Sniffing Cedar

He’s out in the shop again, the fine
clean scent of western cedar wafting
through my office window, drawing me
out to see what perfect hands are crafting
now from raw;

The straight-grained lines of red, variegated
with a neutral light, white as a crosscut wafer
of eastern pine, carefully- sawn cleats sliced
into freshly band-cleaved matched boards,
comprising the backside of a custom cabinet;

Americans on the whole hesitate to pay craftsmen
for fine work such as this, but rarely (like now)
one gives him artistic liberty and oh, I am loathe
to part with it, knowing such beauty will soon
be taken for granted, preferring to add yet
another flair to our own interior’s design,
knowing (as nature does) how appreciative gazes
cause giddy ripples in the bellies of gods.

Bela’s Photographs

Aloha All:

Thought I would let you, my WordPress community know, that by popular request I have created a 2019 Calendar for the upcoming year. Each month features one of my photos taken within 50 miles of our home here on Hawaii Island.

I am so pleased to have found a wonderful printing company on the US Mainland that uses the highest quality heavy photo stock. They will mail the calendars direct to you, saving me postage from Hawaii to anywhere else, which at minimum for one calendar is $14.00. Best to invest in a good product rather than postage, I say.

If you’re pondering what to give yourself or loved ones for the holidays, this is affordable art for the home or office that changes each month and includes inspirational quotes as well. Calendars come in two sizes.

Aloha, and all the best,

Bela

Photos used for each month.

 

Husband Chris featuring January in a surprise photo shoot just after he got home from work 😉 Photo demonstrates the size of the large calendar as well as the various colored backgrounds.

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

Commentary on Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking”

This was so poignant, I cried. Absolutely brilliant. Attitudes and approaches are morphing on a grand scale, and it is heartening to observe these leaps in consciousness. We need hope in this rapidly changing world, in the face of all the greed and corruption and global warming. 

Becoming less cynical and bitter about unavoidable changes allows us to move into genuine gratitude. We are all changing and growing; making choices between the cocoon and the open sky; between addictions and subtractions, whether addictions to substances or behaviors or what we perceive as comfort. We’re all doing this in our own way.

But this can’t be forced; it has to be learned from life itself. It must be felt, viscerally experienced, as Amanda Palmer portrays. It HAS to be real.

We can rail at the gods for our lack of support as creative types; loss of profits on our talents due to the freedom of the Internet, for example. If we don’t deny this; if we look honestly at ourselves and our motives in work and in life, we will know something profound about ourselves. Do we feel entitled? Special? Do we compare ourselves to what we perceive as successful others who perhaps seem less deserving? These sentiments only separate us from our goals.

We are living IN the world, not apart from it. And Amanda Palmer gets this. We are living in the Age of Aquarius – a time to honor the collective and stop focusing on “poor little me.” I am only successful in relationship to you; we are all in this together. Such are Aquarian ideals.

No matter what each of us does for work in this life, there is growth and opportunity to learn, if we allow it. If we force it, resent it, bully it even –  there is plenty of misery. Karma hits us up and down – and not the bad kind – karma is simply cause and effect. That’s all. 

It’s important to be humble. You can see it in this woman. We cannot fake it. We can’t get away with duality and not reap the inevitable consequences of feeling alone and isolated. Our humility must be real. That’s why it works, for her. That’s why it works in the here and now. And it cannot be disingenuous or we find ourselves embarrassed and humiliated: not by others but by our own actions and lack of heart; by the failure to embrace Oneness with our ambitions and goals. 

The times, they are a-changin’ and we cannot stop a moving train with our puny little bodies. Time to get on board, and discover our seat; our place in the greater scheme of things. It can be done if we use our creative energies to offer our gifts in new and innovative ways. And if it isn’t easy, it’s because we are still addicted to fighting; to struggle; to opposing What Is.

~ Bela Johnson

Ahhh … The Light!

I’ve discovered the best synonym for light is magic. For years I would talk with artist friends who would exclaim, eyes flashing, “Oh, but the light!”

This always confounded me. I couldn’t imagine what they were talking about. Light was light enough, and dark was too dark to see well. And then there were simply those times in nature when I felt as though I had entered another dimension – a world fit for sprites. I felt so small, and all was wonder and delight. Undulating aurora borealis! Shafts of sunshine streaming through the forest canopy! Morning dew transforming young eucalyptus leaves into the most extraordinary shade of aquamarine! Beams of glittering gold penetrating the depths of the sea just as a giant manta unfurls its massive wings and glides on by! Of course what made all the difference was the quality of the light, but somehow my racing mind didn’t draw that particular conclusion.

Digital changed my life. Film was just too frightening for a frugal little perfectionist. If I couldn’t get the shot just right, my inclination was to forget it altogether. Then my daughter gifted me with a sweet little Kodak digital, my first – and eight years later, I purchased a Nikkon Coolpix. I began taking pictures again.

Now I take hundreds of shots on my Android phone and load up my Dropbox. I don’t know if I’ll ever go through them all, and sometimes I despair that I hadn’t taken the Nikkon along. But the file size on the phone camera is just right – I don’t have to worry about waiting forever for images to download onto my computer. Ah, the simple pleasures.

Which brings me into the light, so to speak. The other night I took the dogs for a hike down by the shore, about an hour before sunset. And oh, god, the light – the light! It was just about as enchanting as anything could be:

All shots taken with my LG Thrive phone. Imagine if I had had a “decent” camera … 😉

Conscious Femininity

I hardly know life at this phase of the game, but I strive to remain open as it unfolds. This becomes easier when I’m not fighting what is and expecting it to morph into something more familiar with a zippier buzz to the palate.

A good friend and I were reflecting recently about how, at this juncture, we each and both need to rediscover what it is to simply be a woman. We are both highly creative people who have spent the better part of our lives caretaking others from husbands to children, and feel as though there is something inherently flawed in holding onto that line, once it has snapped. The downside is we’re still in free-fall, not entirely sure where feet will land once the earth zooms up to meet us. The upside is we have been practicing all our lives for this very moment.

As women in Western culture, we have spent a virtual lifetime defining ourselves according to the standards of others. Are we still attempting to measure our worth by the yardstick of physical desirability? For as we age into and beyond our sixties, attention once effortlessly magnetized by youthful beauty fades, though we remain pleasant enough to look at. Still as creatures of nature, we no longer flaunt the brightest plumage nor exude the pheromones of those most suited to breeding. We live in a society that measures women’s worth by the suppleness of skin, the shape of breasts and butt and thighs. My friend and I are in great physical condition for our age (and my husband always tells me how beautiful he finds me), but we no longer draw drop-dead stares. And though part of this elicits relief on the one hand, it leaves us to wonder where our value lies, on the other.

My friend and I are spillovers from a generation where women only began asserting themselves enough to demand the world take them seriously. No longer the hysteria-prone fainters of bygone days; no more the obedient servants of the patriarchy who, like my own mother, downed drugs rather than confront the welled-up fountain of anger any human being would harbor when summarily marginalized. Still, we are older now; tired of fighting. Leave that to the women who are coming of age. What we want now is to somehow put down the armor and the shield and allow ourselves to feel soft and vulnerable and able to tap into that wellspring of flowing feminine creativity. This we attempt to undertake with hearts and spirits open, as we summon an unknown entity from the wings of life’s current stage.

 

 

Post script: This is one of the most brilliant films I’ve ever seen, speaking to the birth of a woman’s creativity. And if you’re especially prudish, just get past the woman on the toilet and you’re home free 😉 I can see why she left this segment in, however – and if you reflect upon the film as a whole, you might appreciate it as well. If you enjoy Asparagus half as much as I did, please support Suzan Pitt’s work by purchasing the film or several of her other works. I couldn’t believe I found this on YouTube as I only have it in my video library.

PPS: I derived my title from the late Marion Woodman’s book of the same name. Blessing her work in bringing the focus of Jungian psychology further into the realm of the divine feminine.

Enter the Dream

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

Albert Einstein

“The Dream of the Prisoner” (1836) - Moritz Ludwig von Schwind

 

Ancient societies placed great emphasis on dreams, and no major decisions were made without first consulting them. Contrast that with many modern cultural paradigms.

In the film The Neverending Story, a little boy whose mother has recently died is repeatedly told by his father to get his head out of the clouds and put his feet on the ground. Many of us have heard the same thing while growing up. Then we internalize that voice as if it were our own.

This movie’s theme is based on a book the boy finds when he ducks into a small bookshop, in order to avoid three tormenting classmates. The bookstore owner warns Sebastian away from the tome, saying it will involve the boy more than he would want. Sebastian does indeed become part of the story, journeying through a vanishing world called Fantasia. His struggle between doing what his father requires of him and doing what he dreams is a struggle many of us can identify with. We’ve all been conditioned to follow rules imposed by others. Learning to find our way out of this jungle of confusion is the journey we take when we decide to follow the dictates of the creative source deep within.

Fantasia is the realm created by human imagination, not so different from the one in which we live. What we believe, individually as well as collectively, becomes our experience of the world. When we lose the ability to dream, our creative expression is greatly diminished. This industrial age demands, to some extent, that we file in line and shuffle off to work to keep the consumer machine oiled and running. It’s easy to forget there are choices. When things appear stalemated, however – when we feel stuck and hopeless – we can turn back to the dream. Initially it might take time to get the imagination primed and running. But the world is bound to be enriched through our courage to contemplate.

Inspiration requires reflection, hence the ability to dream at night while sleeping. It is in such incubative spaces that it encourages us to try something different or new. During reflection, intuition opens up. Along this stream of awareness, we are carried into a place of immense possibility. Daring to dream gives us permission to invite magic back into our lives.

The death of imagination is a terrible thing. It is the destruction of Fantasia, a world rich with images, creation and food for the senses. To reactivate participation in this magical world, one only has to begin anew. The potential to create afresh exists within each one of us.

Dare to dream, and watch your world transform through the creative power that is within you!

 

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.

~ Albert Einstein 


Writing and The Inner Critic

There’s no such thing as perfect writing, just like there’s no such thing as perfect despair.

~ Haruki Murakami

I am a self proclaimed perfectionist, though I have spent the better part of my life trying to dismantle the harmful aspects of this particular trait. After all, it’s not something I cultivated, it’s how I came into the world. And so you can well imagine how challenging it is to simply capture ideas and experiences and release them into locution without the Censor’s head over my shoulder nodding or tsk-ing, depending.

origin of image unknown

I remember a creative course at Vermont College some years back – where we were required to actively engage expression in an artists’ journal. In fact I came across this little black book just the other day. It was shocking to note just how tight my words and images were compared to the present, how inauthentic in their dance with caution. And it was refreshing too, recognizing how far I’ve come with regards to loosening up in order to reveal more of myself to the reader. I still remember my dear professor, a genuinely supportive woman who proclaimed us all artists, whether we believed it or not. I did not, at least in the realm of the written word.

I knew I was an artist from early on, as I’ve always been able to depict a likeness in pastel. Considering writing as art was intimidating, for it touched on my vulnerability as a wordsmith. I had never taken a writing course, ever – I was too afraid of being criticized for a necessary and enjoyable endeavor. There was serious and there was pleasurable, and never the two should meet! Happily fear itself had never prevented me from writing – which I have done consistently throughout my life. (Let it be noted I wrote mostly poetry, allowing me to hide neatly behind metaphor as a child disappears behind the shaggy trunk of an old hemlock.) Meanwhile this teacher encouraged a free-flow of ideas and images, whether clipped from magazines or culled from our own heads. I didn’t fully grasp the deconstruction process until much later, witnessed through years of journaling in pencil with many erasures and careful rewording.

Thankfully my journals of today are messy – scribbled and replete with crossed-out mots and margin notes. I have finally allowed myself to record ideas as they flow from my mind, (mostly) minus the Censor.  I’ll admit though, and I know I’m not the only one, that when I post on WordPress and hit that “Publish” button, errors I hadn’t seen before pop up like caddis flies hatching on a still pond. Suddenly I’m “Updating,” hoping nobody picks out the adjective I’ve used twice in the same small paragraph. I guess perfectionism can never truly be eradicated, for it does retain favorable aspects. I still strive to produce a body of words that flows nicely and musically onto paper, delighting the reader not only with intriguing ideas but with the beauty of our splendiferous English language. It, and you, dear reader deserve no less.

image: flyfishingfromscratch.com