“She’s fine!”

Dad is lying in bed watching “Gunsmoke” on television. He looks up and sees me and smiles.
Dad: Hi, sweetheart!
Karen: Hi, Daddy!
(He reaches up to pull me into a hug…)
Dad: I love you!
Karen: I love you, too!
(I pull a chair next to Dad’s bed and sit down to watch Matt Dillon outfox the bad guys. Dad reaches out and clasps my hand and we hold hands companionably for a while.)
Dad: Did you stop by to see Mom on the way over?
Karen: (Keeping my eyes on the television.) Nope.
(We watch the show together for a time – Newly has escaped being held hostage by the bad guys, been shot and left for dead, and then managed to make it to the stagecoach in time to warn Matt Dillon that the bad guys are waiting for him.)
Dad: Are you going to see Mom and Pop when you leave here?
(This is the first time Dad has ever asked me if I’m going to see “Pop” – I’m thinking he must be referring to his mother and father – but I’m not sure who he thinks I am now. I contemplate how to answer his question, but come up nada. Scott enters the room…)
Dad: Hi, Scotty!
Scott: Hi, Dee!
Dad: How’s your wife?
Scott: (Without missing a beat.) She’s fine!

“Gunsmoke” ends. It’s time to go.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen.

Poems from a Vacation

Day 1
Before we leave on our southerly trip
I take one last walk down the street
A big dog and a Chihuahua race out
from their driveway, snarling and yipping –
the Chihuahua nipping
while their owner watches –
his hands in his pockets – and shrugs
when I show him the little dog’s bite.
I am snarling myself now, in a rage,
adrenalin coursing, ready for a fight.
But it’s time to leave. I carry the bite
and the rage with me – pack them up
for the trip and load them in the car.

Husband stops for a break at a McDonald’s
– asks me if I want anything. I’m not hungry
– but I guess one of those little parfait things
might be good. He orders one for me.
I go outside to wait. A young man approaches,
asking for money. My wallet is locked up
in the car and I have no key. I’m so sorry.
But just then the husband comes out
with my parfait – the one I didn’t really want –
and I offer it to the man – show him the
granola packet he needs to add. He thanks me
and takes it, and as we drive away I see him
mixing in the granola and eating the parfait
and some of my fiery rage slips away.
Bless him for giving me a chance to be kind.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Day 2
We lie in bed together – a luxurious waking up.
We are on vacation – no job to race to today.
I rest my head on his chest and listen to his heart
beat – steady and strong – I breathe in and out
with his breathing and drift back to sleep.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

The ghosts of our past are
getting out of the car
and seeing the ocean
from Lincoln City, Oregon
for the first time.
The ghosts of Oceans Past
are running on the beach –
strong and young, unaware
of the lessons Life will teach,
and innocent of what lies ahead –
both the good and the bad.
The ghosts of the future are
there, too. Wiser than now,
I hope, and stronger, too –
they have seen what we have
not, yet, and learned lessons
and known losses from a day
to come, and experienced
healings yet to be. And today
we’re in the world between
until then and what has been.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Day 3
The birds watch from the brows
of the barnacled boulders
as humans in their exotic plumage –
pink, purple, yellow, orange, red,
scramble among the rock beds,
searching for shells and agates.
The seagulls no longer worry
about the humans taking their food.
The humans don’t seem in the mood
to look for things to eat –
they don’t want the meat
inside the shells, they seek
the shells themselves! They seek
the rocks! They seek the sea glass!
Seagulls sometimes wonder
about humans’ priorities.
Humans are a puzzle.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

I give a thumbs up and a smile
to the man with the veteran’s cap
on his head and a kite tugging
him to the sky.
He smiles back the smile of a man
on vacation – and lets out the string
so the kite can fly high.
A family from Vancouver passes by
the youngster lugging a rock
as big as an anvil – “No, Buddy. I think
you’re going to have to leave that one here,”
says the father to his son, laughing.
A pair of dogs comes up to greet me,
tails wagging, happy grins on their faces
and I reach down and pet their heads
and notice the dog bite is almost gone
from my ankle.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

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

Lincoln City, Oregon: 1984-2013

Quote

(Originally published in 2013)
My husband and I just returned from our most recent trip to Lincoln City, Oregon. We’ve been going there since 1984 – when we discovered the magic of Lincoln City on our honeymoon.  We were trying to figure out how many times we’ve been there in the last 29 years, and we figured we’ve made a pilgrimage to Lincoln City probably 27 times – every year, with one or two exceptions.

You know how photographers do time lapse photography to show Nature unfolding in quick time? Yeah, I’m thinking if we took the days my family has spent in Lincoln City and sort of condensed them into a time lapse photography kind of deal, we’d see something like this…

There we are in 1984 – young, confident, and hopeful – starting our life together – unaware of the challenges ahead, and unaware of the blessings, either – running on the beach – limbs strong and quick and joints well-oiled. My aunt Junie showed me the art of agate-hunting when I was a youngster, and now I’m teaching my new husband how to pick up the glow of an agate on the beach – how to discern the difference between a bona fide agate and a rough piece of quartz…

1992:  Introducing our firstborn to the ocean for the first time. His baby body rests on my knee, facing out to the sea. His eyes have locked onto the ocean and taken note of it – he’s chewing his lower lip, eyes moving back and forth along the sea’s horizon, taking in the sights and sounds and smells. It’s becoming a part of him.

1994: We have come to Lincoln City as parents of childREN. We are old hands at parenthood now. Today it is our youngest son’s turn to meet the ocean. We take off his booties and lower his toes into the water. It is a sort of ritual baptism of baby feet – a bonding with the Pacific.

1999: The sons are playing with the surf – letting the waves chase them up the beach. The ocean is their comfortable old friend now.

Jump to April, 2008: I am in crisis.   Struggling with severe depression. I am desperate to escape from myself and my constantly-churning thoughts. Oldest son knows I need to get away and asks me if I’d like him to go to Lincoln City with me for Spring Break. How many 16 year-old sons do you know who’d be willing to accompany their moms on a 14-hour (round trip) road trip? I am blest beyond words. On the way to Lincoln City we stop and visit my Aunt Junie, who shares our kinship with the ocean and lives in Depoe Bay, an hour north of Lincoln City.  I confide my struggles to Junie, and the feelings of guilt and unworthiness that seem to be a symptom of my illness. Junie is appalled at my feelings of worthlessness. “All her instincts” tell her that I am a good person, she says.  “There are no unrightable wrongs, no unforgiveable sins, no fatal mistakes, no fatal diseases, only the eternal now.” She is like Yoda.

July, 2008: Still struggling with the  depression. Lincoln City is my respite. I sit on the balcony in the sun and look down on the beach and watch the sons running and cavorting on the sand below.  There have been times lately when I’ve wished myself not born. But, watching my sons, it hits me that if I hadn’t been born, they wouldn’t have been born, either. They give me purpose. And the ocean gives me comfort. We stop in Tilamook on the way home and I am drawn to a garden plaque that quotes The Great Agnostic, Robert Ingersoll: “The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here.” On impulse, I buy it. It will sit in a place of honor on our mantel when we return home.

2009:  The family meets on the Oregon coast to celebrate Aunt Junie’s life, and spread her ashes on the ocean.  We will not get as far as Lincoln City this time, but the ocean that she is now a part of will touch the beaches that have provided such solace to me over the years.  And every time I’m near the ocean, I’ll think of Junie – her humor and wisdom and kindness to me.

2010:  Hoping, but not with high expectations, I ask my youngest son, who’s just turned 16, if he’d like to make the same road trip that I made with his older brother two years ago. To my surprise and delight, he says he would! We spend two days at the ocean – flying a kite, looking for agates, running (well, okay, he’s doing most of the running now) along the beach.  Before we leave on our trip I ask Xander if he’s remembered his swimsuit, long pants, shorts, sweatshirt, sneakers, toothbrush, and sandals. He assures me he has. When we arrive at Lincoln City, I realize that am the one who’s left her clothes, laptop, and toothbrush back home. It is all very humbling. But there’s a certain freedom in the forgetting, too. I’m scraped down to the bare essentials. Having no laptop is a good thing.  I have become big into photography in the last couple years, and I have, at least, remembered my camera. Camera, son, ocean, and the clothes on my back – what else does a person really need?

2013: The sons are all grown-up now. They have jobs and things to do.  For the first time since we became parents, we will be making our Lincoln City pilgrimage alone.  We eat at our favorite eatery there – The Lighthouse Brew Pub – take long walks together, hunt for agates, and remember together who we were when we first found Lincoln City.  Young, strong, confident, hopeful. Our lives stretched out ahead of us.  And we think about all that’s happened in the 29 years since. And it’s all been good. All of it. Even the bad stuff has been good, really. Just like those blossoms unfolding in time lapse photography – our life together has unfolded most wonderfully.

For the accompanying photos, go here –

via Lincoln City, Oregon: 1984-2013

There Will Be

I’m sitting at my desk, looking out
my window at the half-moon above
I can hear birds singing out there –
singing in the new day.
The sun hasn’t risen, yet – 
but the stage is being set.

There is good waiting for us today.
There will be kindness. There will be
laughter. There will be lessons learned
and there will be forgiveness. There will be
salvation.

– Karen Molenaar Terrell

 

New Photo in Mother Earth News

Mother Earth News is using another of my photos on the “Photos from the Field” page – this time in the April/May 2019 issue. Check it out! 🙂

(Mother Earth News has a “group” on Flickr – and that’s where they’ve found my photos. If you’re a photographer – and you haven’t already joined Flickr – you might want to consider sharing your photos there, too.)

(My photo is of the jaunty little red boat at the Olympia Marina.)

“I Think That’s the Most Tired I’ve Ever Been.”

When I stop by to see Dad I find him eating his “breakfast” at the table. I ask him if he’d like to go for a drive and he says yes, he’d like that. Megan helps him get his shoes on and brings me a jacket in case Dad gets cold. We help Dad out to the car and help him get into his seat.

Before I start on the drive I turn to Dad. He has come to associate me telling him I love him with me saying good-bye. So I decide that today I will tell him I love him at the very start of our adventure.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you! (He crinkles up his nose and we give each other Eskimo kisses.)

Dad: I like the drive we took last time – to the west side.
Karen: Yeah, that was nice, wasn’t it? (But I have other plans for us today. )
(I go around the round-about and exit onto I-5, heading north. I know this isn’t what Dad is expecting – we usually head straight onto Chuckanut – and I hope that he will enjoy the idea of doing something different today. As we head out onto I-5 we pass the huge American flag that waves from the pole next to the freeway…)
Dad: That is the biggest flag I think I have ever seen.

I exit onto Lake Samish Road – I’m going to take the back way to Bellingham…

Dad: Les Laird died last week. I wasn’t in the office when it happened. I’m not sure why he died. (Les Laird was Dad’s old boss. Dad has been retired for 35 years.)

My plan is to take Dad to Boulevard Park and maybe buy him a vanilla milkshake. I’ve found that parking at the park is usually limited, but I’m hoping that maybe today something will just miraculously open up for us. It could happen, right? And sure enough – there’s one spot! – right there in front of the children’s pirate ship playground. I help Dad out of the car and we make our way to a picnic table near the playground. We’re about half-way there when a man and a young woman start to sit at the table – but the man looks up and notices us and graciously tells us we can have the table. I tell him we can share it, and he and the woman smile and agree to that plan.

A couple youngsters of about six-years-old come up and join us then – the man introduces them as his grandsons. I give a quick intro – tell them all that Dad is 100-years-old and a “famous mountain-climber” – and settle Dad in with our new friends. I go to buy him a shake. After I order the shake I come back to check on him. The man tells me his grandsons were really excited by the idea that they were with a famous mountain-climber.

When I go back to the shop the shake is ready – perfect timing!

The man and woman introduce themselves to me – they are Gary and his daughter, Shelby. Gary tells us that he lives in Arizona and brought one of his grandsons with him to come up here and visit Shelby and his other grandson.

We talk about the beauty of Arizona and the beauty of Washington State. I ask Gary if he’s ever been into the Grand Canyon, and he said he walked along the bottom of it once. I tell him I once got half-way down to the canyon bottom – to a place called Indian Gardens – and he knows exactly what I’m talking about. I turn to Dad then…
Karen: Dad, did you ever go to Arizona?
Dad: Yeah.
Karen: Did you ever go to the Grand Canyon?
Dad: Yeah. I hiked down to the bottom and back.Ten miles. In one day. I think that’s the most tired I’ve ever been.
Karen: (This is hard for me to imagine – Dad has, after all, climbed on K2, but I’m thinking maybe it was really hot when he was there.) Was it hot when you went down there?
Dad: No, it was winter.
Gary: (Smiling.) Well, sometimes it can get pretty hot in the winter, too. (Thinking.) We’ve had a lot of rain lately – Arizona is covered in flowers right now.
Karen to Gary: I bet it’s beautiful! (Thinking about Dad’s southwest roots.) Dad grew up in Los Angeles. He was born there in 1918. He hiked around in the Sierras when he was young.
Karen to Dad: Was Mount Whitney the first mountain you climbed?
Dad: I don’t know. (Thinking.) It was one of the first.
(I notice Dad is buttoning up his sweater and ask him if he’d like me to get his jacket out of the car. He says yes. I get the jacket out of the car and bring it back to him. I help him put his arms into the sleeves.)
Dad: (Zipping up the jacket.) That’s much better.

After a while it seems like it’s the right time to head back to Skagit County.
Karen to Dad: Are you ready to go?
Dad: Not really.
Karen: (Having a flashback of those times when the sons were toddlers and didn’t want to leave the local park. I realize I’m going to have to finesse this. I rephrase it… ) Are you ready to continue on our drive?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.
(We say good bye to our new friends and make our way back to the car.)

Back on the road. I decide to get Dad back to his home by way of Chuckanut Drive. This is a beautiful drive along cliffs over-looking the bay.
Dad: (Looking out the window.) This is a nice drive. There are the San Juan Islands.

When we get back into the Skagit flats I stop at the post office to pick up my mail.
Dad: We usually stop here, don’t we?
Karen: Yup!
(I get the mail and find a letter to Dad from my cousin, Deborah. I hand him the letter and he opens it.)
Dad: (Pointing to a picture of Debby with her partner.) Is that you?
Karen: (Smiling – Debby and I have often mistaken ourselves for each other in photos.) Nope, that’s Debby Davidson.
Dad: Oh. I’ve always really liked Debby. She’s a nice person.
Karen: Yes, she is!

Mount Baker has been in clouds most of the day, but now – as if to greet Dad – it comes out of the clouds and Dad notices it right away. He keeps his eyes on Baker as we drive down backroads on the Skagit flats.

We cross over the freeway and enter into Burlington.
Dad: There’s that big flag again.
Karen: Yup!

I help Dad into the house and he heads for the recliner in front of the television. I decide that I will tell Dad good-bye BEFORE I tell him I love him again…
Karen: Good bye, Daddy.
Dad: Good bye, Karen.
Karen: I really enjoyed our drive today!
Dad: *I* really enjoyed our drive! Thank you!
Karen: I love you!
Dad: I love you!

(A collection of previous “Dad Stories” can be found in Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad.)

shelby, gary, dad

Marriage Equality

I believe that every citizen – regardless of race, ethnicity, social and economic status, religion, non-religion, gender, or sexual orientation – should have the exact same rights as every other citizen – including the right for consenting adults to marry whom they love.

This month my husband and I will celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. Every year about this time I find myself thinking back to that happy day and the days leading up to it.

You know those shows you see on television where the bride spends HUGE amounts of time, thought, and bucks choosing the just right ring, dress, caterer, flowers, music, photographer, and reception venue for her “big day” – those shows where every minute detail of the wedding production is analyzed, critiqued, and judged for its merits on visual perfection? Where the ceremony is somber and refined and the highlight of the whole shebang is the dress the bride wears?

Yeah. That wasn’t us.

My engagement ring was a little garnet ring I picked out from a small jewelry shop in Pike Place Market in Seattle, and the man who sold it to us was cheerfully, flamboyantly, hilariously gay – he had us cracking up the minute we walked into his shop. My wedding dress was the first dress I tried on from the sales rack at our local Bon Marche. Cost me $120. Our minister was a hoot – we’d met with him for a required counseling session, and when he told us that anything he had to say to us would be pretty much useless at this point – because it’s really only AFTER the wedding that the bride and groom realize what they’ve gotten themselves into (we later learned that he’d just recently been divorced), we immediately recognized the man had a sense of humor, and he was, for sure, the minister we wanted officiating our nuptials.

The wedding was a joyful, light-hearted affair in a small Methodist church in Gig Harbor – I remember the minister asking us if we really wanted to hold the service in his church – it was very small – could maybe hold 100 people – and very old (it’s since been torn down and a larger church built in a different location) – but, for our purposes, that little church was perfect – I liked the cozy smallness of it and the stained glass windows – and from the church’s steps we could look out across the water and see Mount Rainier rising above the hills in the distance. The wedding itself was simple, joyful, and natural. We weren’t too concerned with “perfection” – we just wanted our guests to feel comfortable and loved. The reception was held in my parents’ backyard – with the sound of laughter, and the smell of daffodils and plum blossoms, filling the air. And we played volleyball in the pasture – the groom’s team won, but it was a close game.

The minister came to the reception, and fit right in with our hooligan families and friends. Before he left he told us that sometimes he’s really worried about the future of the newlyweds he marries – they often seem more concerned about the wedding than the actual marriage – but, after watching us yukking it up with our families and friends, he felt good about being a part of our ceremony. He knew we were going to be alright. We knew how to laugh.

When I think about that day, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to deny other people the right to a wedding, and to a life-long commitment in marriage with the partner they love. I can’t understand why any heterosexual couple would feel their own marriage is threatened by giving homosexuals the same rights that they have. I feel a real yearning for other folks who love one another, and are brave enough to make a commitment to each other, to be allowed to have what my husband and I were allowed to have.

***

“Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.” –
from the chapter titled ‘Marriage’ in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

wedding photo

Karen and Scott Terrell, 3-31-1984. Photo by Bob Harbison.