Whisper

Before the brief but long breath of lifetimes
was profound silence, and if sounds were apprehended,
they were but whispers compared to the chaos most
have come to accept as the new normal;

Before memory, arrived humans and wild creatures
and whooshing winds, lapping briny waters caressing
pristine sands strewn with strands of brightly frilled
emerald kelp, thundering waves lashing rocks
and promontories, scooping away scuttling crabs
and tiny bright fishes marooned in sun-warmed tidepools;

Our hearing has become dulled and a rushing sound
lingers when din is relinquished to wilderness, eyes
maladjusted to nighttime perceptions, fearing darkness
despite the thrill of a million stars blazing overhead,
hoot of a horned owl or the scream of panther, howl
of coyote or swooshing bats in flight;
all the world is calling our body back into unity
with itself, we, the lone wallflowers standing against
the school gymnasium wall, forgetting the dance
all have been summoned to, worried and frightened
and oddly secure in our fragile and fraying cloak
of invisible self abnegation.

Bela Johnson photo: taken from the top of Hurricane Ridge, Olympic Peninsula, WA, 2019

15 thoughts on “Whisper

  1. I always love your poems where you romanticize nature over the vastness of time. The line:

    eyes
    maladjusted to nighttime perceptions, fearing darkness
    despite the thrill of a million stars blazing overhead,
    hoot of a horned owl or the scream of panther, howl
    of coyote or swooshing bats in flight

    particularly struck me. My first reaction was to say though, is it that we really fear the darkness, or is it that we just don’t see darkness as valuable for what it is? It’s more like we’ve just seen night time hours as another time of the day to be productive, to have the night shift go in and do work. For so much of our history there was naught to do at night but sit there and look up at the stars. Did we yearn for light at night so that we could be productive, or was the dark a source of great fear to us in the wild, where danger from predators, enemies and other harmful things like snakes and insects could inch towards us more easily unseen. Can I appreciate the dark more now, because i have the option of shining a light when I need to?

    Either way, your poem connected with me emotionally, and as your poems often point out that our decoupling of humanity from nature is fraught with many negative consequences.

    1. Thanks so much for your deeply felt perceptions, Swarn.

      I think you have a point in saying perhaps we don’t value darkness for what it is. The western model would have us work until we drop, around the clock. But what is it we have sacrificed, in so doing? The further we divorce ourselves from our relationship to the natural world, the less we appreciate and value the source and vitality our very lives depend on. The more we are able to drive species to extinction, either from fearing them or simply because we want to possess their beauty. Or conquer it. Or showcase it.

      I do think us being able to shine a light into the darkness, both literally as well as metaphorically, lessens our fear of it. Personally I’ve had snakes in sleeping bags, but I was never harmed nor did I ever stop sleeping under the stars because of it. I have an uncanny trust and faith in nature and all creatures, save human beings. Humans are cunning in both artistic as well as horrifyingly destructive ways. As much history as I have read in my life, I still cannot conceive creating some of the means of torture I have read about.

      If I meet an animal on a deeply intuitive basis, I am able to communicate my own lack of harm and anyway, I have never met a rabid or starving predator face-to-face. Living in Hawaii all these years, people think shark attacks happen because sharks love to eat human flesh, which they absolutely do not. We are not choice morsels, rather they mistake us for tastier prey such as seals. And they spit us out. Meanwhile we are ravaged by injuries or bleed to death. But we don’t get ‘eaten’ by sharks.

      Yes, you are right about negative consequences as a result of being divorced from nature. I don’t have tremendous hope for the future of the human race, but I do support humane and sustainable solutions for the sake of future generations. This is by far the hottest year we’ve spent here in Hawaii and now California is on fire, echoing dreams I had as a child raised there. I am glad for people like you who are educating others with regards to the environment, Swarn. Thanks for your Being in this world. Aloha. πŸŒΈπŸ’œ

      1. Thank you for your kind words and for this wonderful reply. I think a lot of the popularity of mindfulness meditation these days has to do with having a large population of people that don’t get enough time just sitting under the stars or sitting under the bigger star in our solar system. There is a meditative quality to being in nature that is calming and rejuvenating. As much as I also like to meditate, there are different ways to practice that focus and calming of mind if you are spending enough time outdoors.

  2. Beautiful poem, Bella. I love your photograph. Years ago now, I hiked up to Hurricane Ridge with some friends and we camped there. Hoping your tent would stay anchored and not blow away during the night was quite the experience. Aloha!

    1. Yes, the winds can get pretty fierce up there! It was nice, though, after Hawaii’s heat. We didn’t camp, but just took a day trip, then back to Pt. Townsend and Whidbey/friends.

      Thanks for your kind feedback, Renee. Wished I’d had my Canon camera, but all I had was my phone. I’m a little weary of lugging everything but the kitchen sink when I travel. The downside is I go without a lot of things I later wish I’d brought πŸ˜‰ My youngest daughter somehow knows how to pack so expertly, a gift I’ve never quite gotten in touch with!

      Aloha, dear one, and blessings,
      B ❀

  3. “… fearing darkness
    despite the thrill of a million stars blazing overhead…”

    This resonates for me, too Bela. Thanks for some word images to ponder…
    and, of course, beautiful words.

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