Gifts on an Early Morning Walk

I slipped out of the house early on Sunday to give myself a quick walk on the Bellingham boardwalk – I wanted to go on my walk before the streets got busy; finding a parking space became a challenge; and the temperature became uncomfortable. I have found, on my Bellingham walks, that the early morning holds a peace and special beauty.

It was quiet and the boardwalk was mostly empty when I started my walk just before 8:00. But as I got closer to Boulevard Park I started seeing more people, and more pups, too. And this is when I met Wally, and his human, Beth. Wally was special – I recognized that immediately. An older gent of a dog, he made his slow way across the boardwalk to greet me and to let me pet him. My heart melted. I asked Beth to tell me about Wally – what was Wally’s story? She told me that her husband had found Wally when he’d been out on a snowmobile ride near Yakima ten years ago. Wally had been young then – maybe two – and he was starving and abandoned and eating from a deer carcass when her husband came upon him. Wally was in a bad way. Her husband brought him home where he and Beth nursed Wally back to health. When Wally was well again, her husband said it was probably time to find him a home. To which Beth replied, “I think he already has one.”

As Beth told his story, Wally – who Beth said was part beagle and part pitbull – let me scratch him behind the ears and pet him. I was filled with gratitude that Beth’s husband had found Wally and that Life had brought Wally to a home with good people who loved him.

As I was talking to Beth, another dog and his humans approached from the other end of the boardwalk, and this is when I met dapper little Hans. Hans and Wally quickly got acquainted in the fashion of dogs and I snapped both their photos.

After Hans and his humans left, a man coming from the direction of the park with a coffee cup in his hand, cheerily greeted Beth like they were old friends. He said everyone knows Beth and Wally and joined us for a friendly chat. The man introduced himself as “Cash” and we talked for a bit about his name. He said “Cash” was his middle name and that his first name was actually “Petty.” Beth immediately started cracking up. I’m embarrassed to admit it took me an extra second to put “Petty” and “Cash” together and realize that Cash was having fun with his name. I introduced myself as “Karen” then and we had some fun with MY name for a while, too.

After chatting a bit more with these fine people, and giving Wally one last pet, I continued on my walk to the other end of the park. As I was coming back from the far end, I saw a photographer had taken up position on the beach and was taking pictures of a woman doing yoga poses. I looked at the photographer, who was holding a position that demanded some strength and balance, and thought, “There’s an athlete!” – and then I stopped short. Her face had the exact same profile as a friend I’d worked with forty years ago on Mount Rainier. I knew my friend’s daughter, Freya, was a photographer now in Bellingham, and that she was also, by a wonderful coincidence, the partner of the son of one of my Dad’s old climbing buddies, Jim Whittaker. I don’t think I’d seen Freya since she was a baby – more than thirty years ago – but I suddenly just knew that I was looking at a grown-up Freya now. “Is this Freya?!” I asked. And she looked up at me and smiled her mother’s smile and confirmed her identity. WHOAH. I quickly introduced myself as “Dee Molenaar‘s daughter” and her mother’s old friend from Rainier. I told her she looked just like her mom – that that’s how I’d recognized her. Freya laughed and smiled and graciously let me snap a quick picture of her before she got back to work.

Running into Freya in the park was cosmic, my friends – a wonderful gift and reminder of the connections we all share with each other.

As I was leaving the park and heading back on the boardwalk I heard someone yell, “Karen!” I looked ahead of me, I looked behind me, I looked up in the trees (because I would not be surprised to find my friends hanging out in trees), and finally saw my friend and former teaching colleague, Elizabeth, waving her arms from the park. I hurried back to the park to give my friend a hug. It was good to see Elizabeth again – another gift on my early morning walk.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Vladimir’s Shoes

I have something to share – but I want to preface this by saying this is not a “I’m-so-cool” story – this is a… wow… when-people-learn-you-want-to-do-something-good-they-celebrate-that-and-want-to help story. This is a people-are-good story. This is a God-will-find-a-way-to-provide-for-Her-children story – and sometimes God will provide by using US. And when that happens – when we’re the ones who are in the right place at the just right time – it is magic!!

So. I guess this story starts a week ago when I saw a homeless lady sitting near Tony’s Coffee Shop with her shopping cart home. I asked her if I could get her a coffee or something, and she came with me to Tony’s and I got her a scone and a mocha. She was/is very cool and I consider her a new friend.I ran into her again today – we were happy to see each other again! – and she asked if I could get her a sandwich for lunch. I said sure – I’d get her something after my walk.

After my walk I came back to my new friend and she introduced me to another homeless person – a young man my youngest son’s age – he said he didn’t need anything to eat, but – and he lifted up his foot to show me his shoe (the bottom of his shoe was hanging to the top by a few stitches – it was flapping around) what he really needed was a new pair of shoes. Then he wandered off – not expecting anything from me – and I went to get a sandwich for my friend and to get myself something to eat at the Colophon Cafe.

When I came out of the Colophon the young man was sitting next to my friend again. I asked him if he knew of any shoe stores near by – and he looked at me in shock – “Are you going to get me shoes?” he asked, with a mixture of uncertainty and hope. I told him yeah – he couldn’t go walking around in those shoes he was wearing. So he got off the bench and we went on a quest for new shoes.

As he was walking his shoe kept flapping against the pavement and he joked that it was making music – it was like a drum. He asked me my name and I hesitated… because… you know… people with my name are sometimes hesitant to say it these days 🙂 …but I told him “Karen” and waited for a reaction. He apparently hadn’t heard about the Karen memes, though, and when I told him what “Karen” has come to mean, he laughed and said, “You are the least like that person that I know!”

He told me his name was Vlad – short for Vladimir – and he’d been born in Russia, but adopted when he was young by people in Minnesota. I asked him what he was doing out here and he said he really liked it here. We talked some more about his circumstances – and as I got to know him better I felt all my motherly instincts coming out.

After several stops, we finally found a place that sold men’s shoes – “Fairhaven Runners” – and went in to investigate (everyone in my family has purchased shoes at Fairhaven Runners at some point). Vlad found some shoes that he really liked and the shoe salesclerk – who quickly grasped what was happening – patiently explained to Vlad how he could measure his feet for the shoe size and then went back to fetch some shoes for him to try on. As Vlad was trying on shoes, the salesclerk asked Vlad if he could use some free socks and Vlad looked up at him with a smile on his face and nodded his head. The salesclerk went in the back room and then came out and tossed Vlad some free new socks for Vlad to wear with his new shoes.

I told Vlad he could leave with his new shoes now and I would take care of everything for him in the store. Vladimir thanked me and went out smiling. There was a lady standing behind us in the store and she asked me, “Did you just buy him new shoes?!” She looked like she was crying. She said that it was really beautiful what she’d just witnessed. Isn’t that lovely?!

And then – get this! – when the salesclerk rang me up he gave me a 20% discount! And THAT had ME tearing up. People WANT to do right by each other, don’t they?

I felt like I was walking on holy ground today. I think… I think it all balances out, you know? – Good disperses itself throughout the cosmos – and I know I’ll always have what I need – there’s no lack – there’s no competition – there’s no need to go through life clutching and afraid and feeling like Good is limited and finite, and if someone else has enough then I won’t have enough.

Sure, there have been times when I’ve been led to say “no” – times when I’ve felt that giving money to someone wasn’t going to really help him – I’m not completely naive when it comes to stuff like that. But this time – today – I knew it was right. And it felt really good that I was there to be used by Love in this way.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Here are some photos of my new friend, the salesclerk who helped Vlad and me, and Vlad’s old shoe…

Suspended in Time Between Teacher and Student

So here’s a cool thing: I’m sitting at my table at school, working with one of my favorite students, when my cellphone rings. It is my fifth grade teacher, Peravena! Last night I’d found her phone number and called her and left a message – and now she’s calling me back!

I hadn’t heard from Peravena, nor seen her, for probably 30 years – it was amazing to hear her voice again! As I’m telling her what having her as a teacher meant to me – and the impact she had on my life – I’m looking at my student’s face and I find myself tearing up. I feel suspended in time between my teacher and my student.

It was cosmic.

That is all. Carry on then..

The Cosmic Art and Meditation of Blackberry Pie-making

Yeah. I know. Weird title, right?  I was going to use the word “zen” in there – Zen and the Art of Pie-Making – and then it occurred to me I don’t actually know what “zen” means – so I thought I better just go with “cosmic.” For me, there is some spiritual “cosmic” something that I feel when I’m making a blackberry pie. Making pies connects me to wonderful memories…

When I was in grade school I was huge into Laura Wilder’s Little House books. I had great fun pretending I was a pioneer girl, living with my family in the big woods or on the prairie. I imagined living in a little house with a loft, collecting eggs from our chickens every morning, fishing in the stream, and picking berries for home-made pies. (I also imagined we had pet chipmunks – but that has pretty much nothing to do with this blog post.)

Some years later – the sun is warming my shoulders, the sweet smell of blackberries filling my nose, my hands carefully moving among the thorns as I gather the filling for next winter’s pies – Mom calls to me from the house to let me know a birthday gift for me has arrived in the mail from my boyfriend.  I smile, thinking of him, and carry the berries back to the house.  The memory of the sunshine of that day and the feel of the warmth on my shoulders and the happy feeling of knowing someone was thinking of me will all become a part of the pie filling, too.

Later still – when I was in my twenties – I lived next door to a woman who was studying to be a radio disc jockey. She also made amazing pies, and gave me her recipe for uber pie crust: 2 cups flour, 2/3 and 2 tbsp butter, 6 tablespoons water, and a dash of salt.  I don’t remember my neighbor’s name anymore – but when I use her recipe for pie crust, I remember her – remember her friendly smile and her wonderfully raspy disc jockey voice – and I smile.

A few Christmases ago my Nova Scotian friend, Kathi, sent me an apron with the word “eh?” written on it. I always wear this apron now, when I make pies.

Today – the rain is lashing against the house, a fire burns cozily in the woodstove, and Louis Armstrong sings What a Wonderful World on my stereo as I create Blackberry Pie.  I’ve got Kathi’s apron on, and I’m feeling like a self-sufficient pioneer woman as I roll out the pie crust – made from the recipe given me by my d-jay neighbor – and fill it with the berries I picked in last summer’s sunshine.  I am in my pie-making zone – focused on the things of the moment – rolling the crust, mixing the berries with sugar and flour for the filling, poking holes in the top of the pie and sprinkling sugar on the crust.  I am creating. And there is peace.

It’s all very cosmic.