A Waltz in the Park

(Originally published June 10, 2019.)

Something really magical happened in Bellingham this morning – actually, many magical things happened in Bellingham this morning, but let’s start with THIS one:

As I was walking along the shore in Boulevard Park I looked across the green and saw a man on the other side, in the parking lot, moving in a way that made me think he was maybe doing tai chi. I love how people move when they’re doing tai chi and I’d like to learn how to do that myself – so I started trying to follow his movements – I raised my arm when he raised his arm, I turned when he turned – and at some point he recognized what I was doing and we smiled at each other across the park. When I walked around the park to the other side I thanked him and then… I’m not sure how this happened, exactly – but the next thing I knew he’d raised his hand to mine and we were dancing! In the parking lot. At Boulevard Park. That’s what he’d been doing all along – he’d been dancing! I could hear the music then – it sounded like an Asian waltz – I know I’m not explaining this well, but… the notes were D, F, G, B flat, G… for those of you who have a scale in your head. (“A Scale in Your Head” would make a great title for a book, wouldn’t it?)

It was cosmic!. We danced around the parking lot for a few minutes. And then I thanked him – he smiled – I don’t think he spoke English – and let me take a picture of us together.

I was still thinking about my waltz in the park when I got to the parking lot above the boardwalk. And then this deer walked across the road – and a little spotted fawn suddenly appeared, too, skipping along behind her. All of us who were walking along the road just stopped and watched them pass. “Well, THAT was magic,” I said. And this man smiled at me and said, “Isn’t that a great way to start the day?!”

And there was an eagle – soaring right above me! And… and… well, here are some pictures from my morning…
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Judging a Person Who No Longer Exists

Thoughts upon a reading a dialogue between two of my friends:

Jeepers. Let’s give each other grace
and space
and the opportunity to grow
at our own pace
None of us is stuck in one place
mentally
We’re all evolving, changing,
re-arranging
moment by moment by moment.
No need to judge here.
No need to preach
all sanctimonious to each
other.
The person I was yesterday is gone
and so is the person you were
and so is the person next to you –
and what’s the point
of judging a person who
no longer exists?
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

(Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)

Bellingham, WA

A Walking Piece of History

(Excerpt from Are You Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad)

Dad (Dee Molenaar, 99) is still in bed at noon.
Karen: Do you just want to stay in bed and rest today?
Dad: (looking up at me, hopefully) Unless somebody wants to go for a drive.
Karen: Do you want to go for a drive?
Dad: Yeah.

A half an hour later Gwen has Dad dressed and fed, and we load him into my car. I head south on I-5.

Dad: When you and Scott retire are you going to travel the world?
Karen: That sounds fun!
Dad: I’ve seen a lot of the world. (This is an understatement.) I can tell you where NOT to go.
Karen: Where should we not go?
Dad: New York City.
(I’ve been to New York City and enjoyed it – but I’m wondering when Dad went and what he experienced there.)
Karen: Where else should we not go?
Dad: Well, you’re on the freeway. Any place from the freeway is fine. It’s easy to go anywhere from here.

Dad: Where are you taking me?
Karen: I thought we’d go south and see if we can see Rainier. It might be kind of hazy today, though. There’s a forest fire in Canada.
Dad: Rainier’s too far. Baker will be all clouded in today. (We pass a sign for LaConner.) Let’s go to the old waterfront part of LaConner.
Karen: You want to go to LaConner?
Dad: Yeah.

(As we’re driving through the countryside towards LaConner, Dad is taking note of what he sees.)
Dad: This area looks a lot like the midwest, except for the hills in the background.
(We pass a sign with a Dutch name on it and I point to it.)
Dad: Roozengarde – there’s a Dutch name. We could be driving through the Netherlands – except for the mountains in the background.

(We get to LaConner and Dad decides he wants to go to a museum. I’ve wanted to take Dad to the Skagit Historical Museum since he moved up here a year ago. Maybe today is the day this will happen. I drive to the museum and park maybe 30 yards from it. I don’t realize there are a lot of parking spaces closer to the museum, but, when I park where I park, 30 yards doesn’t seem like much of a walk. I am wrong. We unload Dad and his walker, and begin the walk to the museum. After about ten yards Dad says he needs to sit down, and we find a place for him to sit on a little wall.)

Karen: Let me go see if they have wheelchairs in there. Stay here. Are you alright?
Dad: (nodding) Okay.
(I go into the museum to see if they have wheelchairs. They don’t.  A rolling chair seems promising, though. I ask if I can use it to get Dad around, and Ann, the woman tending the counter, says sure. I bring the chair down to where Dad is sitting, and help Dad get into the rolling chair. A nice couple about to go into the museum approaches us to help. Steve says he can push Dad from the back, and Danielle guards Dad from the side, and I pick up Dad’s feet so they don’t drag on the concrete. When we get Dad inside he decides he wants to use his walker in there. He heads into the room that displays a history of technology.)
Dad: That looks just like my first car!
Karen: Your first car was a Model-T Ford?
Dad: Yeah. Model-T Ford. 1925.
(I am grinning now. I love that I’m walking through an historical museum with a walking piece of history. Dad is starting to get tired again, and we bring back the rolling chair for him to sit in. We head into the World War II exhibit. Dad served in the Coast Guard in World War II and he seems fascinated by what he sees in there. He notes that the Coast Guard doesn’t seem to be represented in there, but says that’s okay – the Coast Guard was more in the South Pacific, and this exhibit is more about the campaign in Europe.)

(Danielle, the woman who helped Dad earlier, approaches Dad to tell him she looked him up in Wikipedia and wants to thank him for his service during the war.  Dad thanks her and asks her if she was in the Coast Guard. Danielle says no, but her brother was. Dad likes that. I get a picture of Dad with Steve and Danielle. Dad asks me their names, and I introduce them. He shakes their hands. He has just met two new friends.)

(Dad is tired now. He’s ready to go home. With colossal effort he manages to use his walker to get himself back to the car – which I have now parked right next to the door.  He asks where we’re going now, and I tell him I’m going to get him a root beer float and then take him home. He nods his head in agreement. I stop for his root beer float.)
Karen: You really earned this one.
(Dad nods his head in complete agreement, and then we head to his home. Dad looks completely exhausted. He has sucked down his root beer float by the time we get to his place. I open the passenger door for him, and inch by inch he turns himself around in his seat.)

Dad: Every little movement takes so much energy now. And I need to rest after every movement. (He closes his eyes and sighs and leans back to rest for a few moments, before making another movement to get out of the car.) You have a doddering old Dad.
Karen:  No. I have a mountain-climbing Dad.
Dad: That was a long time ago. (He looks up at the house.) I think I’m going to take a little nap when I get in there.
Karen: I love you, Daddy. I’m proud to be your daughter.
Dad: I love you, too, and I’m proud to have you for a daughter.

Dad first car
Dad and WW2 2
Dad and WW2 3
Dad in the WW2 exhibit
Dad Steve Danielle

You Matter

All people want to be heard
and acknowledged and seen
and valued and not discounted
or ignored or pushed off to the side
as insignificant or irrelevant.
We all want a voice.
We all want to be heard –
no matter the color of our skin
or our gender
or our age
or our sexual orientation.
And I don’t think we should be ashamed
of wanting that and needing it.

You matter.
You are important to the world.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“Each individual must fill his own niche in time and eternity.”
-Mary Baker Eddy
(Retrospection and Introspection, p. 70)

“Beloved children, the world has need of you…”
-Mary Baker Eddy


Every Bird Has a Silver Lining

I don’t need any advice or platitudes here –
I know this will pass and every bird
has a silver lining and early clouds
catch the worm and time closes doors
and an open window heals all wounds
and it’s going to be alright
and better days lie ahead and yada yada.
But, speaking as just a human bean, DANG.
You know? The last four years feel like
one long series of good byes. Mom.
And then Rachael Randy Benjamin Bob
Anita Mike Dean Peggy and Laurie.
And Dad.

I didn’t have time to grieve Mom
because I needed to step up for Dad.
And then I didn’t have time to grieve
Dad because the pandemic hit
and our home became the sheltering
place for sons and their partners
and it was so good to have everyone
here – laughter and family time –
a place of refuge.

And today the last son moved out.
This chapter is finished – this home
has served its purpose and I feel
the book opening to a new chapter –
and maybe a new setting.
And I watched “10 Things I Hate
About You” and found myself
sobbing when Heath Ledger’s face
appeared on the screen. And I know
I’m ridiculous.

But… maybe the time
for grieving has finally come
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

April: Indian Memorial at Little Bighorn, MT

Window Seat; Aisle Seat

Window Seat; Aisle Seat

Window seat on the flight out
glaciered peaks and patchwork fields
glistening rivers and cloud towers
and tiny towns in the hours
from here to there – imagining the people
below looking up and seeing the jet stream
from their backyards. Mentally waving to them.
Time and space to look inside-out
and breathe and rest and enjoy our route.

Aisle seat on the flight back in
greeting people as they walk past me –
Red Carnegie-Mellon t-shirts, masks
of rainbow colors, a skateboard
with a PNW Native American design
and “Can you tell I’m smiling?” I ask,
pointing to my smiley mask.

Flight out and flight back in –
a balance for the introvert
and extrovert in me
looking out and looking in,
and breathe out and breathe in.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

I Feel Them Near

I’ve had this urge lately to go home
and visit Mom for a weekend
To laugh and talk and hear her voice
and maybe sing a song or two with her
To go downstairs and see what new
project Dad has going on
in the basement – he was always
up to something

I feel them near
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
– Romans 8:38-39

Unhooked from the Mother Ship

I’m feeling weirdly untethered –
like I got dropped from the sky
and am in free fall
or got unhooked from the line
that connects me to the Mother Ship
and am floating off into space.
It is scary
and also kind of exhilarating.

Retirement ain’t for sissies.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Blue Cosmos (photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)

Who Can I Talk to About This Ache in My Heart?

I saw a terrible thing yesterday –
Involving a mama duck and her baby ducklings
and a freeway and a car next to me
rolling through feathers.
I saw a dead body, and downy feathers on little
webbed feet scurrying into the woods
without their mama. I pulled over
and moved the mama’s still-warm body off the road,
tried to call to the babies to come out,
wanting to gather them in my arms
and bring them home, and keep them safe.
And who can I talk to about this ache in my heart?
Who would understand?

There was a misunderstanding months ago
in the supermarket, involving a woman
in a Seahawks mask – I thought she could be
a new friend. I tried to connect to her in the aisle
between bulk foods and olive oil – “Go Seahawks!”
I said, muffled behind my mask. She looked at me
above her mask, and frowned, and I knew
the Seahawks fan didn’t understand what I’d said –
– she couldn’t read my lips or see my smile,
and I’d scared her – she was Black and I am White
and we live in a time of distrust and fear.
The Seahawks fan left quickly, before I could explain.
And who can I talk to about this ache in my heart?
Who would understand?

I drove by a big rhododendron bush with fat red
flowers and thought of Mom and the rhododendron
bush she’d planted by the front door of our old home
and felt a sudden yearning for her warm hugs
and her words of comfort and reassurance.
If she were still here I could talk to her about
the orphaned ducklings and the woman
in the Seahawks mask and my fears and worries
and insecurities and she would love me.
And who do I talk to now about this ache in my heart?

And the answer came in an instant –
a joyous Presence enfolded me in peace and love,
without question or judgment or condition or hesitation,
affirming the power of Good: Love’s communication
of never-ending Life and never-ending care for Her creation –
care for ducklings, and a woman in a Seahawks mask,
and Mom and me. Love knows what’s in my heart.
She knows my intent. And I know I can let it all go –
She’s got this. Love gives all Her children exactly
what we need, exactly when we need it,
and in the exactly right way – including Her
ducks and Her child in a Seahawks mask
and Her child who is my Mom, and Her child who is me.

Who can I talk to about the ache in my heart?
My Father-Mother Love. Always and forever.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“The intercommunication is always from God to His idea, man.”
-Mary Baker Eddy