Two Poems from the Cemetery

Two Poems from the Cemetery

Such a short time we are here!
The gravestones remind me of this.
Four lie near each other – all younger
than I am now when they died: 42, 56,
59, 25. And I am still alive. But it’s
such a short time we are here!
And when we’re gone – have moved on –
what will anyone remember of you –
of me? What memories will remain?
The accolades, awards, one star
or five? How much we owned?
How our jewelry shone? Or will
we be remembered for our smiles,
our kindnesses, our generosity –
the way we stood up to bullies,
helped lift others up, shared laughter,
shared life’s lessons, shared good fully?
Such a short time we are here.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Today the cosmos danced for me
at the cemetery. Sitting on a bench,
feeling the peace I always feel
there, the sun came out and a breeze
moved across the grass and autumn
flowers at the edge of the grounds.
I love you, always and forever, a voice
said. Fear not. All is well. Do you feel
me with you? Celebrate with me.
And how could I not?
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Bow Cemetery #1

Joyful Without Reason

My joy is not dependent on matter –
not dependent on flattering chatter –
my clothes can be in tatters,
my ego-dreams all shattered,
and possessions scattered –
but I’m alive! I can love! I can learn!
Joy is not something I have to earn –
not something I need a reason
or a special season
to feel.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
– Habbakuk 3:17,18

“Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.”
– Mary Baker Eddy




The Intrepid Little Sunflower

One happy story has emerged from the Slug Battles this summer: The Story of the Intrepid Little Sunflower.

The slugs and snails have been voracious this year. When my little sunflowers first sprouted I covered them every night with jars. When they outgrew the jars I would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and go on Slug Patrol – looking for any snails or slugs that might be chowing down on my sunflower youngsters (in the morning I would take the slugs and snails out to our wetland – what I’ve dubbed my “Snail and Slug Refuge” – and ask them to please stay down there). Eventually I started wrapping copper tape around the bottom of the sunflowers’ stems and that seemed to work pretty well – UNTIL one morning I found a slug or snail had chomped through the stem of one of the sunflower youngsters and the top three inches were hanging from the bottom three inches by mere threads. I tried to tape it together, but that didn’t work well. Finally, I pulled the top part off and – finding I didn’t have it in me to toss it in the compost – I put it in a little bottle filled with water and put it on top of a book case, and waited for nature to take its course.

But the little sunflower did not die. In fact, it appeared to me that it even grew a few inches.

A couple weeks went by and the leaves started turning yellow. It was obvious to me my little sunflower teenager needed nutrients. On impulse, I put about half an inch of soil in the bottom of the bottle and made sure the bottom of the sunflower stem touched the soil – I hoped the plant would somehow suck up the nutrients it needed – maybe it would grow roots? I wasn’t sure how that worked – but it seemed possible to me.

And today when I looked over at the sunflower teenager he seemed to have grown six inches overnight! I looked at the bottom of the bottle and there were roots in there!

I planted him in a planter out on the deck. Right now he is out there, straight and getting taller, and waving happily in the breeze at me. 🙂
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Grateful for Our Connection

Back in February and March – when COVID-19 was first making the news – I had terrible fears for a loved one who was traveling though Europe. (Maybe someday I’ll share more about that.) My terror caused me to pull out all the tools I’d acquired in my life to get me through troubling times – and one of the chief tools was expressing gratitude for all the good in my life.

I remember lying in bed one night in particular – my thoughts were all agitated and I couldn’t find peace. I was just staring at the ceiling, trying to calm myself, and I started listing in my thoughts all the people I was grateful for in my life – my sons, husband, Mom and Dad, siblings, nieces and nephews, in-laws, friends from grade school, junior high, high school, university, Mount Rainier friends, neighbors, colleagues, church friends, Humoristian friends, FB friends, WordPress friends – and then I found myself including people who might not be considered “friends” – people I thought had maybe treated me unkindly or unfairly, people I’d had a rift with – and I found myself genuinely grateful for THEM, too, and for my connection to them.

It was a cosmic moment for me. I felt my connection to all of God’s, Love’s, creation – and each and every expression of Life. I knew this overwhelming gratitude that I’m not solitary and alone in this vast, infinite universe – grateful for my connection to all the infinite expressions of Life. I felt Love’s presence with me – supporting me – sure and comforting and healing and powerful. My fears dissolved away and I was able to go back to sleep.

I’m going to practice having more of those cosmic moments.

And I know those moments begin with love.

Blue Cosmos (photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)

Calling Out Her Name One More Time

I found another treasure while sorting through my piles and cupboards during the COVID-19 lockdown: the memory of an old friend.

I found the memory as I was going through the shelves and more shelves and stacks of books I’ve accumulated through a lifetime of reading. I have books from my sci-fi phase; from my fantasy phase; from my romance phase; from my mystery phase; from my memoirs phase; from my true life adventures phase. I have books from authors who make me laugh and books by authors who make me think, and books by authors who make me do both. There’s my Tolkien collection and my Vonnegut collection and my Douglas Adams collection and my old Earl Emerson collection. There are my Neil Gaiman books and my Norah Roberts books and my Jane Austin books and my Agatha Christie books. And, as I was sorting through my stacks, I found I’d accumulated a whole lot of Christian Science books, too – and that’s when I stumbled upon the memory of my friend.

I’d come upon yet another copy of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy – this one was a 7 12″ by 10 1/2″ “Reader’s Edition”– an old black leather beauty. I opened it up to see if I could find out where I’d come by this one – and that’s when I saw  – written in elegant red calligraphy – the name of my dear friend, Jane Elofson. Just seeing her name there awakened a sweet memory of my friend’s beautiful smile.

Jane Elofson had been one of the people who had made me feel welcome when my husband and I moved to Skagit County 35 years ago and I began attending the local Christian Science church. Jane, and her husband, Gordon, must have been about 68 or 69 then. They were one of those couples from The Greatest Generation that exuded a kind of classy kindness and grace. Gordon was handsome and dignified without being stuffy – he had a wonderful laugh and a great sense of humor. And Jane was stylish and gracious and funny – she had a “Ginger Rogers” kind of class about her.

As I stared at Jane’s name in the book I couldn’t remember when I’d last seen Gordon and Jane – and when I’d lost contact with them. It’d been decades, at least.

I thought it might be cool if I could do some googling and see if I could find some children, or maybe grandchildren, that I could send Jane’s book to. I imagined her loved ones opening up my package and finding Jane’s name in the book, and I imagined the happy surprise that might bring them. But there was little information to glean from the internet about Gordon and Jane. There was a 1940 census that placed them in Oregon when they were both 23 and newly-married. There were possible obituaries in Minnesota and an old photo of what might have been a younger version of Jane. But, eventually, I hit a dead end on the world wide web.

I contacted a mutual friend who had loved the Elofsons, too, and she gave me a bit more information – she told me she thought the Elofsons had a son, an artist, who lived on the east coast somewhere. I went back to googling, but soon stalled out again.

In the end, it seems the only physical evidence I have to show that Jane Elofson was ever on this planet is her elegant signature in the leather-bound copy of the Science and Health I found in my stacks of books.

Maybe this is what she would have wanted. Maybe there’s something kind of clean and simple about leaving this planet with no trace of yourself – no trace that you ever lived on it, or were ever a part of it.

But I can’t help myself – I feel a real yearning to call out Jane’s name at least this one more time – to bring her name to the world wide web and acknowledge her existence – acknowledge her kindness to me and remember her beautiful smile.

Jane Elofson signature

A Tiny Scrap of Existence

We have just a tiny scrap of existence here
– a miniscule piece of our eternity –
to love and learn and live
and leave something good behind.
Let’s not waste it on nothings.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

As I was scrolling through Facebook I saw a post by a friend, sharing that she’d just lost her mother. Her mother had gone into the hospital on a Wednesday and was dead on Sunday. Her death was a surprise to everyone. As I looked through my friend’s pictures of her mom, I realized that her mom was probably about my age. That realization brought me up short. Whoah. And then I thought of the loved ones I’ve lost in the last several years – some of them my age, and some of them younger – and it gave me pause.

I am not afraid of death. I’m maybe afraid of the pain involved in death, but I’m not afraid of death itself. If, as I believe, my consciousness will continue on and continue to learn and unfold – that would be fine. And if death is really the end – that would be fine, too – I mean, I won’t be around to feel one way or the other about it, right? No, I’m not afraid of death – but I hope that what I do here, during my time here, will make a difference for the people who come after me. I hope my time here will mean something, you know? I don’t want to waste even a minute of it on ridiculous rivalries, and empty quests for fame and wealth. I don’t want to waste my life on nothings. Life is too short. We only have one shot at this.

“John says of the world, not that it is wrong, but simply that it ‘passeth away.’ There is a great deal in the world that is delightful and beautiful, there is a great deal that is great and engrossing, but it will not last. All that is in the world, the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, are but for a little while…Nothing that it contains is worth the life and consecration of an immortal soul…You will give yourself to many things; give yourself first to love. Hold things in their proportion.”
– Henry Drummond

(Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell, taken on a hike in the North Cascades.)

butterflies on my shoe luminex

Butterflies on My Shoe

Vague Plans

Vague Plans

I roll out of bed
and onto my feet
I have some vague plans
for today
A direction to head
and a place to start
And that is enough
to get me moving
I push out of the eddy
and get pulled into the flow
my plans change as I go
and I adjust and shift
open to whatever gift
appears on my way
This is what retirement
looks like
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Kayaking on Lake Padden

Kayaking on Lake Padden

The Good You Seek

The Good You Seek

I want to take a break, I said.
Can I step out of life for a moment,
or maybe stay in bed?
Can things go on without me?
Can you just pretend I’m not here?
For life is a messy business
and I’m tired and I’m weary
I’ve made too many mistakes to count today
And I’d like to not make anymore, not any.

And the still small voice reached into my thought
– gentle, peaceable benediction –
“All the good you seek and all that you’ve sought
you can claim right now – and that’s no fiction –
for Love is yours to express, to feel, and to be
– you are wealthy beyond description.
Nothing else matters, there’s no other power
no warring opinions, no need to cower
You are loved and you’re loving
and that’s all there is to it
Love’s loving child, and there’s nothing else
but loving, simply nothing.”
– Karen Molenaar Terrell, *A Poem Lives on My Windowsill*

A_Poem_Lives_On_My_W_Cover_for_Kindle

And Time Went By

“Be still and know that I am God…”
she quoted. “Be quiet… don’t do, don’t act,
don’t talk, just be still… God will take care
of it.”

And that sounded good. That sounded fine.
And so I sat in my comfy chair being
quiet and still. Not talking. Not moving.
Not doing. And time went by like this.

And then I died.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell