What Cannot Be Taken

Here we are, 3000 miles in the middle of the sea; not even remotely trying to be part of the mainland culture most folks who were born in Hawaii simply call America. It is enough, this melange of beautiful people whose origins always make for good guessing games. We’re all in a state of becoming anyway, individually as well as collectively. If we’re eventually morphing into a more human race anyway, love is color blind, though not everyone recognizes this yet.

Imagine a world with no racism or divisiveness, simply because we collectively finally admit that Planet Earth would be eternally boring without diversity. Imagine such an abundance of shared love that we let one another be, not hoarding what we’ve got or trying to diminish another’s largesse of spirit.

When we lived on Moloka’i over 20 years ago, we were the object of racism because we were white or haole (literally translated as life without spirit). White people do indeed appear ghostly next to the rich complexion of most Pacific islanders. So we got to learn firsthand what it felt like for millions of other people throughout the world who have suffered because they looked different from the majority of society. What an invaluable experience. And though racism is still alive in Paradise, one may observe Aloha to by far be the prevalent sentiment. The breath of life to you! How utterly refreshing.

As U.S. citizens are looking at liberties previously taken for granted with a bit more scrutiny these days, I ponder freedom as it pertains to me. I do not choose the freedom to crush others I view as potential and distant threats, robbing them of their own sense of security and serenity. I choose instead to support the liberty we all secretly yearn for in our hearts, no matter what and where we’ve come from. I choose daily acts of kindness and a personal practice of mindfulness. Being aware of my words and thoughts, this sometimes difficult practice keeps me walking my talk as best I am able.

Victor Frankl suffered enormous physical and psychological pain as a result of Hitler’s concentration camps. He later became an eminent psychologist and prolific writer and offered, Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. 

What is the attitude you choose that supports your own way without robbing others of the same? How do you support this in daily living?

In Peace and with Aloha,

(bj image: 1993, Maunaloa, Moloka’i)




In the silvery light of morning
when nothing else matters, save the thread
of a cock crowing in the distance; face
of my beloved etched stilly in that pale gleam
before sound, as might have existed
in the beginning, prior to clamorous tires
on asphalt; kettle set to boil dew-encrusted
leaves pinched shortly after sunrise
while the veil into worlds of the waking lifts
along with drowsy eyelids;

By the brilliance of high noon, ti blades
begin to droop, edges curling against
the intensity of tropical sunlight
while I contemplate the arbor,
uninstalled assemblage lying raw
and savage under dull tarps
and scattered leaves dropped
from deciduous overhangs, dappled
with rose and white blossoms lilting
on brisk breezes, harbingers of spring;

Come the waning shades of dusk, paragons pull
out paintbrushes to streak across
the heavens, sometimes carelessly,
though more often as if contemplated
from a distance, stroke here, blot there,
while white-winged egrets soar northward
to bed down in the ironwood-lined cleavage
of tiny cinder cone volcanoes decked
in velvety green.




I’ve never understood where the salve to heal the trauma
of living as a mortal human exists, save in my own heart;
I cannot impel you to live by my own standards
yet notice eyes brimming with perpetual misery, reflect
back on my own need for it, the drive to feel alive, I suppose,
aching with yearning for the unnameable;

I know certain things it has taken a lifetime to unpack,
but my luggage and yours are fathoms apart
though destination is the same Unknown;
Souls are entwined, and for a moment I notice
you grasping at straws in the wind, searching
for meaning anywhere but inside that shell
and know not how to say it is existential, will ever be
at your shoulder, and if you let it gnaw and feed
on your flesh it will consume that and more, clinging
like nylon fresh from the dryer, second skin
that keeps snapping you awake, awake;

Illusion it is, gain distance, a pause, no-mind thinking,
vapid trail vanishing the moment it’s constructed;
and you wonder at the ruins at your feet, head hung
as if condemned by your own hand. We all come crashing
down sooner or later in someone else’s estimation,
none can live up to the expectations of others.

Instead dwell in forests of imagination, feel feathers
of birds in every hue, the light, bright beating hearts
that synchronize with your own as for that moment
you are lifted far above the world of woes and so stay,
remain there long enough for experience to imprint anew,
raising the bar of fear threatening to crush your chest,
you are not Sisyphus, you are shape shifter, alchemist,
magician and more. Awaken. Awaken.





Black is the color of undefined space,
of chasms so large many fear to fall,
inky background behind the night rainbow
void of busy-ness of day,
flowing cleanly down the split shaft
of an old quill pen, seeping deeply
into dimples of vellum;

Striking contrast, none or full phases
of lunation, back to black, again
and anon, ebony skin bejeweled
in glorious hues, unruly hair
and wild patterned dress,
cradle of civilization suffused
with damp earthen heat;

Unsterile, untamed, U as in unify, more
like u-turn, what did I miss, back to origins,
basics, unity in community, necessitating
complementarity, muting
blinding tonalities of white;

Born into a dusky womb, darkness follows
into death, settled now into the earth,
home we take for granted
until breath and water are gone.


Beginners Mind

We all have our demons. For some, it’s thoughts that cycle endlessly. Others are awash in images moving rapidly across the inner vision like a series of frames. Like gazing directly into the morning sun and seeing orbs burned into whatever else one is looking at for awhile afterward, dwelling on any frame for long pollutes the present with its memory. Concepts and sensory impressions are how the mind archives, yet can prevent presence in each teachable moment in the present.

I have witnessed a humpback whale breach fully out of the water at close range; summoned a full grown female moose who, in the end, got too close for comfort. I have swum with giant mantas and screeching, flapping loons who veered so close I glimpsed their fiery red eyes and the glossy ebony feathers that redefined the color black forever. I have observed shades of evening sky that defy an artist’s palette, gazed at a billion stars and constellations while floating for hours on my back inside a lone canoe on a crystal pond. I have watched northern lights descend like a final curtain, undulating for hours in brilliant prismatic hues. I’ve danced with fireflies like stars lighting up acres of fields on a summer’s night. An early morning walk once gifted me with a rare fisher cat and her two babies as well as a young black bear emptying bird seed from each of our feeders as casually as a drunk in a dumpster. I once cared for a horse who let me sit in her stall while she gave birth; I have attended the nativity of a tiny human being.

It’s not like I didn’t gasp with wonder when these events were happening, yet only in hindsight did I realize just how profound each experience had been. Perhaps this is how memory sustains throughout life’s most challenging aspects. Yet to dwell in what has passed even a moment ago is to live in a place that no longer exists. Right here, right now is potent with possibilities. Again and again, this wanderer returns home to the present.