Resurrection

He has lost her, or thinks he has,
forever from this realm; sadness knowing
no bounds, as it would, given over five decades
of devotion and dedication; hardly knowing
life without her in it;

I remind him, a gardener, hiker, animal lover,
father, much beloved grand and great-grandsire,
caretaker of this precious earth, that if nothing else,
nature demonstrates endurance, resurrection,
perpetuity; yet the questions linger, what if, how
would we, how do any of us move on with half
of our limbs and hearts missing, absent, lost;

The mirror held to us daily, our best self, the truest
of reflections; what now to do with a voice meant
to spark truth; who is there to hold us quite
like a lover, who has witnessed the dark spaces
in our soul and loved us still, without reservation?

How does advice fall on ears that will never again
attune to the melody of that familiar, how again to taste
the smell of that One’s touch, the subtleties of a glance
meant only for us, the sole recipient, repository
of shared hopes, dreams and visions;

And time does heal, and we might go on; still
the wise and earnest hopes of others for our future
land hollow in the ear and gut, one’s own demise
seeming preferable to echoes of ghosts of our own
making, and breaking time in time, damnable time
now the enemy, adversary, cruel master
of feckless fate;

Yet there it is, a look, a gesture, the shine in eyes
of the deer, delicate swish of a raven’s wing,
padding feet of beloved dogs, the bright, blooming
desert in springtime renewing itself beyond memory,
unlooked-for comfort on the long drive into town
while tears begin once again to flow, then cease
upon discovering duality’s illusion while we struggle
still for the breath that has failed us;

And we rise, rise like a dolphin from the depths,
rise like the phoenix from dull grayness of ashes,
arching into the sun’s first rays, open vessel spouting,
reflexively aspiring life into lungs weary
from submersion, even as we dare to smile and greet
another sun-washed day.

Lewis and Clark Caverns, MT Fire in the sky, Upolu Airport Road, North Kohala

Garden in the dying light, Dayton, WA
Setting sun, Kohala Mountain Road

Makapala sunset

I have tried here to depict through photographs what it must feel like to experience the death of a dearly beloved and then to begin emerging from deep grief. I cannot say I’ve done it justice; only that I have made the attempt.
(All photos ©Bela Johnson)

Portal

There’s an invisible portal
in the mantle covering Earth;
look closely without staring:
focus softly, not sharp, and you
might conjure enough filaments
to pop through, unexpectedly
shifting into another realm
long ago expunged
from collective recall;

Most mortals have crowded
out memories beyond three
generations if that, not nearly
enough to make lucid a time
when indigenous folk and their
predecessors roamed a
wondrous green and blue planet,
gathering food and medicine,
striking camp to ramble because
that is what humans do, plagued
as we are with restless impulses,
compelled to elude perceived
restrictions;

The great Mystery held magic,
little known beyond one’s own
boundaries, where wildness
thrived, was necessary to a world
where life seemed more equally
met between predator and prey,
lacking modern means
of expunction;

Where have we come
in telescopic time, how now
to call ourselves civil, struggles
now stranded in boardrooms
and alleyways, even into ethers
of social media where the enemy
that is our own mind can be
sequestered in shadows
without cast;

Are we simply stuffing monsters
back under the bed as bequest
to future generations?

Rock face, Kohala coast
Spirit of the waterfall, Palouse Falls, WA. (See the face looking toward the right? And the leg ‘stepping out of the shower?’
Pele’s fire tender, Kalapana, HI
Do you ‘see’ the greenish/bluish fish toward the bottom of the frame? It wasn’t there, but then again it was. Near Walla Walla, WA.
Even this: someone hung an old deer or elk skull on a tree (to mark a trail? To scare someone or something?) Yet look at it from the side, and you can see an owl pecking at the bark. Clancy, MT.

Welcome to my world. I don’t often write about such extra-sensory experiences, but I have always observed things in nature that are difficult to describe to others (save my husband and girls, who likewise see what most do not.) Don’t look too hard, but try the soft focus suggested in the poem. You might view things differently, and maybe you’ll strike out in nature more often to ‘see’ for yourself! Aloha. (All photos © Bela Johnson)Rock face, Kohala coast.

The Reckoning

Aloha Ka Makani O Kohala!
The observant will note this small
hand-painted sign upon entering
the sacred lands of North Kohala,
known generally and simply
as Kohala;

Faded in the relentless sunlight
of that desert region, scrubs
of kiawe punctuate shoreline
un-beleaguered by development
thus far, iron gates buttressed
by lava rock piers encroaching
ever northward, flanked by irrigated
micro landscapes tended to entice
the wealthy to these hallowed shores;

Meanwhile the sign, all but forgotten
with time and tide, ignored by those
fixated on expansive Maui views,
cheap land compared to sister islands,
yet oblivious to Hawaiian words,
why bother translating? Until,
structures set in place, the winds
begin to kick, first the red dirt,
then the butts of those inhabitants
deceived into believing they were safe
somehow from the`āina herself,
turning bitterness into hedgerows,
more walls, spreading outward,
ever outward, fortresses of folly
in a land well known for her mana;

The war against nature escalates,
bankrolls drained into more and richer
landscapes, all foreign to these shores,
and the cost of water begins tapping
reserves of sanity, yet what else to do
but visit rarely, mini-mansions swept
empty by the makani, inhabited more
by a staff of maintenance workers
than the residents themselves,
and perhaps this is as it should be,
even unto their scripture, the last will
be first and the first will be last;

Money can buy things, little else,
and in the end, the`āina and her elements
will prevail; and as the little grass shack
leaps to mind and the simple life
of subsistence increasingly makes sense,
we continue downsizing, simplifying,
reducing our own tiny imprint
on this glorious windswept land.

There is a saying here, mauka to makai, meaning mountain to ocean. It is almost like meaning the whole of the place. For Hawai’i nei was originally allocated into ahupua’a, units of division that provided mountains for hunting, fields for planting, and ocean for fishing. These photos demonstrate how different mauka, or mountain regions, are from makai, the ocean landscape. In Hawai’i, elevation is everything. As always, all photos ©Bela Johnson. Aloha.

Returning

My love for the land, whether thick wood
or freshwater, has never left my awareness,
ever seeking shelter in the bosom
of Creation, Gaia Mother, by whatever
name she may be known;

And as I return to this rugged terrain
of my birth, I am reminded that grace
is ever offered in the pauses
and the stillness of rivers and forest,
of mirrored lakes and skies where hawk
and heron eke out survival amidst
the frenzy of human existence,
and they see us, too, their razor eyes
yet trained on survival;

Still there is no tightness in shoulder
or heartbeat, gliding freely as wind
through my own crumpled hair, cruising
on lilting thermals, heedless of danger
and their own death stalking,
and I wonder at human folly,
the mistrust of our bodies, flesh
our own indomitable link to the endless
cycle of existence, mind eluding
this blessed reality in favor of fantasy,
the movie reel oblivious to the story, itself
impressed upon the film to last as long
as it will;

Rivers stand the test of time without need
to impress anyone, lest they be dammed up
at the hands of man; nourishing waters
without which we would lose not only
beauty, but the very fount of life, itself.

  • Deception Pass, WA
    Anacortes, WA
    Eby’s Landing, WA
    Forest trail, Ladysmith, BC
    River kayaking, Leavenworth, WA
    Whidbey Island, WA

    all photos ©Bela Johnson

River Watch

The river runs, swollen in spring
from a source high up in crevasses
of snags jutting skyward of tree line,
cracks perpetually harboring snowpack,
bald crags carved by weather and the
bare relentless blaze of a
beneficent sun;

Churning down gullies and sluices,
bounding over boulders and rocks
wrapped in tangles of gnarled giants,
arboreal elders rooted in gneiss
from ages past, feeding from that
pure crystalline source;

There is no stopping the flow
until inserted concrete bulwarks
cause it to fan out, curtain-like,
sparking jewels from midday shards
of refracted light, dancing through
branches and dying in the froth
of churning surge, foaming,
ever rambling, to the inlets
of the sea.

Photos taken while traveling over Stevens Pass, Washington State. ©Bela Johnson, 2018

Little Dove

Anxiety for me is not a teeth-chattering,
nerve-rattling affair, rather the tendency
of an untended mind to flutter toward
the familiar always a heartbeat away
from cool, grounded sanity;

When you return at day’s end, I step
into your world for a moment of comic
relief, little blue dove riding thermals
of your mastered stride, little girl trailing
behind daddy and his toolbox, eager
to discover how things work;

Feeling the weight of chisels soothes
ruffled feathers, caressing copper, steel,
the oiled wooden handles which,
in your perfect patient hands, creates
both the smooth carved boxes holding
treasures as well as the home
in which we live, life-sized canvas
for my own design.

collaborative design: Chris and Bela Johnson with artist Deb Thompson
cremation urn made from reclaimed island hardwood – C.Johnson
designed and created by Chris and Bela Johnson
designed and built by Chris Johnson

After the Storm

So much to contemplate, days
without distraction save the pattering
and drumming of rain and more rain
upon metal roof, wind in absentia
selling short the hurricane;

Time alone in a storm differs
from time alone by intent, the former
leaving one feeling trapped and dodgy,
removing liberty from the equation,
stifling as the heavy wet atmosphere,
leaving one to wonder at illusions,
fascinations, human dramas
of desire and repulsion;

If granted all wishes, a day would
become simply a day, choices not
near equal to the gifts of Creation;
for a time we might languish then
grow fidgety, longing for something
other, even this water seeping
from heavy skies;

If we could fabricate weather, who
or what then to blame when yet new
circumstances beyond our control
creep up to tap us on the shoulder,
prompting questions to the lips,
spinning us round and round
until, exhausted, we finally lean
into surrender?

Social media capture of the highway that intersects our street.
Hapuna Beach as I have never seen it and as few have – no people, just a crescent of white sand.
Body surfers outside Kamana Kitchen cafe in Kona town.
Kohala Mountain Rd. heading toward Mauna Loa volcano and Waimea town.
Mahukona Park lonely tree, so called.
Sunset shot taken from Kapaa Park trail.

~All photos save the first, ©Bela Johnson