“Old age” comes little by little, I think – little surrenders of who we are to the experts and authorities, to convenience and comfort – someone tells us we need to stay out of the sun, to eat only certain foods, to travel only at the right times and to the right places, and to wash our hands after every handshake and human touch – and we listen and obey.
And so we spend our days in “preventative” exams – counting the pills into our trays – hoping to increase the number of our days. And little by little we relinquish the small pleasures that make life meaningful – the joy of adventure, noon-time lunch with our faces turned towards the sun, whipped cream on our cocoa, shaking hands with new friends, and listening to our own hearts to create lives worth living.
And we lose our lives in a fear of death. – Karen Molenaar Terrell (Originally published January 8, 2017)
Aunt Junie told me she’d heard these words once in a CS lecture: “It is never too little; too much; too late; or too soon.” And now, as I wake in the middle of the night, these words dance in my thoughts as I gaze up at the moon.
I am never too old or too young, too heavy or too thin, with too little time or too much to do what Love needs me to do, or to feel the power of Love’s touch.
I’m neither too rich or too poor, too masculine or too feminine, too dark-skinned or too light to be the perfect expression of Good right NOW I’m just right.
Sauk Mountain and I have a long history together. The first time I hiked up Sauk was in 1985. I would have been 28 or 29 then. My husband was working as a photographer for the Skagit Valley Herald and he took a photo of me on Sauk, with the caption, “Hiker Karen Terrell negotiates a switchback on Sauk Mountain.” A few years later I climbed to the top of Sauk with my dad, Dee Molenaar, who would have been in his seventies. I have a photo of me standing on Sauk with Dad, both of us smiling at the joy of being together in the mountains. When we became parents, Sauk Mountain was one of the first hikes Scott and I took our sons on. And our dog, Sam, went up as a puppy and, later, as a full-grown Labradane in her prime. Sauk holds a lot of sweet memories for me.
This has been a busy summer – our calendar looks like an obstacle course of comings and goings – appointments, lunches, events, zoom meetings, trips – good and important things – but, alas, other than a quick little hike at Artist Point, it’s been hard to find time to get back into the mountains, and I’ve missed them something terrible. Our busy schedule sometimes left me feeling frustrated this summer – feeling like my time was running out – and I reached out to God, Love, in my thoughts to find some comfort. The message that came to me was to be patient and wait. The time would come. Love isn’t limited and Life isn’t ever done giving gifts.
This weekend my brother, Dave, and my niece, Claire, visited us. On Saturday they ran in a 14-mile race near Issaquah and then spent Saturday and Sunday nights with us. On Sunday morning, as we were gathered around the table eating breakfast, I mentioned that I was missing the mountains and longing for a good hike. Scott wasn’t able to come with us, but he suggested that maybe the three of us should go up Sauk. Dave looked at me and asked, “You wanna go?” And boom – just like that – I had the opportunity to be back in the mountains on one of my favorite hikes, with my brother and niece – two of my favorite people!
It had been almost 40 years since I FIRST hiked up Sauk Mountain and two years since the LAST time I’d hiked it. A lot had happened in the last two years – and, to be honest, I wasn’t sure how my body was going to feel about me putting it back on the Sauk Mountain trail. I was a little nervous that it was going to rebel. In the past I’ve had some struggles when it gets too hot, and it was going to be a hot day and we were going to be hitting the trail near noon. And… people of my age are sometimes referred to as “elderly” – so the thought, “I’m old!” was poking around in my head. Also: “I’m heavy!” “I’m old and I’m heavy and I don’t do well in the heat.”
God had just presented me with a gift – a gift I had been pining for and prayed for – and how could I not accept it? And if the gift came from Love – how could it bring conditions with it? All I needed to do was accept this gift and enjoy it. All those other things – age and size and heat – were just obstacles of my imagining and couldn’t stop Love’s unfolding of Good.
It didn’t take us long to fill our backpacks with the essentials and head out the door. We loaded ourselves into Dave’s truck, Dusty, and set out for the mountains.
When we got to the trailhead, Dave, an ultra runner, made sure Claire and I had everything we needed and then ran ahead. While he zipped up to the summit, and then ran back to check on us before he headed out again – this time for Sauk Lake – Claire and I made our way up the switchbacks of the southern face, stopping now and then to take photos or rest in the few shady patches under the trees to rehydrate. Claire and Dave had never been up Sauk before, and it brought me a lot of joy to be the one to introduce them to this hike. When we reached the top of the switchbacks and moved to the other side of the mountain – my favorite part of the hike – it brought a grin to my face when I heard Claire exclaim, “It just keeps getting better and better!”
The hills were full of magic, my friends! Insects flitted among the alpine wildflowers – Indian paintbrush, asters, and bluebells; there was the smell of mountain heather and ozone; there were friendly, happy people sharing the trail with us; patches of snow, and craggly boulder ridges, and green meadows, and butterflies that came together to party in the middle of the trail. It was everything and more than I’d hoped for. And all those worries that had tried to limit me – age, size, heat – had no power to stop me from enjoying the gift of this day in the mountains.
Here are some photos of “Sauks Past”: Dad and me; Scott and the sons and me, circa 1996; Scott and me on Sauk, several years ago; and Scott and Sam Dog. And there’s a picture of Dave and Claire and me on this week’s hike…
A loved one had an article entitled “On the Brink of Mass Extinction” on his Facebook wall this morning. I clicked and skimmed. The article was a warning that we are all going to die if we don’t change our ways and immediately. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what habits the article said we need to change – at this point anyone who’s inclined to be informed about the state of the world and has access to the internet, is informed. So I’d rather take a different tack this morning, if that’s alright with you. Well. And even if it isn’t, because this is, like, my blog and I can write about pretty much whatever I want, right?
It seems to me that a sense of limitation and lack rules our earthly affairs. Those of us who take our responsibilities as human beings seriously have tried to “live within our earthly budget” – we’ve been mindful about over-populating and over-consuming; we’ve turned off the lights and turned off the water; we’ve recycled, re-used, and reduced; we’ve donated money to environmental causes, animal causes, and causes that promise to quell disease, destruction, and poverty. We’ve taken whatever human footsteps we felt we needed to take. And that is all good and right – it is our expression of Love – of caring and kindness, of generosity and integrity, of sharing the earth with our fellow creatures.
But I think it’s time to let go of the fear – not the caring and kindness – but the fear. The fear of limitation. The fear of running out of good. The fear of mass extinction.
I believe that love, Mind, God, is infinite and unlimited. I believe we should never put a limit on intelligence, or the possibilities of what intelligence can create, accomplish, and perform. Nor, I believe, should we ever put a limit on the power of love – what kindness and generosity can accomplish; or limit the power of Life. Sitting from where we are in 2014 I don’t think it’s possible for us to know what innovations and inventions might be created in the future that will open up new resources for humanity, or where we may find ourselves in even 20 years.
And spending all our days in tight-fisted fear is no way to live a life anyway, is it? Maybe it’s time to unclench our teeth and unfist our hands and open ourselves up to all the infinite good – the joy and love and hope and beauty – that’s always surrounding us. Yes, we can still do all those things that it seems right for us to do – curb our consuming, recycle, reduce, and reuse – but wouldn’t it be awesome if we all did those things in a spirit of love for our fellow creatures, rather than in fear of mass extinction?
Okay. I guess that’s pretty much all I have to say about mass extinction at this time. May you all find peace and joy in your day, may you reduce, recycle, and reuse, and may Love guide you in all your ways. Amen.
And here’s a picture of Mount Rainier, just because… 🙂