper so he can see how it’s spelled – and he autographs the book for her. He’s an old hand at this kind of thing. He has just made Annemarie’s day.

We stay at Longmire for maybe twenty minutes – and then it is time to go back down to the Beech House. It has been a long day for Dad. And tomorrow we’re going up to Paradise!

 

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“They were children. They had no place to go. They needed love.”

My friend, Mei Mei, shared some powerful thoughts on Facebook. She gave me permission to share her post:

“My parents spent their younger adulthood, and my childhood, taking care of children.

“These children were not technically ‘theirs’.

“These children were broken.

“These children had no home, and in a lot of cases, no one else loving them.

“These children had all survived significant trauma.

“These children were all colors. Some were rich, but most were poor. Born into circumstances beyond their control, forced into a life they did not ask for.

“These children were babies. And young preschoolers. Tweens. Teens. Even some young adults.

“These children were black, white, brown, and often a combination of all.

“Almost all of them had special needs. Most had complex medical needs.

“They were children. They had no place to go. They needed love. They needed hugs. They needed food, and clothes, and medicine, and a bed, and toys to call their own.

“They needed some adults they could trust, most of all. People who would love them instantly, even when they came in at 2am with not even a jacket in the dead of winter, sobbing. ESPECIALLY then, they were loved. Instantly.

“Because they are children, and children who have seen our worst deserve our best, even more so than others.

“My parents opened their hearts and made these kids theirs. Sometimes it was the churches who placed them in our home. Sometimes the state. A few times their own parents dropped them off. It didn’t matter where they came from. Sometimes they stayed just days, sometimes, weeks, sometimes years, and one is ours for life. But really, they are all ours and they know our love is still there and we will still be there in an instant, whenever and wherever they need us.

“What mattered is as soon as they crossed that door, they were ours. Ours to love. Ours to care for. Ours to show what a real home and a real family and a real love feels like, looks like. We loved them and still love them. Even in the dead of night, when a now 32 year old calls and says “Nana? I need you.”

“Truth? We needed them more.

“We never asked them their legal status. I know at least a handful were undocumented but we didn’t care. We never asked them how they got here, how they crossed the border. We didn’t care. They were home.

“They enriched our lives, and taught us much. They made us better versions of ourselves.

“Our country now has children. They are ours now. They came into our country alone, or were so horrifically separated from their loved ones.

“It doesn’t matter how they got here. It matters they are here. Now, we have a choice. Us, these Americans. All of us. We have a choice.

“Do we lock these babies in cages? Do we strip them of their humanity, and in turn lose ours as well? Do we take away their hope? Their love?

“Or do we remember these are CHILDREN?

“It doesn’t matter right now where they are from, how they got here. It matters how we treat them, because as children, THEY MATTER.

“Our choice is here. Staring us in the face. It looks like a toddler in a cage.

“So now we make the right choice, when our government failed so horribly. We make the choice to stand up, and shout with all of our might:

”’THIS IS NOT OKAY AND WE WILL NOT STAND FOR IT’

“We call our government officials and we don’t shut up

“We protest and march until they cannot ignore us.

“We stand up and say ‘We will take them. Give us the babies. We can do this together’

“We scream, we shout, and we DO NOT QUIT, because these are children.

“And when it is all over, we beg these babies forgiveness for failing to do what Jesus would do, for ignoring the example set for us. For failing to be human, and for failing to treat them as little humans.

“And then we sit down, and we figure it out. We figure out policies that don’t include children being stripped from their parents or babies in cages.

“The entire time we write those policies, and demand good, humane, loving action, we look at these awful pictures and remind ourselves to never let our humanity fall this far again.

“They are children. We failed them. Now let us fix this.”
– “Mei Mei”

“You and I Are Nothing Alike!”

“You and I Are Nothing Alike!”

She had known him for years –
mutual interests, politics, and friends
had made for conversation filled
with laughter at the absurd,
and a shared concern about
the state of the world.

She had known him for years –
had enjoyed brief, happy encounters
with him on her favorite walk
along the bay, beside the rocks –
– their cameras at the ready –
as they clicked photos and talked.

She had known him for years –
then one day he asked if she’d heard
of the Dominionists. She said no,
she didn’t think so.
He reminded her she was a Christian
and he said she must know.

(She had known him for years.)
“The Dominionists are Christians
just like you are,” he said.
“They think the more children bred
the closer the men are
to God after they’re dead.”

(She had known him for years.)
“You know all Christian religions
are just exactly the same, ”
he said, “Patriarchal and lame.”
She told him her way of life
was actually founded by a dame.

(She had known him for years.)
She said the teachings she followed
believed God was, literally, Love.
An old geezer sitting in the clouds above
was not her idea of God, she said.
(And she wondered to herself
why he didn’t know this about her…

…She had known him for years.)
“We have the same thoughts about fears,
greed, over-population,” she named
the things they had both blamed
for the current state of the world. But
“You and I are nothing alike!” he exclaimed,
his face turning red.

She had known him for years –
this friend from her walks.
Now she laughed out loud because
that is what she does
when something strikes her
as completely ridiculous.

She had known him for years –
and her feelings of friendship towards him
weren’t going to change because this time
he’d chosen to see what made them different.

Love is what is true;
the rest is just nonsense.

– Karen Molenaar Terrell

love is what is true

 

“Rudeness is merely the expression of fear.”

“Rudeness is merely the expression of fear. People fear they won’t get what they want. The most dreadful and unattractive person only needs to be loved, and they will open up like a flower.”
– M. Gustave in The Grand Budapest Hotel

What is it that makes us, as human beings, proud of our anger – proud to have “told someone off”? I’ve come to believe it’s all about ego, really – wanting to prove we are somehow better, braver, stronger than other people. And I’ve come to see that a) in my own experience, yelling at other people has never seemed to convince them I was right, or changed their ideas about stuff, and b) it doesn’t take a whole lot of courage, really, to spout off one’s opinions and beliefs, and cuss and swear and be rude.

It is my belief that it takes a lot more chutzpah to love – it takes a lot more courage to trust in each other’s good will and humanity, than it does to scream obscenities at each other. In fact, when I think about it – the times when I’ve been the rudest are the times when I’ve been the most scared that I wasn’t going to “get my share” or I was going to be left out somehow, or forgotten or over-looked or harmed in some way.

And something in that last paragraph just made me think of a time when I found myself trying to break up a fight in a parking lot – one guy sitting on top of another punching his face bloody, banging his head into the concrete, and a ring of other guys around them – I found myself in the middle of the circle trying to yank the one guy off the other one, screaming, “Stop it! You’re going to kill him! Stop it!” Instinct (and, in retrospect, a kind of foolishness) had put me in the middle of that circle – there’d been no thought given to what I was doing, and so I can’t claim any special kind of courage there. But – and here’s the part that still gives me a kind of awe when I think about it – after security guards had hauled away the brawlers I stepped back and found that another woman – the parent of one of my former students – had stepped into the circle with me. I remember saying to her, in a kind of wonder, “You’re here, too!” And she said, “I wasn’t going to let you stand here all alone.” She HAD thought about what she was doing – she HAD made a conscious choice to put herself in harm’s way for another human being. She hadn’t screamed. She hadn’t yelled. She’d just stood there beside me. Now THAT was courage. Oh gosh. I’m tearing up right now as I think about it.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“There is too much animal courage in society and not sufficient moral courage.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
– Gandhi

“Anger is the enemy of non-violence and pride is a monster that swallows it up.” 
– Gandhi

“A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.
– Gandhi

(Originally published November 2014 under the title “So, like, when did bitchy become a good thing?”)

Robin’s Egg

He comes towards me on the trail
– a big, brawny man with a bald head 
and tattoos on his arms. I turn away 
to take photos of the ferns on the forest
floor and when I turn back he’s passed me.
I glance back at the same moment he glances
back at me. He uses his walking stick
to point to a place on the path near me.
I turn in the direction he’s pointing –
not sure what he wants me to see –
and find myself looking at the remnants
of a tiny, fragile blue egg. A new nestling
has pecked open her shell. “Robin’s egg,”
the big man rumbles in his deep bass voice,
a sweet smile on his face. I smile back at him.
“It’s beautiful,” I say. “Yes, it is,” he agrees.
And he turns and continues down the trail.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

A Perfect Day

“DAY. The irradiance of Life; light, the spiritual idea of Truth and Love.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

Clara Kitty jumped onto our woodstove (it’s been warm here and we’ve not been using it) and bent over and peered into the window at the front of it. I followed her gaze and saw a little face inside the woodstove looking out at me! There was a little chickadee in there waiting to be set free! I put Clara and Sam the Wonder Dog in the laundry room and shut the door. I opened one of the French doors to the deck and then opened the woodstove door and the little bird flew out, and went sailing towards the dining room. “No, here, Sweetie! Come out this way!” I encouraged her – and she looped back towards me and then winged out the door to the outside and disappeared. I’m so glad Clara saw her, and I’m so glad I was here so I could help her.

***

What a perfect day! Walked from Fairhaven to the Farmers Market – ran into an old photographer-friend and met a new one. On impulse, stopped in to see a dear friend who works downtown – I’d been missing her and it was so good to see her again! Bought some raspberry honey and cinnamon pecans – and listened to the Farmer Market’s musicians work their magic. Walked back to Fairhaven and then drove home. Took Sam the Wonder Dog for a walk. Mowed my Secret Garden and saw honeybees in the rosa rugosa! (I haven’t seen many honeybees, yet, and was getting a little concerned.) Planted some sunflower seedlings and watered things. And rescued a chickadee from our woodstove. I figured I walked about eight miles today. My muscles feel all stretched and happy, my yard smells like freshly-mowed grass, and there’s a little chickadee safely back with her family after a scary encounter with the inside of a woodstove. Life is good.

Pictures from today…

 

Adventures in Flying

I used to love to fly. I used to love to strap myself into a seat on an airplane headed to places I’d never been before – Boston, Denver, Arizona, Chicago, New York, Europe, San Francisco. Back in the olden days (the 1980s) I’d maybe call a travel agent, or call an airline directly, and book passage to adventure. In those days getting on a passenger plane was a lot more simple. I know this might be hard to imagine, but in those days you didn’t have to take your shoes off, fit your cosmetics and contact lens cleaner in a little plastic bag, or stand your body in front of a scanner thing. And when you exited the plane on your return trip, your loved ones could wait for you right where you got off the plane. It was very cool.

I worked for a small charter airplane place for a while. Every now and then a pilot would invite me to go up with him for a free ride. One time a pilot-friend invited me to go up for a ride in a Cessna 152 aerobat – the kinds of planes that can perform stunts. Once we got in the air my friend asked me if I’d like to do a loop. No, not really, I told him. But he looked so disappointed that I agreed to let him loop-dee-loop me. And ohmygosh! It was so fun! The earth became the sky and the sky became the earth, and my face did that thing where the gravity made my skin flap. Now THAT was a plane ride!

A couple of times I got coupons for free introductory flying lessons – and of course I had to use the coupons, right? You can’t let those things go to waste.  So I got to fly a little bit on my own while the pilot sat next to me to make sure I didn’t fly his plane into the ground. I enjoyed those free lessons. I never got up the gumption to go beyond the introductory lessons, though.

My first plane ride was a flight around Mount Rainier in a little plane owned and flown by the legendary pilot, Jimmy Beech  – who had been a friend of my dad’s.  I still remember the excitement of that first plane ride – how Jimmy brought us low over the glaciers and meadows of Rainier.

But before I ever got into a plane I was having flying dreams. In my dreams I’d spread my arms like a bird spreads its wings, and then I’d push off from my toes and soar over our backyard. Those dreams were the best.

***

In the last ten years or so I’ve developed a dread of flying. I dread being told to take off my shoes; remove all metal from my pockets; put the laptop in a separate container; make sure the cellphone doesn’t come through the scanner with me; put all my cosmetics and contact lens stuff in the plastic bag; and stand in front of the machine that checks our bodies for whatever it is that it checks our bodies for.  I dread loading and unloading myself and my stuff from the plane.

Last weekend my husband and I flew from Seattle to Missoula for a wedding. Given my experiences with flying since 9-11 I had some trepidation. But the flights to and from proved to be a miracle of simplicity for us! It was like going back to the days before 2001. For some reason that we still don’t understand, our boarding passes had “pre-check” written on them. This meant we could keep our shoes on, keep our laptops in our backpacks, avoid the machine that checks our bodies, and walk through the metal detector right to our boarding gate. It was awesome.

Once we were on the Alaska Airlines turbo-prop in Seattle there was a little delay because there appeared to be an extra passenger on the plane. But we all had fun with that. I joked, “Well, that can’t be good.” A fellow sitting kitty corner in front of me turned around, grinning, and looked back my direction. I said, “It’s you, isn’t it?” He started cracking up then. Eventually, the flight attendants got it all sorted out and we took off for Montana.

My husband and I were in the very last seats in the plane. We were back where the flight attendants hang out during the flight, and we got to chat with them about hikes around Missoula and so forth. When it came time to serve us our drinks, we were the first people they served. And when the plane landed in Missoula, my husband and I were able to quickly retrieve our bags, and were the first people to exit from the rear of the plane. This, my friends, is what hassle-free flying looks like.

On the way back from Missoula there were nine TSA agents waiting at the security checkpoint and my husband and I were the only people in line – so, with our “pre-check” boarding passes, we zipped through security in record time. I looked over at one of the agents and said, “You’re all here just for me, right?” He started laughing and said, “Yes. We’ve all been waiting for you!”

We had another nice flight back to Seattle – this time on a small jet. It only took 40 minutes for the return trip!

***

I think I may have re-discovered my love of flying.  I’m telling you – “pre-check” rocks!