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

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.

“You Might Roll Down the Mountain”

In the end, it was as simple as getting in my car, driving myself up to the mountains, and taking a hike. But it hadn’t seemed that simple before I did it.

A year ago I had a fall that knocked the confidence out of me. I was trying to step onto a two -foot high curb – thinking, in my head, that I was still an agile youngster rather than the sixty-something woman I actually am – and ended up landing on my knees and arms, bleeding and bruised. It was a shock to me. What the heck had just happened there?! After the fall, I began having doubts about my physical abilities.

I’d been planning to go on a hike up Table Mountain the next day. But Table Mountain is a steep little hike up the side of a cliff and, having fallen trying to step over a two-foot high curb the day before, I thought it prudent to cancel the Table Mountain hike and do a hike a little less harrowing with my family.

After the fall, I no longer had the confidence to go on mountain hikes by myself. I found myself in a mental retreat – starting to pull inside a shell. But in trying to keep myself “safe,” I was making myself unhappy. I was BORED! And I realized that if I wanted to keep my sanity,  my competence and abilities – and regain my confidence – I needed to push myself and do stuff on my own. I needed to get out and do the stuff that brings me joy and challenges me. I needed to trust myself and trust in Love, too, to protect me.

And so when I found myself with an open day and a good weather forecast, I told my husband that I thought I might go on a hike up Table Mountain. I knew that he wouldn’t be able to join me because he had knee surgery this summer, but I told him I felt I needed to do this by myself, anyway.  He laughed and said, “Be careful. You might roll down the mountain.” I knew he was joking, but I also heard a little concern in his voice. I understood. It’s always worrying when our loved ones go off to have an adventure on their own, and we can’t be there if they need us. But, to his credit, my husband didn’t try to stop me – I think he knew I needed this.

When I woke up that morning, I still hadn’t decided for sure to go on the hike. But by the time I got dressed and got downstairs, I knew I was going. I packed a quick lunch for myself, threw the hiking essentials into my backpack, kissed my husband good bye, and hit the road for my big adventure.

I got up to the trailhead at Artist’s Point pretty early – I’d wanted to avoid the heat of the day. I was probably on the Table Mountain trail by 8:30.  I was the only one on the trail when I started out. It was quiet and peaceful up there. Butterflies danced in the wildflowers and a nice fir-scented breeze swirled around me. It felt good to have my shoes on an alpine trail again. I made my way up the side of Table Mountain, stopping now and then to take photos. About mid-way up the side of the mountain there was a step that was a little too big for my 5’3″ self – a step bigger even than that curb I tripped over a year ago. But I found a rock jutting out above the step and hoisted myself up. Take THAT too-high step!

Before long I was standing on the top of Table Mountain. I texted my husband a message to let him know I’d made it to the top, and I hadn’t rolled down the mountain. I hiked around up there for a little while, taking photos and eating trail mix, before I started back down again. I passed a young family coming up on my way down. I told them they would have the entire top of the mountain all to themselves – that it was really quiet up there – and we all wished each other a good day.

When I got back to my car, I realized I didn’t feel “done,” yet. I decided to drive down to the Heather Meadows parking lot and find a little trail to hike on there. I ended up on the short nature trail – passing views of Table Mountain and the valley down below, and a creek laughing past purple wildflowers. I stopped by the creek for a while, and just let the joy of it fill my soul. I pooled water from the creek into my hands and splashed my face and neck and then plucked some wild blueberries off the low-growing mountain blueberry bushes and popped them in my mouth. I was in heaven, my friends.

In the end, it was as simple as getting in the car, driving myself up to the mountains, and taking a hike, to find what I’d lost a year ago.

“…they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
-Isaiah 40:31

Sauk Mountain Magic

By Karen Molenaar Terrell

Sauk Mountain and I have a long history together. The first time I hiked up Sauk was in 1985. I would have been 28 or 29 then. My husband was working as a photographer for the Skagit Valley Herald and he took a photo of me on Sauk, with the caption, “Hiker Karen Terrell negotiates a switchback on Sauk Mountain.” A few years later I climbed to the top of Sauk with my dad, Dee Molenaar, who would have been in his seventies. I have a photo of me standing on Sauk with Dad, both of us smiling at the joy of being together in the mountains. When we became parents, Sauk Mountain was one of the first hikes Scott and I took our sons on. And our dog, Sam, went up as a puppy and, later, as a full-grown Labradane in her prime. Sauk holds a lot of sweet memories for me.

This has been a busy summer – our calendar looks like an obstacle course of comings and goings – appointments, lunches, events, zoom meetings, trips – good and important things – but, alas, other than a quick little hike at Artist Point, it’s been hard to find time to get back into the mountains, and I’ve missed them something terrible. Our busy schedule sometimes left me feeling frustrated this summer – feeling like my time was running out – and I reached out to God, Love, in my thoughts to find some comfort. The message that came to me was to be patient and wait. The time would come. Love isn’t limited and Life isn’t ever done giving gifts.

This weekend my brother, Dave, and my niece, Claire, visited us. On Saturday they ran in a 14-mile race near Issaquah and then spent Saturday and Sunday nights with us. On Sunday morning, as we were gathered around the table eating breakfast, I mentioned that I was missing the mountains and longing for a good hike. Scott wasn’t able to come with us, but he suggested that maybe the three of us should go up Sauk. Dave looked at me and asked, “You wanna go?” And boom – just like that – I had the opportunity to be back in the mountains on one of my favorite hikes, with my brother and niece – two of my favorite people!

It had been almost 40 years since I FIRST hiked up Sauk Mountain and two years since the LAST time I’d hiked it. A lot had happened in the last two years – and, to be honest, I wasn’t sure how my body was going to feel about me putting it back on the Sauk Mountain trail. I was a little nervous that it was going to rebel. In the past I’ve had some struggles when it gets too hot, and it was going to be a hot day and we were going to be hitting the trail near noon. And… people of my age are sometimes referred to as “elderly” – so the thought, “I’m old!” was poking around in my head. Also: “I’m heavy!” “I’m old and I’m heavy and I don’t do well in the heat.”

But…

God had just presented me with a gift – a gift I had been pining for and prayed for – and how could I not accept it? And if the gift came from Love – how could it bring conditions with it? All I needed to do was accept this gift and enjoy it. All those other things – age and size and heat – were just obstacles of my imagining and couldn’t stop Love’s unfolding of Good.

It didn’t take us long to fill our backpacks with the essentials and head out the door. We loaded ourselves into Dave’s truck, Dusty, and set out for the mountains.

When we got to the trailhead, Dave, an ultra runner, made sure Claire and I had everything we needed and then ran ahead. While he zipped up to the summit, and then ran back to check on us before he headed out again – this time for Sauk Lake – Claire and I made our way up the switchbacks of the southern face, stopping now and then to take photos or rest in the few shady patches under the trees to rehydrate. Claire and Dave had never been up Sauk before, and it brought me a lot of joy to be the one to introduce them to this hike. When we reached the top of the switchbacks and moved to the other side of the mountain – my favorite part of the hike – it brought a grin to my face when I heard Claire exclaim, “It just keeps getting better and better!”

The hills were full of magic, my friends! Insects flitted among the alpine wildflowers – Indian paintbrush, asters, and bluebells; there was the smell of mountain heather and ozone; there were friendly, happy people sharing the trail with us; patches of snow, and craggly boulder ridges, and green meadows, and butterflies that came together to party in the middle of the trail. It was everything and more than I’d hoped for. And all those worries that had tried to limit me – age, size, heat – had no power to stop me from enjoying the gift of this day in the mountains.

Here are some photos of “Sauks Past”: Dad and me; Scott and the sons and me, circa 1996; Scott and me on Sauk, several years ago; and Scott and Sam Dog. And there’s a picture of Dave and Claire and me on this week’s hike…


And here are some photos from our hike this week…

Earth Day 2022

Bow, WA:
A no car day. Walked to the post office and saw tulips and blossoms and green growing things, and red-winged blackbirds flitting among tall stalks. Picked up my mail. Had a scone and mocha at the bakery across from the post office – sat at a little table and felt my body soaking up the friendly warmth from the sun. Finished my scone, hitched my backpack back over my shoulders and started the hike home. Birds singing and people waving and smiling as they drove past me. Collected some cans and plastic lying on the side of the road – thought that seemed like an appropriate thing to do on Earth Day. And then came home and pulled up weeds and spruced up my garden a little. Finished Season 2 of “Stranger Things.”

It has been a lovely day.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“EARTH.  A sphere; a type of eternity and immortality, which are likewise without beginning or end…To material sense, earth is matter; to spiritual sense, it is a compound idea.
– Mary Baker Eddy

For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” 
– Isaiah 55: 12

Earth Day (Wordle Poem #4 with Photos)

Earth
green brown
parks towns
river ocean trees field
prays world heals
cedar pines aspen alder birch
spring water = earth juice
snowy sunny rainy magic
windy fiery fires smoke
roots trunk cloud
fumes noise crowd
dried woods
polar melts
brace storm fears
earth cries tears
prism cloud after
child laugh
rouge boots splash
seize trash
hikes trail
climb
plays
hopes
birth
human being
Mamma Earth
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

(All photos by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)

Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

Reconnecting With an Old Friend

I reconnected with my old friend this week.
I ran out to greet her
and she leaped and raced towards me
and splashed around my ankles
in a playful game of tag.
She offered me agates and rain clouds
and sunsets and new friends.
And the last morning she gifted me
a rainbow – a gentle and beautiful parting.
“Good bye, dear friend. Until we meet again.”
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

(Photos by Karen Molenaar Terrell. Lincoln City, Oregon.)