Cosmic Connections: An Excerpt

Cosmic Connections: Finding the Joy is available as a paperback now. It should be available as an e-book in a few days. Here’s another excerpt from the book:

I’d Never Been Alone At All!
(Originally published on September 24th, 2019.)

He stood out – literally – he was, like, a foot taller than everyone around him. He had hair the color of copper and an Irish accent.  She stood next to him – coming just below his shoulders – with dark hair and lively eyes and an accent that came from somewhere in the middle of America.  We bonded waiting to get on the airplane – laughing together that we were in the “E” section and would get on last because “they always save the best for last, right?” and “E stands for ‘excellent’, doesn’t it?”

We were bound for Chicago. I mentioned that my husband and I had, just a few weeks before, driven from Seattle to Grand Rapids, Michigan – and had passed by Chicago on our trip. What had taken us five days to achieve then, would take five hours today.  The couple told me then that they lived in Michigan – Kalamazoo, to be exact. I told them I loved the word “Kalamazoo” and the copper-haired man told me that before that he’d lived in another town in Michigan with a native name (maybe Missaukee?). And, he told me, he’d almost taken a job in Australia with a really cool Aboriginal name (maybe Woolgoolga?). I told him he needed to go to Walla Walla next, and he started laughing.

Eventually we boarded the bus that would take us to our plane. There were no seats on the bus and everyone had to find a pole or a bar or a hand-loop to grip during the ride. I was too short to reach the bar above me and all the hand-loops were taken. I was looking around trying to figure out how I was going to keep upright, when the red-haired man saw my dilemma and moved aside so I could grip the loop near him – he was tall enough that he could easily hang onto the bar above us. I’m so grateful to him for that because as the bus worked its way across the tarmac there were a lot of stops and turns and I would have ended up doing a face plant on the floor, for sure, if I hadn’t had something to hold onto.

The bus stopped and we all got out and I quickly found my seat on the plane. Or. I THOUGHT I’d found my seat on the plane until a man tapped me gently on the shoulder and asked me my seat number. I told him and, smiling, he pointed me to a seat a row up and over. “I guess you were wondering where you were going to sit?” I asked, laughing. He laughed, too, and everyone graciously made room for me to move across the aisle. When I got settled I looked up and recognized one of the people who’d been on the bus. She was standing in the aisle next to my seat, waiting to find her own seat. The aisle was kind of clogged up, though, and it looked like it might take a while. Recognizing a person with a sense of humor, I said, “You don’t get a seat. One of those hand loop things is going to drop down from the ceiling and you’ll get to hang on to that for the flight.”  She started cracking up and said that she’d probably get to have the air mask first, though, if those things dropped down.  🙂

The flight was pretty uneventful – there were some air bumps for a while that forced the flight attendants back to their seats – but everyone was really calm about it all, and, in what seemed like no time, our plane had landed at O’Hare.

***

I had a wonderful day in Chicago – seeing old friends and getting inspired by this year’s speaker at the Christian Science association. I came away feeling revitalized and ready to heal the world.

***

But first I had to deal with my own neuroses. I’d worked myself into kind of a tizzy.  When I was younger I’d traveled a lot on my own. But as I’ve gotten older most of my traveling has been with family members and friends. And now I felt like I was all alone, trying to figure things out for myself, and it was scary. My thoughts were going around and around in circles something like this: “I’m going to need to get up at 4:30 to catch the shuttle bus to the airport. How do I set the alarm clock? How do I turn it off? What if I sleep through the alarm? What if the alarm doesn’t go off? What if I miss the shuttle bus and then I miss my plane? And… and… what if I can’t find a kiosk to get my boarding pass? And… what if I mess up at the kiosk and can’t get a boarding pass and miss my plane and get stranded in Chicago for, like, ever? And what if the TSA folks think I look suspicious or something and pull me out of the line and I end up missing my plane and… and… how do I set the alarm clock? How do I turn it off? What if I sleep through the alarm…?

You get the idea. Sheesh.

Of course I didn’t sleep well – tossing and turning, my eyes continually going to the clock. I finally dozed off for a couple hours and came to with a start to find that I’d awakened at exactly 4:24.  I got up and set about getting myself dressed and ready. At 4:30 the alarm went off and I pushed the little button and it stopped – just like that. By 4:45 I was joining other folks in the elevator (I thought I’d be the only one getting up at 4:30!) and heading for the lobby. By 5:00 we were all on the bus and heading for the airport. When the people in front of me got off the shuttle at the United terminal I moved to the front so I could hear our bus driver’s voice – it was really deep and beautiful – a James Earl Jones voice – he sounded like he belonged on the radio. I told him this and he started laughing and said that this was the voice he woke up with and it would get higher as the day went on. “This is your morning voice,” I said, nodding. And he laughed and agreed.

***

(Note: All the employees you’re going to read about who helped me – the lady at the kiosk, the security folks, the vendor who showed me where Starbucks was, and the man who assigned me a seat on the plane, were African-Americans. I always feel this kind of weird self-conscious awkwardness about mentioning a person’s race – like it shouldn’t matter, right? – but at the moment I’m feeling the need to share that all the wonderful folks who helped me at O’Hare were African-Americans.)

The Delta terminal was the next stop. I got off there and as soon as I walked in the door found a kiosk waiting for me. A Delta employee immediately joined me at the kiosk to help me get my boarding pass. She asked me for my confirmation number and I showed her the teeny tiny letters on my phone and asked her if she could read them because I couldn’t make them out without my glasses. She laughed and said she needed her glasses, too, and quickly pulled them from a pocket and put them on to read the number to me.  She soon realized it would go faster for us if she just punched the number in herself – so she did that for me. I made some comment about “women of a certain age” helping each other and she started laughing with me in middle-aged sisterhood. Soon she’d printed out my boarding pass for me, found out what gate I needed to go to, and pointed me that direction.

When I got in line for security I expected to have to go through that cubicle where you have to put your arms up and the body scan dealy checks you out. But this time the security people pointed me into a line where I got to by-pass the scanning machine altogether. That was cool.

And so there I was – safe and sound on the other side of security. All the things I’d been so nervous about were now behind me and looked ridiculous to me from this vantage point. I could feel the Cosmos laughing with me.  I imagine the Cosmos finds me pretty entertaining.

Next it was time to find a Starbucks. I stopped at a small vendor of cheeses and fruit and asked her if she could point me to the nearest Starbucks. She looked up at me with a kind of exasperated disbelief and pointed behind her – “Right there,” she said. I saw that the Starbucks was right next to her! Humbled, I said, “Oh, thank you! Sheesh.” A stunning African-American woman – she looked like a competent, confident put-together lawyer – happened to be walking by us as this exchange was going on and she looked over at me, a grin on her face, and said, “I heard that.” I laughed with her and told her I was embarrassed, and went to fetch my pumpkin spice latte with whip. Once I had that familiar cup of latte in my hand I went back to the fruit and cheese vendor and bought myself a snack for the plane ride. The vendor graciously thanked me for my business and I thanked her, again, and went to sit in the waiting area.

I had been given a boarding pass without an assigned seat. So when the man appeared behind the podium I went up to him to get a seat. And oh! – he was so fun! I told him I needed a seat – and he grinned and pointed to the row of seats behind him – joking – and then he asked some quick questions, made some snappy small talk as he clicked away on the keyboard – et voila! I had a window seat!

I found a place to sit and, as the waiting area started getting more crowded, I picked up my bags and made room for Mike and Lisa, a middle-aged couple from Indiana. I really enjoyed talking with them. Lisa had arranged an Alaskan cruise for her husband and herself. They were going to visit all the places my husband and I had visited when we went up the Inside Passage seven years ago – Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka – and we talked about all the cool things they were going to see. This was Mike’s first-ever airplane ride. In fact, he told me he’d just had his first-ever train ride, too. In FACT, they’d already taken a car, a bus, and a train to get where they were. “Trains, planes, and automobiles,” I said, and they laughed and said “exactly.”

When it was time to get on the plane I stopped at the podium and made sure to let the man who’d assigned me a seat know how much I’d enjoyed listening to his comedic patter over the microphone as we lined up for boarding. He grinned and thanked me and wished me a good flight.

***

I got my window seat and spent the first half of the flight looking out the window and watching a movie on the screen in front of me. Towards the end of the flight I got into conversation with Eliana, the young woman seated next to me. I’d noticed she was taking an online college course, and shared with her my experience as a high school teacher. We talked about what she’d like to do when she gets out of school – she said she’d like to be a fashion designer – and I could totally picture her doing that. I told her she could name her line of clothes “Eliana” – and that I expected to see her fashion designs out there in a few years.

***

The plane landed a half hour early. I’d left rain in Chicago, and landed in rain in Seattle. There was something very symmetrical and pleasing about that.

As my husband drove me back home, I started thinking about all my ridiculous worries and the fear I’d had of being all on my own, trying to figure things out by myself – and I suddenly realized that I really hadn’t been alone at all! The entire trip I’d had people stepping up to help me out – to give me directions, to make room for me, to laugh with me.

How blessed we are to have each other on Life’s journey!
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Robin’s Egg

Another excerpt from Cosmic Connections (soon to be released):

Robin’s Egg

He comes towards me on the trail–
a big, brawny man with a bald head
and tattoos on his arms. I turn away
to take photos of the ferns on the forest
floor and when I turn back he’s passed me.
I glance back at the same moment he glances
back at me. He uses his walking stick
to point to a place on the path near me.
I turn in the direction he’s pointing –
not sure what he wants me to see –
and find myself looking at the remnants
of a tiny, fragile blue egg. A new nestling
has pecked open her shell. “Robin’s egg,”
the big man rumbles in his deep bass voice,
a sweet smile on his face. I smile back at him.
“It’s beautiful,” I say. “Yes, it is,” he agrees.
And he turns and continues down the trail
.-Karen Molenaar Terrell

The Saga of the Paper Clip and the Alternator

Another excerpt from my soon-to-be-released book, Cosmic Connections: Sharing the Joy

This morning I was rooting around for a little paper clip to attach one paper to another paper that I needed to send in to a very formal, officious organization. And alas! There were no little paper clips to be found. In the entire house. Anywhere. Trust me, one does not appreciate the value of paper clips until there are none to be found.

Skip forward a few hours: My car and I are now plodding our way through Bellingham in search of a parking space. My prospects do not look promising. I had not realized that I had made my semi-annual hair appointment in Bellingham on the day that Fairhaven celebrates Dirty Dan Day.

As I was just about to exit a parking lot my car’s power suddenly clicked off – no steering, no brakes, no anything – I managed to make it through the exit lane – I didn’t want to clog anyone up in the parking lot. I cranked the wheel hard to the right so I could move the car off to the side a little, and pulled up on the emergency brake to keep my car from rolling into cross traffic.

A gentleman named Jose and his wife were sitting in a car near by and he heard the sound my car made when I tried to start it up again. He recognized that telltale click. Jose and his wife came over to help. Jose suggested that I either had a bad battery or a bum alternator. After tinkering around under the hood for awhile, he was pretty sure my alternator had gone kapooey. He asked me if I had triple A. I said no. American Express? No. Then he asked me if my car insurance covered roadside service. We switched insurance companies just a couple months ago and I wasn’t sure if we had roadside service or not, but a quick look at my insurance card seemed to indicate we did. I called the insurance company and sure enough! – my car could be towed for free!

I thanked Jose and his wife for their support – gave his wife a hug – and settled in to wait for the tow truck. As I waited at least a dozen people stopped to ask me if I needed help or if they could do anything for me. Bellingham is full of the best kind of people. 

A man named Sean, wearing a neck brace, came up to chat. I asked him about the brace. He said he wore it to pick up chicks, and asked me how it was working. I started cracking up. Then he told me what had actually happened – he’d been hanging upside down from the rafters at a party (“Of course you were,” I responded – duh, right?) and fell head-first into a metal box. The metal box broke his fall a little. He said he broke his neck and was thanking “the lord every day” that he could walk and was still alive. He called his experience “a miracle.”

When the tow truck arrived, little Riley came by with his folks and a fistful of balloons to watch the tow truck hoist my car onto its bed.. I got a picture of Riley posing with the tow truck. It was so fun to see him enjoying the show.

My little car looked so forlorn and embarrassed sitting on the bed of the tow truck. I felt kind of bad for it. But I would not be looking for a parking place for it, and that was kind of cool.

At the end of the day my husband and the sons drove up to eat dinner with me in Bellingham, and then to drop me off at the Shell Station (which actually still has a full service mechanic station – just like in the olden days!) to pick up my car. As I was getting in my car to drive it away I happened to look down on the pavement and guess what I saw?!!

Yup. A little paper clip. And you can bet your bippy that I picked it up!

car repair
Jose
Sean
Riley

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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

Saving Worms and Singing to Bovines

Had a nice bike ride through the ‘hood yesterday. I hadn’t gone far before I was saving worms. A little further still, and I was singing to bovines…

Note to my neighbor: Paul, I used your garden as a worm refuge today. I found four little worms drying on the street in front of your house, and I plucked them up and dug a little two inch hole in the corner of your garden and covered them up with soft soil. I think they might make it! I didn’t think you would mind, and I knew they would be safe with you. If you have home surveillance tape that shows a woman in a bicycle helmet rooting around in the corner of your garden… that’s just me.

Paul’s response: Those rascals! I told them that they were to stay home last night. Must have snuck out. Thank you Karen. It takes a village.

Here’s a youtube of me singing to the bovines. (Hymn #136 in the Christian Science Hymnal. Words by J.R. Macduff.)

And some pics…

Cosmic Give and Take

He was waiting outside the store
when I came out with my groceries
and I said hi. He smiled and said hi back.
Give and take.
Who taught him to smile? Who taught me?

I started to wheel my cart to my car
mentally scrolling through my shopping list
to see if I had anything to share with him.
Tangerines!
I rolled my cart back towards him.
You want an orange?
Sure!
Can you catch it?
Yeah! And he smiled at the idea
of a game of catch.
I tossed. He caught.
Who taught me how to throw?
Who taught him how to catch?
My dad? His dad? And now our dads
are connected in our give and take.

As Scott drove west, a train engine
went west in reverse. Our car
passed the train as the engineer
sat facing me and I smiled across
the tracks at him and he smiled
and waved back to me.
I caught his wave and returned it.
Who taught him how to wave?
Who taught me?
All the cosmos connected in a giant
give and take.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Let’s Stop Dehumanizing Each Other

At a time when we desperately need to come together and support the good in each other – at a time when we need to do away with stereotypes and stop dehumanizing each other – it was very disappointing to see the headline in the paper today. It felt like a punch in the gut. It’s time for people of privilege to stop using “Karens” as their scapegoat – as a way to show that they are allies to the disenfranchised and that they aren’t bigots. In actuality, people who use “Karen” as a pejorative are revealing their bigotry – their sexism and ageism – by using the name in this way.

Using “Karen” as a label for a racist isn’t funny or clever. It’s mean. Those named “Karen” feel pain; they cry and mourn and grieve and deal with mental health issues just like everyone else. And this kind of bullying hurts – I have at least one friend named “Karen” who has contemplated suicide in the last year. Using “Karen” in this way does not add anything good or kind to this world. And this world is in desperate need of kindness.
Karen Molenaar Terrell

I Was Really Hoping to Be Grandmother Willow

I’ve been sort of aspiring to be “Grandmother Willow” for a few years now – hoping to dispense my wisdom and years of experience to the younger generations. And today it hit me that the younger generations are dealing with a whole new world than the one I was born into – and they’re having to make up a lot of stuff from scratch to deal with this whole new world. So. Yeah. My years of experience are from a different world than theirs and I’m not sure how helpful anything I have to say will be at this point.

I guess this is all I have to offer:
Live in a way that you can feel good about yourself.
1) Be kind.
2) Be honest.
3) Be fair.
4) If you make a mistake, admit to it and learn from it. But don’t let your mistakes keep you from moving forward.
5) Forgive people their mistakes, and forgive yourself, too.
6) Don’t focus on accumulating material stuff. That’s not going to bring you joy.
7) Stand up to bullies.
8) Give yourself time alone, with your own thoughts, now and then.
9) Don’t be afraid to say “no” when saying “yes” is going to be harmful to your own spiritual growth, or to someone else’s.
10) Don’t be afraid to say “yes” when you know it will make you a better human, or make the world a better place.
Karen

(Photo of willow by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)

Celebrating You on This Inauguration Day

My dear friends –

We’re still here! We’ve lived through yesterday and made it to today and that has been no small feat.

On this Inauguration Day I celebrate you – each and every beautiful one of you! I celebrate your compassion, courage, and commitment to kindness. I celebrate your honesty, your decency, your charity. I celebrate your moral strength and integrity. I celebrate that you stand for justice; kneel for equality and fairness; and dance for the joy that no one can steal from you. You have transformed the world. You have made it a better place. You are a wonder.

A new day is dawning. Go out there and work your magic, my friends.
Karen

(Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)

May: Sunrise over Skagit County, WA

The World Is in Need of Your Courage and Kindness

My dear Humoristian hooligans –
The world is in need of all the love and courage you can shine on it today – the world is in need of your reflection of all that is good and decent. You are important – each and every beautiful one of you – in your expressions of kindness, honesty, and irrepressible, unstoppable, insurmountable joy. May the scared, misguided and misinformed be awakened by your unwavering wisdom and unshakable faith in Truth. May the bullies and belligerent bigots be transformed by your buoyant, unbreakable belief in the brotherhood and sisterhood and kinship of all creatures. May we all help our world find peace.
Amen.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell