A Waltz in the Park

(I originally published this on the Bellingham Bay Blog – but I thought it might fit well here, too. :))

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

Bring Joy in with the Sad

Sitting in sadness and worry
with a free day ahead of me
I ask myself – what do I want
to do? What do I want to see?
what will bring me joy?
Photos, I think. I’ll find
swans or snow geese.
A drive with Dad.
A walk in the fresh air.
Get dressed. Get out.
Bring joy in with the sad.

I go to Dad’s and find
him asleep at the table.
I ask him if he wants
to go for a drive, he
says he wouldn’t mind.

Dad beside me in the car
we pass trumpeter swans
before we go very far
in a muddy field – Mount
Baker and a red barn
in the background – and I
pull over so Dad can gaze
at Baker, and I can take
photos of the swans
as they graze.

Next a stop at the post office –
a package for Dad there
from my cousin, Debby.
Dad pulls out a pair
of cinnamon-scented discs,
wrapped in aluminum foil.
What do you think it is?
Speculaas, he guesses,
and smiles. He slowly
unwraps the treat – foil,
plastic wrap – pulls a chunk
of soft, spicy, speculaas free
and brings it to his mouth
Is it good? Yes, says he,
and nods. I pull off a piece
for me.

Back through the flats
and fields, along the shore,
over the hill and down
the other side, past more
swans, and through town
I bring Dad back to his
home, and into the recliner.
I love you, we tell each other.

As I’m driving back to my own
home, I realize I’m not done, yet.
On impulse, I exit onto I-5
and head for Bellingham to get
my walk in the sunshine.

Seagulls – a dozen, maybe more! –
call to each other and soar
overhead as I walk down
the ramp to the boardwalk.
A little further and I spy
an otter family scampering
and playing on the rocks
A woman passes by
and I point out the otters –
she stops and we talk
for a moment about the joy
of otters – before we each
continue on our own adventures.

I reach the end of my journey
and head back and the thought
I’m thinking at that moment –
the painful pebble that’s caught
in the bottom of my mental shoe –
is, “I haven’t felt like I belonged
for fifty years” and right then
I hear a woman call my name:
Karen!
I turn and recognize a new
friend from a sharing circle I
went to a month ago in a town
forty minutes away from here
and we come together and hug
and laugh and shed a tear.

My new friend and I walk
back together through the park,
down the boardwalk, past the dock,
up the ramp – we share and talk –
and she says she’s happy we met
today and I say, “It’s magic, isn’t it?”
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

 

 

 

 

The Connections that Come from Sharing

It occurs to me that if I hadn’t agreed to sing at that wedding back in December 1982 I never would have met Scotty. If I’d never gathered my courage and published my first book I never would have stumbled into the Amazon forum and met all those amazing hooligans who have since become such an important part of my life. If I’d never put my photos out there I never would have connected with my fellow photography buffs. If I’d never shared my stories about my drives with Dad I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to connect with the dear people who have entered my life in the last year because of those stories. And If I’d never started this blog I wouldn’t have met YOU. Even if nothing more comes from my creative endeavors than these connections with others, my life has been made so much richer because people opened their hearts and let me share with them. And my life is so much richer because YOU all have had the courage to share your gifts with me!

Thank you! ❤

***

More about the Humoristian hooligans –
So back in 2007 I was checking my first book out on Amazon and at the bottom of the book page I saw this list of Amazon discussion forums it was suggested I might be interested in. I thought I’d take a peek and see what was going on there. I stuck my toe in one of the forums – the “Christianity” forum – and my toe almost got bitten off right away – there was indignation and huffing and puffing and sermonizing and talk of hell and… yeah… so I pulled my toe out of there and tried out the “Religion” forum – and that is where I found my home – a wild and wonderful mix of atheists, agnostics, Jews, Buddhists, Wiccans, pantheists, and all flavors of Christian – Mormons, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Baptists, Catholics, and at least one Christian Scientist – and what these people all had in common was the ability to laugh at themselves and get along with each other. They weren’t afraid of talking about their beliefs and debating them – they weren’t easily offended if people questioned them, and they could talk about stuff in a way that was straightforward and genuine – and they were willing to listen to what other people had to say, too – It was like a micro United Nations.

I started my own religion on there: Humoristianity. Here are the tenets:

1) You must be able to laugh at yourself.

2) You must be able to recognize how ludicrous your beliefs might appear to others.

3) You must want nothing but good for everyone, everywhere in the universe.

4) You must have a natural aversion to meetings, committees, and scheduled events (as we will be having none of those).

5) You must enjoy the humor of… (here we had some internal conflict within the faith – but if you’re a Jerry Lewis kind of guy, you might want to think about starting your own religion – although we wish you nothing but good).

I met some of the most amazing people on there – and I still consider these people my dear friends – they got to know me, and my beliefs and thoughts, in a way that a lot of folks in my off-line life weren’t able to do – I mean, how often do you talk about religious beliefs with your co-workers and neighbors, right? All of them were writers, too, and together we wrote a book, The Humoristian Chronicles.

And some of my Humoristian friends I’ve actually been able to meet in the person! I shall include a collage below… along with the cover from my latest book, and a picture of the evening sky from last week. My offerings for today…

 

The Rebirth Ring

I wore my “rebirth” ring the other day. A barista ringing me up complimented me on it and asked me about it. I told her it was my “rebirth” ring – that I’d bought it after I’d come through a really challenging time. I pointed to the sapphire on one side – “I was born in September – and that’s the stone for September” – and the pearl in the middle – “pearls are created from struggle – something beautiful from something challenging” – and the sapphire on the other side – “I came through the challenge and was reborn.” She said that was really beautiful, and I thanked her and nodded, and remembered, again, my Year of Insanity…

Ten years ago I went through a massive depression – I’d never experienced anything like that before – I’d always been a kind of naturally happy person – but I went through a year that was, literally, a life and death struggle for me. I couldn’t eat, contemplated ending my life, had a constant dialogue going on in my head, seriously doubted if I would ever feel happy again. It is not an exaggeration to say I wasn’t sure I’d make it through.

It was during this time that I discovered I had a wealth of friendships and love and people who cared about me. It was during this time that I also discovered how strong I am. I gained a confidence that I hadn’t really had before. I came to appreciate what’s really important in life – not material stuff – but love and kindness and integrity and the ability to laugh at ourselves. I have never felt impoverished since going through this. I’ve come to see I’m wealthy beyond anything I’d imagined.

People sometimes talk cavalierly about “choosing joy.” During the Year of Insanity it didn’t feel like joy was a “choice” for me. But now that I have my choice back – yeah, I choose joy. I’ve come to realize that life really is a matter of perspective – of how we look at things.

People have told me that they want my life – or that they love my life. And I guess I should feel flattered by that maybe. But…the thing is… love your own life. Make something of that precious gift you’ve been given. By saying you want my life you discount my struggles, and you discount your own possibilities.

I’ve never wanted to be anyone else. Never. Not even when I was going through my Year of Insanity. I knew, even then, that EVERYone has challenges in their lives. I knew, even then, that most of the challenges in my life were ones I’d created for myself and that it was my job to learn from them.

You – yes, you – have the power to bring love and kindness to someone else – even when you’re going through your own times of insanity. You have a purpose, and a reason for being here. As long as you can love there’s a reason for you to live – I realized that during my challenging time – and it helped me get through it. Let me repeat that: AS LONG AS YOU CAN LOVE THERE’S A REASON FOR YOU TO LIVE. There are people who need you here. Please don’t give up on your life.

You are loved. ❤

“You and I Are Nothing Alike!”

“You and I Are Nothing Alike!”

She had known him for years –
mutual interests, politics, and friends
had made for conversation filled
with laughter at the absurd,
and a shared concern about
the state of the world.

She had known him for years –
had enjoyed brief, happy encounters
with him on her favorite walk
along the bay, beside the rocks –
– their cameras at the ready –
as they clicked photos and talked.

She had known him for years –
then one day he asked if she’d heard
of the Dominionists. She said no,
she didn’t think so.
He reminded her she was a Christian
and he said she must know.

(She had known him for years.)
“The Dominionists are Christians
just like you are,” he said.
“They think the more children bred
the closer the men are
to God after they’re dead.”

(She had known him for years.)
“You know all Christian religions
are just exactly the same, ”
he said, “Patriarchal and lame.”
She told him her way of life
was actually founded by a dame.

(She had known him for years.)
She said the teachings she followed
believed God was, literally, Love.
An old geezer sitting in the clouds above
was not her idea of God, she said.
(And she wondered to herself
why he didn’t know this about her…

…She had known him for years.)
“We have the same thoughts about fears,
greed, over-population,” she named
the things they had both blamed
for the current state of the world. But
“You and I are nothing alike!” he exclaimed,
his face turning red.

She had known him for years –
this friend from her walks.
Now she laughed out loud because
that is what she does
when something strikes her
as completely ridiculous.

She had known him for years –
and her feelings of friendship towards him
weren’t going to change because this time
he’d chosen to see what made them different.

Love is what is true;
the rest is just nonsense.

– Karen Molenaar Terrell

love is what is true

 

Death Doesn’t Get the Last Word

I learned today that you’d passed away
this last week, and I felt such an odd
mixture of emotions. Shock. Sadness.
Regret when I remembered the last time
I’d seen you was ten years ago. Had it
really been that long since I’d heard
your voice? And I felt anger, too.
Anger towards death. Anger that made
me want to rise up and live bigger,
fuller, freer, more fiercely. For you.
For me. For all of us on this planet.
Death won’t have the last word in your life.
Or in mine. Death doesn’t win. Ever.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Spent Easter on a little island in the Pacific Northwest. On impulse, attracted by the rainbow welcome sign on the front of the building, we attended the Easter service at a small non-denominational church on the island. Here are some of the words to one of the hymns we sang at the service (if you want to hear it performed by a choir on youtube, click here) – the love in it filled me all up with inspiration:

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.
John MacLeod Campbell (J.M.C.) Crum

death doesnt get the last word

Butterfly in the North Cascades. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
– I Corinthians 15:55

“Life and goodness are immortal.”
Mary Baker Eddy

“Let us sing of Easter gladness
That rejoices every day,
Sing of hope and faith uplifted;
Love has rolled the stone away.
Lo, the promise and fulfillment,
Lo, the man whom God hath made,
Seen in glory of an Easter
Crowned with light that cannot fade.”
Frances Thompson Hill

Guemes church 2

Phone Call to Nona

Nona was one of Moz’s dear friends. I hadn’t talked to her since shortly after Moz passed last February. I don’t remember much of what was said in our conversation anymore – another blur in a month of blurs. But this week, as I was working on Christmas cards, Nona entered my thoughts. I knew I needed to send her a card. She’d moved recently, and I didn’t have her current address, but I knew that Moz had talked to Nona not long before she passed on, and figured I could probably find Nona’s phone number in Moz’s address book. And sure enough – there it was!

I called. I guess I was half-expecting to hear the fragile, quavery voice of an elderly lady on the other end of the line, but when Nona answered the phone it was in the same voice I remembered from 40 years ago – strong and healthy and joyful.

“Hi, Nona – this is Colleen’s daughter, Karen…” I began. And she knew immediately who i was and seemed really happy to hear from me.

We talked about Moz, and Nona asked about my 99 year-old Dad. I told her that he’d been in and out of hospice twice now. He’d recovered from a UTI and been taken off hospice, then gotten a blood clot that I was told would kill him within a matter of months and put back on hospice. The blood clot had dissolved and disappeared on its own, and he was taken off hospice. Then he’d developed cellulitis and pneumonia. And had recovered from those things. I’d told my sons they were probably going to inherit Dad someday. The older son had said that we would just pass him on from generation to generation like an heirloom. Nona got a kick out of that. She said Dad is just like that Energizer Bunny. And I agreed.

Nona told me a little about her new home – and how she was led to find it not long after her husband died, and how beautifully everything had unfolded for her.

It was so good to hear her voice again – so good to hear the strong joyful voice of one of Moz’s contemporaries. There was something kind of fortifying and reassuring about it, you know? It was nice to be of the “younger generation” for just a few minutes.

And when we finally hung up I started sobbing.

No. I’m not sure why.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t want to have to go back to being the grown-up.