Quietude

There’s a sound in the house,
a resonant thrum in the house
we reside in, the home we created,
a throb, a buzz, a tone which,
when absent, defines utter silence;
the nothingness present during times
when power lines cease their humming,
now the only competition with birdsong;

Refrigerator madness, the distant
din of day traffic, groan and gurgle
of water coursing through pipes,
of a neighbor’s television droning
at daybreak when sunshine floods
an azure sky, stretching golden rays
of warmth, light and brilliance;

The rubber band whine of small planes
flying over expansive fields, cascading
waterfalls that cleave lush verdant hills
in two, breasts of our mother, the earth;
contrasting with ropes of ebony lava
and gushing fire erupting on the
island’s furthest shore.

all photos ©Bela Johnson

Where Do We Go from Here?

It can be frightening to observe the body breaking down while nothing Western medicine offers seems to help. If this is happening, perhaps what you are experiencing is much deeper than what can be detected on the surface. If possible, consider emergence rather than emergency, for in some way your core self may be asking you to attune to a more profound life path than you are currently upon. Yet even if you sense this, even if you know somewhere deep inside that this seems true, where do you begin to access the assistance you need in order to facilitate this emergence, this opening to the depths of your being?

Dedicating oneself to deep inner work requires a time commitment that many find hard to assimilate into busy lives. Most simply want the “quick fix,” a pill or procedure to offer instant relief. And Western Medicine more or less promises the same, so it’s tempting to capitulate to a system supported, in large part, by a massive pharmaceutical industry. The integral, multidimensional Being That You Are, however, may not respond to such remedies. Instead it urges us to get in touch with our deepest desires and express this passion work in a meaningful way. This takes time and focus we might believe we lack. Yet if we are to discover balance, if we are to experience quality of life in the years we have left on the planet, a lifestyle change might be in order. This can begin with an honest review of how we expend resources, both time as well as money.

Once the basic bills are responsibly dealt with, for this alone can alleviate a tremendous load of health-eroding stress, what are you worth? How much time do you spend in self reflection, time in nature, enjoying creative ventures, physical movement, prayer, meditation? What resources and time do you allocate to self care on a regular basis, whether or not your expensive health insurance covers it? Do you see a counselor, go to an art class, support or prayer group, get a massage, get a new hairstyle, read, listen to music, attend a self improvement workshop or take yourself out for a healthy and relaxing meal? Perhaps you don’t think you can afford these little luxuries of time and money and depend on that medical insurance to take care of you when you fall apart. Notice I say when, because unless you are extremely lucky or have amazing genes, without a focus on maintaining your physical, mental and spiritual needs, sooner than later things tend to break down.

In the end, no matter how we try,  we can’t give to others when we, ourselves are tapped out. Recognizing our own resistance to change is an important step. When we realize change is difficult but ultimately rewarding, we can embrace the excitement of beginning a new, more self respectful way of living. Anyone at any level of income can find ways to improve their lives. Each of us possesses challenges. Accepting and moving through these rough patches results in modicums of wisdom, depth and maturity. Dedication to a path of self awareness and self improvement helps us handle what life doles out. We can choose to accept our challenges as growth opportunities rather than cursing our lot in life. We can possess an attitude of gratitude, regardless of circumstances. It is from this humble stance that blessings emerge in often unexpected ways.

(previously published in part by The Maine Eagle, 2002 – ©Bela Johnson, Medical Intuitive)

Plume

Rising phoenix-like from the core of our Mother,
she gathers shards of herself into long, sinewy
fingers pointing straight or now diverging
into strands of molten marvel, goddess breadth
of hips dancing, swaying, undulating ribbons
of pāhoehoe folding in and over the land;

Now to temper in salty waters, spilling forth,
expanding continentally in the unseen depths
of turquoise sea to rise anew, again, bony spine
arching above, belly anchored far below
on the ocean’s quaking floor, tremors felt
through seismic needles oscillating wildly
or sporadically slowing, never flatlining;

Creation made manifest, insistent, beyond
the reach of meddling hands, this is lovely
Hawai’i nei, land of volcanoes, Pele’s domain,
locus of wonder, millennia in the making,
verdant forests rooting in rock, curls of ferns
in misty elevations furling in and out of memory,
mosses drinking vapor in droplets, conducting
underground symphonies to tangled roots,
ōhia striking through ebony lava with fluffy
crimson blossoms as majestic koa soar above;

An ancient kinetic knowing rules her expanding
coastline, slowly waxing under Hina’s watery eye
while we slumber soundly beneath her pale glow;
meanwhile creatures of the night begin rustling
and emerging from the cool of earth’s
dark shelter until dawn streaks watercolors,
welcoming the morning sun.

Volcanoes National Park lava tube
Volcanoes National Park – fern forest
Bark of old koa tree, Volcano Village

Kalapana lava flow – 2016
Ōhia (Pele’s flower) on the flanks of Mauna Kea
Pololu Valley, early morning – 2015
~ all photos ©Bela Johnson

Pine Trail

The cabin was bought fully furnished from an elderly couple who left behind what would now be considered valuable antiques. Two small bedrooms replete with horsehair beds, a combination Glenwood wood/kerosene kitchen stove; round golden oak drop-leaf table poised beneath a large section of windowpanes overlooking a screened-in porch, curved-glass china cabinet. Depression era dishes were stacked on open kitchen shelves; warm woolen bedding, cotton sheets and quilts were folded neatly in open wooden cupboards. The bathroom was small but serviceable, thick rectangle of well-worn mirror hung with clear plastic art nouveau style clips; a metal stall shower with grommeted cotton curtain. A small porcelain corner sink with a metal corner shelf poised above. Perched atop the buttermilk painted wooden cabinet lay a matched set of the palest yellow and green celluloid brush, comb, hand mirror.

The sofa was circa 1940 and a lovely light shade of rose with carved cherry wood feet and armrest ends. An upholstered wing-back chair; braided oval rug. If you visited your grandparents and grew up in the 50’s like I did, you’d know how the place smelled musty with wool and mothballs, how items were carefully handled, stowed, preserved. Pots were aluminum, mixing bowls a glazed Pyrex glass. Even the silverware begged to be used like the round aluminum biscuit cutter with black wooden knob handle. The serrated bread knife remains with me still, unlike stamped tin baking pans and the round plastic black and white kitchen timer. A yellowing if accurate electric wall clock was likewise lost somewhere along the way.

Every morning except in winter, I woke to the lilting cry of loons and stumbled out to sun winking through white pine and hemlock as it rose over the cabin, shedding splintered light on the mountains defining the other side of the narrows. Every evening around four, the sun began its descent behind those same hills and the evenings cooled some ten degrees to accommodate comfortable sleeping. Then out to the small porch where I’d banked a single bed on a metal frame against the logs of the outer cabin wall and loaded it with several pillows as backrests. It was there I sat, sublime and attentive in the flickering candlelight. Senses tuned to waves gently lapping rocky shoreline; birds ruffling feathers as night descended with a familiar finality.

Then the moon rose over the water as shafts of light bounced and shimmied and fanned its calming surface, while a billion stars flickered overhead like carefully constrained fireworks seeding themselves in the inky infinity of the heavens.

Version 2

Buried Alive

Not unusual, this Tuesday. I hop on my bike and head downhill toward the vast indigo ocean with Maui shimmering across the channel, verdant rolling fields a parenthesis between me and the sea. I fondly regard the local dairy’s towering wooden silo alongside giant red and white windmills, revolving in rhythm to the crispy gust of tradewinds. On my ten mile cruise along Akoni Pule Highway, I try not to focus too much on the roadside garbage, but thoughts creep in unbidden. When was it we began to ignore this blatant insult to the landscape? When did we collectively decide that walking, cycling and driving amidst rubbish was an acceptable state of being? And more broadly now, when did we collude in the wholesale polluting of the planet?

I remember growing up in the 1950’s and ‘60’s; recall milk deliveries, ice cream trucks, the separate weekly groupings of glass, paper and household rubbish. Into present awareness jump newspaper drives in grammar school, mammoth bundles tied with string, awaiting collection. Competition for our scout troop, summer camp, church fundraisers blends with somatic recall of smog alerts, times we had to refrain from playing at recess because our lungs burned with acrid air.

I reminisce on struggling with President Kennedy’s fitness programs, for we were not conditioned before running long distances around a track, not encouraged to stretch before attempting records at the long jump. My lungs and muscles ached for days, not to mention incurring virtual heat stroke from the solar-saturated asphalt surrounding islands of sand and swings. A playground promising blessed relief from forced intellectual and behavioral incarceration could likewise conjure mirages on the most blistering of days. I remember square dancing, pergola lunches, endless spinning around monkey bars, tetherball and five cent lunch milk in paper cartons. Recall going steady with boys in the fifth grade, playing spin the bottle in the bushes at Hamilton Park. And yet try though I might, I cannot summon the existence of roadside trash. All the way through high school, I covered mile after mile to and from those halls of learning. I walked to school, Brownies, band, drill team and water polo practice, I walked to the store, to friends’ houses, I walked to avoid going home. And I am certain I would have remembered curbside litter, as I was raised in the suburbs yet educated in the natural world of canyons and mountains, of ocean, high and low desert, of fresh and salt water lakes.

It was somewhere between thirty years in the Maine woods and spending quality time with a dear friend in Boston that I ventured into that city for focused periods of time. And one of the most striking features of forays into these urban environs was the sheer volume of rubbish blowing about the streets. Strolling through Somerville with plastic, styrofoam and paper collecting around my ankles lent stark contrast to long stretches of trees, grasses and pristine shorelines of the north country. And yet this began a time, for me, of mentally recording the emergence of a refuse culture, either ignorant, ignominious or both, in breed. We had somehow, somewhere and at some point become overwhelmed with our non-biodegradable consumerist compost. We had somehow, somewhere, and at some time chosen to ignore it spilling out from our homes and into our roads, highways, and landscapes. We had mysteriously made the collective decision not to care if it did.

Today I took note of the following items tossed from car windows, blown from beds of trucks and moved mauka to makai – from mountain to ocean – by the ever-present trade winds of Kohala. Grasping for perspective, I could not help but wonder what if anything moves through the minds of those who discard these objects; I who swoon with guilt anytime I’ve cast banana or orange peels far out the car window and into the scrub of landscape. Part of me knows they are biodegradable while another part wonders what would happen if a thousand people performed this act at the same time. To wit: beer bottles, large and small – some smashed, others whole, a disposable diaper, wadded paper towels, a large black sock, clear plastic roofing scraps, an entire plate lunch wrapped first in styrofoam then tied securely in a white plastic bag, red plastic drawstring from a garbage bag, cds, a cardboard box, a full orange adopted highway plastic rubbish bag that somehow had been moved off the highway collection spot and into the bushes, a Gatorade bottle left over from the last Ironman race, a rubber marker for a baseball diamond, plastic drinking bottles of all sizes and colors, plastic and galvanized garbage can lids (some shredded by the county mower), innumerable plastic bags blowing around, stuck to barbed wire fences and caught on tree branches, assorted aluminum cans, a child’s large inflatable toy, balloon bodies, woven plastic covers to county sandbags, a child’s rubber slipper, cigarette boxes, a man’s XXL “Year of the Tiger” tee shirt covered in dirt but otherwise perfectly wearable, an automobile wheel cover, plastic floor mat and old garage sale signs, both plastic and cardboard.

This rubbish collects along Akoni Pule Highway, gateway to our lovely community as it winds through some of Hawaii’s most striking landscapes and terminates in the incomparable Pololu Valley overlook. I have cycled this highway since moving here a dozen years ago, and for all the cleanup that periodically transpires, there is ever a recurring impulse to junk it up again with the telltale signs of a culture gone made with consumerism, the same culture that ignores a middle aged woman in the cashier’s line in front of me two days ago carting no fewer than ten well boxed and styrofoamed lights, requesting that each be securely stowed in its own brown and orange plastic Home Depot bag.

 

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Scents of Place

There is something profound
delimiting each place I have claimed
as home; the tar-pungent tang
of creosote bush portending rain,
sweeping sideways as though pencil-
sketched on dun-colored canvas
as it spills from oceanic heavens along
open stretches of Mojave desert;

The smoke of brush fires tended
by human hands breaking trail through
twists of hemlock- and fir-peppered deciduous
forests of rural Maine; freshly-felled poplar
hewn into cones by toothy beavers busy
harvesting food and shelter for an ever-
impending winter as nearby cattail-flanked
marshlands waft musk into nostrils aroused
by their complex bouquet;

Now home in Kohala, Paklan and varieties
of gardenia overwhelm the senses first,
while undertones of Cattleya and banana shrub
glide subtly on variable breezes spiked salty
from nearby oceanic cliffs as Pamplemousse
blossoms overwhelm the more subtle lavender
and rosemary, mint and oregano bedded in
to round out a complex tropical palate;

The eucalyptus groves of my youth fill gaps
in the imagination, painting scenes like
so many watercolors bleeding into one another
until, despite what I might have attempted
to paint, a more vibrant vision emerges
to sustain me;

Life turns capriciously on the unsuspecting,
contrasting signals drifting into awareness
as though conveyed along scattering winds,
yet in one stroke, certain odors bear gifts
both past and present, sliding the doors
of time like slices of glass under a microscope,
shifting blueprints of existence, mysterious cards
in a gypsy’s hand shuffling once, twice,
imparting significance to the present moment
only to calibrate again to situation and experience
as time extends itself into infinity.

“…Magnolia blossoms fill the air and if you ain’t been to heaven, you ain’t been there…”
(New Orleans ~ Guida and Royster; image: bj)

 

Kilauea Eruption May 2018

Posting another link for those of you who have trouble viewing the video posted above:

Aloha dear readers:

The video and photo attached will help you understand what is happening on our little slice of Paradise here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

  • We live in Kohala, as far away from current volcanic activity as one can get and still be on this island. It’s roughly a 3-1/2 hour drive from our home. So we are well out of harm’s way, though we did experience two earthquakes two days ago. Still, compared to 2006 when our town was actually the epicenter for a major quake that did significant damage in our community, these quakes were minor.
  • All of Hawaii is made up of volcanoes, not only Hawaii Island. O’ahu, Niihau, Kauai (which recently has suffered extreme flooding that has altered the entire north shore), Lana’i, Moloka’i and Maui are all comprised of volcanoes in various stages of dormancy or viability.
  • The Puna district, marked Kilauea on the map, has seen volcanic activity now for many years. I’ve also included (below) some photos taken when my husband and I hiked the seven miles in from Kalapana to view lava flowing to the sea. The photo of the rocks we walked over to get to the shoreline demonstrate how volatile the surface was in that area.
  • People who bought property in the currently affected area knew they were in the path of a live volcano. Some grew up there and this was the only home they knew. To the other extreme, mainlanders flooded in, looking for cheap land to build a home in which to retire or provide them with vacation rental income. The views were stunning, though insurance was extremely expensive if it could be gotten at all.
  • The above map of the island is, in another form, divided into lava zones. Any property owner knows his or her lava zone, as insurance rates (if even available) are based upon what lava zone one resides in. The Kilauea or Puna district is within zones 1 and 2. Kohala, where we live, is in Lava Zone 9, 1 being the most volatile, 9 being the least.

Eruptions of Kilauea have continued for decades. When we first moved to the island, we remember driving down Chain of Craters Road in  Volcanoes National Park at night to view lava streaming down the mountainside. It was jaw-dropping. The current eruption in Leilani Estates signifies a dramatic shift in activity, and is a reminder to never take the power of Mother Nature or in this particular case the power of Madame Pele for granted. Humans have long ignored the earth they so depend upon and lost the reverence and awe of their earliest ancestors. Sometimes I wonder what it’s going to take to re-awaken humans to their proper place in the scheme of this magnificent planetary ecosystem.