One of my friends in Pueblo died suddenly a few weeks ago. I got a message about it from another friend in town and then her daughter, who I also know. Her death was not COVID related, but apparently the escalation of a chronic condition that moved too fast to catch. And so she was gone. I sent the appropriate condolences and have messaged back and forth with her daughter and other friends, trying to offer comfort and advice on grieving (there is no real advice, you grieve how you grieve and it lasts as long as it lasts). But since we were also friends on Facebook, I now see her comments on past posts when my daily memories come up and here in my room there are always constant reminders of her.
I first met Karin right after I moved to Pueblo in 1993. At that time, aside from a few big-box stores, there wasn’t much shopping in town, and what there was was located in the “historic Union Avenue district.” Karin’s store was on D Street, off Union, a little emporium called Instant Karma. I loved it before I ever walked inside. It was a tiny space, then, filled with funky, hippie-type clothing, sarongs, bed spreads/throws, incense, crystals, Tarot cards, books, CDs and cassettes (definitely dating myself here!). Ms. Karin fit right in. She was a small woman herself, five foot nothing, a bit zaftig, and her persona definitely matched the store. She was a cross between Stevie Nicks (wardrobe), Barbra (hair and accent) and her own unique fabulousness. I never saw her once after that without receiving her standard hello of “Greetings!” She loved all dogs, her husband, Tom, with whom she shared a birthday, her two daughters, her sweet mother, Anita (who also became a friend), and above all, John Lennon.
Her store became my happy place. I found it when I was having a particularly hard time getting settled in a new place, something I had not experienced since I was a kid. Moving to Pueblo from Atlanta was definitely a culture shock, especially at that time. The town was still reeling from the near complete shutdown of the steel mill that had been the major source of income and employment for most of the population. Customer service was an unknown idea and women treated each other very differently than I was used to. I was absolutely to be regarded with suspicion since I wasn’t from there. Karin never treated me with anything but friendship and caring, even at our first meeting.
I bought my first goddess book at her store, Z. Budapest’s “The Goddess in the Office” and it really helped me deal with the passive aggressive treatment at my job. As I look around my room now, nearly 30 years on, I see a lightweight cotton paisley bed spread that I have used as a table cloth and now current serves as block for a gap under the French doors to the back porch. I see a short lightweight robe, black with yellow dragonflies, that I travel with when I need something to toss over my swimsuit on the way to the pool. I see a string of small, cheerful bells hanging from my curtain rod next to my window that I jingle every now and then because I love their airy sound. Karin had a similar string on her door to let her know when folks came int. I see right here on my desk, my favorite Tarot deck, Osho Zen, which has been a huge part of my life ever since she let me shuffle through the cards to see if I wanted it. I still buy the same brand of incense she used, Escential Essences, that’s the only brand that doesn’t send me into allergic fits. Every time I burn it, I think of Karin.
And then, there are the Buddhas. I can’t say I’m a full blown Buddhist, but Buddhist teachings and writings have influenced me greatly over the years. Letting go of attachment and expectations in my life has helped me in so many ways. I bought my first Buddha at Karin’s, after she expanded her store to a huge, open space on Union Avenue. He’s metal and heavy and has an odd little rattle, as if something was trapped inside during the making. He sits on the altar by my bed, a quiet reminder of time passing.
I also worked for Karin for a little while. She was going through some tough times with her younger daughter and needed to be away from the store for various things. I told her I could hold down the fort for a few hours a week if she needed me and I was glad she accepted. I enjoyed being the one behind the counter and providing the greetings when folks walked in. Sadly, as with many businesses, the 2008 mess hit Instant Karma as well and she had to close. It was a sad day for me and for many others, let me tell you. Several months later, Karin had a garage sale to try to recoup a bit on her inventory, and there I acquired my other Buddha, larger, black pumice stone, and so peaceful. He graced my little grotto in the apartment after I broke up with my last ex, and had a place of honor in my Denver room. Now, he sits on my small bookcase across the room from where I write this, yet another memory of a woman who touched so many people in her too-short life, who was loving and generous and joyful. Karin, my friend, you are missed, but I am so glad I knew you and that I have so many reminders of you all around. What a gift to the world you were!