The Pescadero Community Church poet has tried to step down from her post more than once. She first attempted to do so when she applied for the San Mateo County Poet Laureate honor but didn’t get an interview.
“I was so embarrassed I offered to resign as the poet, but they said, ‘No, you’re our poet,’” Kathy Rehm recalled. (She later went on to get a bronze medal in a national competition.)
Most recently, Rehm tried to dig in her heels as she’s returned to school.
“At the tender age of 74 I decided to go back to college,” said Rehm, who takes the 294 SamTrans bus to the College of San Mateo five days a week. “My little brain cells only have room for the college and poetry.”
And the congregation insists she continue writing. Holidays, special occasions and “just because” moments wouldn’t be complete without one of Rehm’s poems. Besides: the Pescadero Community Church Poet position is one that she created.
“It’s a little more of an effort now as I focus on getting my degree. Better late than never,” Rehm said.
Rehm moved to Half Moon Bay in 2005 after her last surviving parent’s passing in Belmont. Shortly after, she saw a notice for a pancake breakfast at the Coastside’s oldest church.
“I went church shopping and …. I thought, ‘I’ll get some old-time religion and pancakes,” she said. She found something else.
There was a grand piano and a trio of musicians playing with all the “spirituality of Beethoven.”
“This was different. There’s something about the coast … There’s really a high spirit of creativity.”
It also turned out to be warm, friendly and inviting.
“I’ve stayed with them ever sense,” Rehm said.
A couple of services in, Rehm was so moved that she took the Sunday service program and scribbled a poem on the back, and then read it aloud. This happened more than once.
“After that I said, ‘Well, heck. Can I be your church poet?’”
The church had never had one, but liked the idea.
“They wanted to call me the poet laureate but I said, ‘No, no, no — just the church poet.’ … They have been so supportive and my poetry grew because of them.”
The congregation supported Rehm in her creative pursuits in ways her own family hadn’t when she was growing up.
“I always wanted to write, but my mother assured me, ‘Writing is not a job, dear.’ My parents were children of the Depression,” the Army veteran explained.
They did encourage reading, however. Rehm’s imagination ran rampant, and she eventually started to write as an adult. She said she wanted to write Regency Romance novels, but poetry got ahead first.
“There are stories to tell. I get ideas in my head. I can be sitting in the airport and watch someone go by and be making up novels about them,” Rehm said. “That’s the gift I have so that’s the gift I try and use.”
She’s supplied last-minute poems to preachers who’ve requested them on Friday or Saturday nights, or spontaneously when she wrote “Down in Your Bones Blues” after hearing the music at the Pescadero Arts and Fun Festival.
Rhem wrote in memoriam of “Johnnie Angel,” “the coast walker,” a man without a home that the church had given a funeral, as well as agonized six months while scribing an allegory of the church’s reverend of 52 years, Orril Fluharty. He climbed trees into his 90s.
“Boy, talk about pressure,” Rehm said. “Here I was doing this poem about this man who was such a legend. I wanted it to be my magnum opus.”
College presents a new type of pressure, but Rehm said she felt up for the challenge after a trip to Mongolia last year.
“I decided if I can sleep in in a tent on the steppes, then I can go back to college.”
Rehm tested the waters by enrolling in a class last fall. She got a “B,” and went back for more the following semester. When she got a pacemaker in the spring, she said she hit a speed bump, but it hasn’t slowed her down. She’ll have enough credits to earn her associate’s degree in social science by next fall, and has her eye on a 2019 commencement, complete with cap, gown, pomp and circumstance.
“Mark your calendar,” Rehm said. “There’s going to be one heck of a party.”
Until that time, she’ll keep writing.
“The poems kind of erupt in my brain … All I know is that people tell me the poems made (them) cry or made (them) happy,” Rehm said. “Then I know I did my job as a writer in the arts, because the poems invoked a feeling.”
Read Rehm’s poetry at pescaderocommunitychurch.com/kathy-rehm/.