Contemporary

The Amazon burns, things are far of hand,
too many world leaders well beyond their command,
our planet, this paradise, abundant with life is far
out of balance and cringing with strife; the elephants,
tigers and rhinos are game for the fat wealthy hunter
to target and maim, and the hands of the greedy
with grease in their palms are dictating the lives
of the simple and calm;

As we sit and observe, there is nothing but dread,
the visions explode in the heart and the head,
yet daydreams can change in the blink of an eye,
our minds are our own to redeem or deny;
a focus, when held, on the future we see,
can follow our hands as we nurture the tree
whose branches can hold all our dreams and our hopes,
yet we must take the actions our conscience invokes.

A Day for The Earth

There are snapshots in time, places where
one feels the eyes scratching over the surface
of some offensive scene, cymbals clashing
inappropriately during a tender interlude,
spell dissolved in the cacophony, never
to return again free of that memory;

Then there are backdrops nature paints
without premeditation, figures juxtaposed
against a canvas that can only contribute
to the light in one’s own eyes, the numinous
shining through, and I know in the center
of my bones that we must preserve this place,
its atmosphere beyond measure or means
by which we could precisely calibrate
how our human impact has contributed
to its degradation;

All we have is now, no time for regret,
rather embrace what we can do from
this moment into moments mounding,
overlapping, mindfully repeating
like a prayer to infinity.

All photos ©2019 Bela Johnson

Waiting on the Hurricane

The air is still; alternately, the winds gust a bit. Then it pours or does not. Most of the island, if the papers can be believed, is in drought. This is unbelievable to those of us living in North Kohala. We’ve had little but rain most of the year, albeit interspersed with brilliantly clear skies and sunshine. The gardens thrive, and what cannot abide too much water dies. Though that is very little, all in all. I can live with it, not that I have a choice in the matter.

Hawaii is a group of islands considered the most remote inhabited masses of land on the planet. For those of us who love this magical place, that does not faze us in the least. Yet we live in rapidly changing environmental times. Wildfires in the Pacific Northwest can now almost be counted on this time of year. Floods on the east coast continue, as do wild temperature swings. And that’s just the United States. Still, hurricanes are now as they have always been – unpredictable. A few days ago, Hurricane Lane seemed only remotely close to Hawaii Island. Today is a different story. Category 4 (as I wrote this, now a Five) coming our way. And here come torrential rains, though the winds have not picked up too much. And just as suddenly, it’s gone.

We don’t panic. We don’t, heaven help us, even prepare. We’ve lived 15 years of our lives on these islands, witnessed earthquakes (a magnitude Six found its epicenter in our town in ’06 – the furthest from the volcano, or from anyone’s expectations. Yet there you have it.) Leveled a massively tall concrete smokestack from sugar mill days. Slid houses right off their concrete foundations. We’ve watched from Molokai’s west shore as hurricane Iniki hurled destruction at our sister island Kauai. Several hurricanes have come close, but none has made landfall except peripherally with flooding, last time in Kapoho, much of which was only recently inundated with lava.

And so, at least for now, what else to do but wait?

“Our neighborhood.” All photos ©Bela Johnson

Birthquakes

If I were to sweep, it would never end;
this precious earth has only begun
to burn and swirl and blow away
the flimsy trappings, human footprints
laid down along shorelines expanding
now beneath helicopter eyes, unable
to peer further under Pele’s fiery skirts;

What we consider tragedy is to her
but birthquakes of yet another chapter
in an endless cycle of fits and starts
as we stand nervously in parenthetical
lines, waiting our turn to strike through
her heart once again, creative urges blooming
into discrete shapes and forms, disregarding
the transient nature of life amidst miracles
of existence, five senses, legs on starfish,
hieros gamos, sacred marriage, heaven
and earth united in the upright carriage
of the sentient human form;

Do we not recall sharp edges honed
over time perpetual as sea nudges shore,
even as memory casts this inviolable link
into archaic history at our own peril;
meanwhile rubbish heaps up and up,
spreading plague-like over land and sea,
all hail, homo erectus, purveyor of hubris,
she will bring you, wracked and shaking,
to your bent and humbled knees.

Pele’s lava
Kohala sunset
Hawaiian red chili peppers
tiny dancer
fragrant Plumeria
curious neighbor
Kohala shoreline

~ all photos ©Bela Johnson

Canaries in the Mine

Searching the thesaurus to avoid duplication of the term sensitive only confirms cultural bias: touchy, hypersensitive, easy offended, easily upset, easily hurt (easy, easily, easily – thesaurus in need of a thesaurus), thin-skinned, defensive, paranoid, neurotic, uptight; difficult, delicate, tricky, awkward, problematic, emotive.

Perhaps if the world were wise, it would pay attention to sensitive human beings. It’s like a mental asylum out there. People jockeying to oppress newly liberated minorities. Folks clamoring to amass the most materiality before departing the planet, as if the ubiquitous they might miss their chance. Chemical companies competing to control the world’s food supply, bees dying by the millions, lobbyists greasing pockets of Senators, butting in line ahead of voters. Voices of The People stymied; small victories savored. Save the rivers, save the forests. What are our priorities as a species? What collective illusions are we laboring under?

We canaries detect the undercurrents, fragile plumage singed by flames long before they fan out on the evening news. Our bodies inform us daily of planetary imbalances. Sharing perceptions, only to discover ourselves discredited. Left brain right. Not sure what to do with impressions the right brain gathers, seeking answers. What is duty, purpose, path; floundering in a sea of indecision, knowing there are no shoulds?


canary-in-coal-mine