It’s been almost five years since then, but it feels like yesterday that you left, brushed by me as I slept, on your way to the other side of infinity. There are still days when I think I should pick up the phone and give you a call. But I know I don’t really need a phone to talk with you. I feel you with me – here and now. The sons are both married now; and Dad has gone – joined you on the other side of infinity; I’m retired sort of; and we have a new president. Everything has changed and nothing has changed since then. I feel your love. You must feel mine. -Karen Molenaar Terrell
Hey! Check it out! I’ve now got two five-star ratings AND a written review for Cosmic Connections: Sharing the Joy! Thank you to the “Amazon Customer” who took the time to write this review. If you’re an author, you know how much that means…
Amazon Customer writes: 5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful book! Reviewed in the United States on October 12, 2021 Verified Purchase “Cosmic Connections” follows the excursions of an extraverted author and photographer who befriends nearly every person who crosses her path. This uplifting read highlights life’s small moments of connection — with strangers, old friends she meets by chance, the hapless, friendly dogs and former students. The author uses brief anecdotes—one or two pages—to show how much goodness permeates life. One entry describes meeting a stranger, only to find out she is the daughter of the minister who married her and her husband (in another part of the state) 30 years before. Her warm writing style and enthusiasm for life is infectious. AMAZON.COMDelightful book!
I went to Anacortes to pick up some papers and then, impulsively, drove to the marina to see if there were any cool boat reflections. (There were.) Then I thought to myself, “Self,” I thought, “I think I’ll saunter down to that gazebo on the end of the trail on the other side of the marina.” So I did that.
And then I looked up to the top of that hill over-looking Cap Sante, and I thought, “Self, you’ve never been up there. Maybe today would be a good day to check out the view up there.” And so I found a trail through the woods that led up to the top of the hill and started up.
About half-way up a deer suddenly appeared in front of me. She looked at me and decided we were friends, and calmly nibbled on branches while I snapped her photo. She was so beautiful! It was magic spending a few minutes with her.
I continued up the trail. Near the top there was a little rock scramble – that was pretty fun – and then I was standing on the boulders at the top and looking out over the harbor. (My phone tells me I climbed 13 floors.) I crossed over to the other side and saw that there was actually a parking lot there – right below the summit. (It always cracks me up when I find a parking lot at the end of a hike.) I stayed up there for maybe five minutes – shooting photos and soaking up the sun – and then headed back down.
I passed another couple coming up the trail as I was going down – it was their first time hiking up there, too – and we wished each other a good day. And then when I got back to the gazebo I discovered friendly Max and his humans. I asked Max’s humans if they’d ever been up to the top of the hill and they said they had – but they said there was an easier way to get up there than the way I’d gone. I laughed – and mentioned the parking lot I’d seen up there. But, I told them, I’d actually enjoyed that little rock scramble. I’d thought of my mountaineering dad when I was on that trail – and I know he wouldn’t have wanted to go the easy way, either.
As I was returning down the trail to my car I spotted a kingfisher sitting on a post. I love those guys. This one posed for me for a few minutes as I took his photo.
On my drive home, I stopped at the The Store to buy a cookie and a mocha for myself. As I was walking into The Store I noticed a gentleman sitting outside on a bench. As the barista was making my mocha, I ducked out of The Store to ask the gentleman if he’d like something to drink and he said a mocha would be great. So I went back in and told the barista I wanted to get a mocha for the gentleman outside. The barista immediately wanted to pay for the man’s drink himself, but I insisted on paying for it. I took the drink out to the gentleman, and when I got back inside the barista said he’d really like to give me a larger sized mocha than the one I’d ordered – and that the extra four ounces would be on him. Isn’t that nice?!
I so enjoyed meeting the people – and the dog and the deer and the kingfisher – I met today! I so enjoyed that little hike to the top of the knob over-looking the harbor. And I so enjoyed my mocha and my cookie from The Store.
Dad’s memorial service at the Seattle Mountaineers was yesterday. I was asked to be one of the speakers. Here’s my contribution to the celebration:
The Mountaineers were important to my dad – the fellowship and friendships he found there meant a lot to him. And it means a lot to me that the Mountaineers are celebrating him today.
When I was younger, Dad was my favorite climbing and hiking partner. And in the last few years of his life we had more adventures together on the drives I took him on. I chronicled these drives in a couple of books. As my contribution to the celebration today, I’m going to read the last chapter of one of these books, Are You Taking Me HomeNow?: Adventures with Dad :
I stop by to see Dad while I’m in town on an errand. My plan is to take him for a quick drive to get him a root beer float, if he’s up for it. He says that sounds like a good idea. Meagan puts his alpine hat on his head, gets him in his sweater, and puts shoes on his feet. He is still wearing his pajama bottoms. That puts a smile on my face. I tell him he is a fashion plate. Meagan points out that Dad can actually pull this look off, and I have to agree.
When we get in the car Dad asks, again, where we are going.
Karen: I thought we’d take a quick drive and I’d get you a root beer float.
Dad: That sounds good. But what I’d really like to do is go to the Big Four Inn.
The Big Four Inn would be a major trip. I hadn’t planned on this today. But… Dad has been mentioning the Big Four Inn for a year now. Maybe two. We’ve always managed to brush this idea off, and suggest we’d do it another time. But… this might be our last drive before I start another school year. And I don’t really have anything else planned for today – and there’s nothing else I really want to do with my day. So. Maybe. Maybe today we’ll drive to the Big Four Inn – or to where the Big Four Inn used to be before it burned down. I’m going to think about this on my way to Sisters Espresso for Dad’s root beer float.
As we’re driving through town…
Dad: We used to dance in that building on the left. On the second floor. We’d come down from the Big Four Inn and dance there.
Karen: Do you like to dance?
Dad: I’m not very good at it. I started too late. All my friends used to go dancing every Saturday in Los Angeles. I didn’t. (Thinking.) Do you like to dance?
Karen: Yes! You used to dance with me when I was a little girl.
Dad: (Smiling.) Did I?
Karen: (Remembering.) Yes. You’d pick me up and dance with me. I loved dancing with you.
Dad: I love doing everything with you.
As we head out of town…
Dad: This isn’t heading towards the mountains.
Karen: I’m going to get you a root beer float first and figure out how to get there.
When we get to the Sisters Espresso, I order Dad his root beer float. As I’m waiting for the float, my neighbor and friend, Denice, shows up. Denice is a mountain woman, too. It occurs to me that she might know how to get to The Mountain Loop Highway.
Karen: Hey Denice, the sons and I used to go hiking along The Mountain Loop Highway all the time when they were growing up – but I can’t remember how to get there anymore. Do you know how to get on The Mountain Loop Highway?
(And sure enough, Denice knows exactly how to get there! She quickly gets out her phone, taps in some words, and reads me the directions.)
Root beer float in Dad’s hand, Dad and I head out for The Mountain Loop Highway.
Dad: Are we going to the Big Four Inn now?
I head east up the South Skagit Highway. I am feeling a happy, blissful freedom as we travel along the Skagit River, through maple trees and cedars. I am on another adventure with Dad.
Dad is observing our route…
Dad: The old route was on the other side of the river. (He’s right.)
A little later…
Dad: Now we’re going to cross over the river and get on the other side of it. (He’s still right.)
At one point I stop to take a picture of the river and I snap a quick photo of the sedimentary layers in the cliff next to the road. Dad has noticed the layers, too…
Dad: You see that white layer there? I think that’s ash from a volcanic eruption…
When we get to the Darrington Ranger Station I stop to take a little break. I ask Dad if he wants to get out of the car and he says yes – he wants to go into the Ranger Station and look at maps.
Dad: (As he struggles to get out of the car, laughing…) I wonder if the rangers can see me trying to get out of the car. This doesn’t look very good.
Karen: (Laughing.) Don’t worry about it!
We manage to get into the ranger station and I help Dad over to the big 3D map in the corner. I position a chair for him if he needs to sit down while I use the restroom. When I come out he’s sitting in the chair next to the map, talking with the ranger ladies. He’s already asked them about the Big Four Inn, and Erika is looking at Big Four Inn postcards with him. I buy the cards for Dad (25 cents apiece) and ask the rangers how to get to the Big four Inn. I’ll need to go straight through Darrington, they tell me, and follow The Mountain Loop Highway – at some point it’ll turn into a gravel road – and somewhere on the other side of the gravel road we’ll pass the field where the Big Four Inn used to be.
Erika has been enjoying Dad and his stories. She confides in me that her great-aunt lived to be 106 – she passed on just last spring. I let Dad know that Erika’s great-aunt was 106. Dad nods and says he’s just a kid. Erika says that her great-aunt just started using a walker in the last year or two before she died. I tell her Dad doesn’t like to use his walker. He can be pretty stubborn about not using it. Erika smiles and says her aunt could be stubborn, too. I observe that’s probably why she lived so long, and why my Dad is still alive at 100. Erika laughs and agrees.
I turn to help Dad out to the car, and he wants none of it. The ranger ladies are watching.
Dad: No. Don’t help me! I’m not a cripple. I can walk on my own!
Karen: Okay, Daddy. (I keep my arms ready to catch him if he falls, but he manages to get himself to the car on his own. He is a stubborn Dutchman. He is also my hero.)
We drive into Darrington and I stop for gas.
Dad: Where are we?
Dad: (Looking around him in wonder.) Darrington. I’ll be damned. Darrington.
Karen: (Pointing to the Mountain Loop Road sign.) The Mountain Loop Road.
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah. The Mountain Loop Road.
The road becomes narrow at spots – but every time there’s a car coming from the opposite direction there always happens to be a place for me to pull over.
Dad: You’re a good mountain driver. (Thinking.) It’s nice to come up here when there are roads to travel on. This used to just be a trail. (A little further…) It’s nice to finally be back here. I never dreamed that one day I’d be back here as an old man with my daughter driving me in her own car. (Thinking.) All the rangers at that ranger station were women. Women are fighting for their rights. I don’t blame them. (More thinking.) It’s hard to drive with all the shadows on the road – hard to see the ruts.
The road becomes more primitive now – in places there are ruts and pot holes in gravel – in some places the gravel disappears and the road becomes a little slippery and muddy.
Dad: I never dreamed that someday I’d be up here – an old man gripping the door handle.
We pass the trailhead for Mount Pugh and I stop to let Dad see the sign. I’m wondering if he’ll recognize it. I am not disappointed.
Dad: Mount Pugh. I climbed that one.
Eventually we roll onto asphalt again. We pass the trail to the Ice Caves, and I remind Dad that we hiked up there once with Pete Schoening. Dad nods his head, remembering. Not far beyond that is a sign that says “Big Four Picnic Area.” On a hunch I turn to follow the road to the picnic area and sure enough…
Dad: This is where it was!
(I park in front of the site of the old inn. I’m blocking the road, but there haven’t been many cars today, and I want Dad to be able to get out here and not have to walk too far.)
Dad: (Getting out of the car.) Ohhh… this is where it was… (There are tears in his eyes. His voice is choked up.)
Dad makes his way to the display that shows pictures from the Big Four Inn. He spends time there, looking at each picture, remembering his days in the Coast Guard in World War II, when he was stationed here for a time. This was a good time in his life.
Dad: What’s that…? Oh… the old fireplace. And the chimney. Yeah. I wish I’d brought my camera…
Karen: I brought my camera. I’ve been taking pictures.
(A car pulls up behind my car and I scurry back to drive my car out of the way so the other car can get past. I want to explain to them that my dad is 100 years old and I just parked there so he could walk to the site of the old inn. But I know they don’t care about any of that – the straight-lipped looks on their faces tells me that. So I pull out of their way and then loop back to where I was so I can load Dad back up in the car.)
Dad: What’s your hurry?
Karen: We’ve been gone a long time, Daddy. I need to get you back. (I’d told Dad’s caregivers we were going for a short drive, and I haven’t been able to call them because we’ve been out of cellular phone range.)
Dad: (Looking at his watch…) Oh yeah. 3:30. Okay.
As we’re driving away from the Big Four Inn…
Dad: Thanks for finding The Big Four Inn for me.
A little further…
Dad: Mom won’t be worried about us this time.
As we’re getting near his home…
Dad: We saw some pretty country today.
Karen: Did you enjoy our drive?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yes.
We pull into his driveway and I come around to help Dad out of the car. Dad shifts his body around, trying to get in position to get out of the car. This is not easy for him. He looks up at me and I look down at him, and we both start laughing. Then Dad manages to get his feet on the concrete and I heave and he’s up.
Dad: Thank you for the drive today.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, too. We blow each other kisses and I leave him on the lounge chair in front of the television.
Thank you for letting me join you here today. It’s meant a lot to me to be here.
Let’s rejoice when we can! Let’s not worry how long the good will last or when it will end – afraid of rejoicing for fear the good will be gone tomorrow. Let’s rejoice for the good we have right now, and let tomorrow take care of itself. This moment is good. Amen. -Karen Molenaar Terrell
“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” -Matthew 6
Enveloped in the natural beauty of autumn on Mount Rainier. Two days of peace, immersed in the sounds and smells of The Mountain – waterfalls and birds and glaciers and hemlock and heather.
And then we’re leaving The Mountain – driving through traffic and diesel fumes on the freeway – past metal warehouses and box stores and billboards advertising cars and drugs and hamburgers.
And there’s Rainier – rising above the concrete and car dealerships and rusty storage units, and I feel sad that humanity seems so heedless of her beauty – so unappreciative – almost disrespectful in the ugliness it’s built in front of her.
Two hours from The Mountain, I look back and get one last glimpse – she’s still there – still with me – majestic in the distance – untouched by the fuss and folderol, the ego and greed of human-kind.
And as I think about this it occurs to me that this is true of everything that’s real, isn’t it? All the ugly and fuss that ego builds in front of our identities can’t destroy our real selves – can’t destroy what we really are:
The manifestations and expressions of Love. -Karen Molenaar Terrell
“Spiritual interpreted, rocks and mountains stand for solid and grand ideas.” -Mary Baker Eddy
Colors of amber and ruby and gold a candle alight on the wood stove a blueberry-apple maple syrup pie still toasty from the oven fills my home with cozy smells of autumn “Good Omens” on the television soothing British accents in my ears Gaiman’s irreverence for evil makes me laugh at my fears. Cup of cocoa sweetened with brown sugar is warm in my hands while outside the rain cools and refreshes the land. -Karen Molenaar Terrell
Sam the Wonder Dog died last summer. On her last drive to the vet’s her umber eyes were still bright and alert as she looked out one last time on the scene passing by – still engaged with this world.
And now I sit in the chair that we had accepted was her chair while she was with us. For the first time I no longer smell her fur in the fabric I nestle in. For months we tried to get rid of Sam’s smell – we vacuumed; we steam cleaned; we scrubbed with soapy rags – but the Sam-smell never seemed to leave us. And now, it seems, it has. And I think I might miss it.
I rub the fabric of the chair, and for a moment I feel like I am petting Sam’s sleek coat, and I feel her with me – warm and dear, an expression of Love.
Her body is gone, and her smell. But Sam’s still with us in her love. -Karen Molenaar Terrell
Who could have guessed a year ago that today I would have near two new daughters, loved and dear to me.
Life is like that, isn’t it?
In the midst of chaos there is still joy to find and share and in the midst of pandemic terror the sons still found life-partners who dare to approach life as they do – kind and ready, brave and steady.
There were no caterers or wedding planners, no venues, no bands, no banners, no paid photographers, florists, or DJs, and no invitations to each pair’s special day.
Their weddings were simple and true – one in Hawaii and one under a blue sky on top of the courthouse in Seattle. We couldn’t make it to one, but we all made it to the other. Father, sons, new daughters, and mother.
Who could have guessed a year ago that by September’s end I would have two new daughters? -Karen Molenaar Terrell
“Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.” -Mary Baker Eddy