Mothers Day 2020

Today I posted an apology to my mother, now deceased, on Facebook. Apologized for not being more patient, more understanding; in essence a better daughter. Immediately friends rallied around me, supporting and consoling in these shared reflective times in that way women do. My mother raised us in virtual self-imposed isolation. She sequestered her shame in a beautiful home with an abusive husband, her constant companions being sorrow and confusion at how a man she adored could turn so savage and loving, in turn. If social media had existed, I wonder if she would or even could have reached out for the comfort she desperately needed.

She was only eighteen, a child herself when she gave birth to the first of seven healthy children. I was fifth down the line, her baby girl, the object of her devotion through most of my childhood. It was complicated as she clearly favored me, which set up many years of resentment from my siblings. I was not aware of the repercussions when young, children take what love they can get. Later on I resented her in turn for causing such confusion and heartbreak amongst my siblings. And on it went, the baton was passed and I seized and flat-out ran with it.

I wonder how parent/child relationships would alter if we could time travel to the future, just far enough to consider what we are about to say or do. My child self had the luxury of few filters when it came to Mom. My father was unsafe at any speed, so what I stifled with him, I let fly with her. It was not constant, and I was not often unkind, but even after I left home, there were excuses not to call or visit except when it suited me. I was wrapped up in my own adult dramas then, with the challenges of an errant husband and two little girls to think about. Coping was just about what I could handle. Yet even when the girls left home, I called mom less and less frequently. She had found religion, and I tired easily of the conversion tactics. Had I more tolerance, I might have found a way around the touchier comments. Had I cultivated patience, I might have realized she was getting old and older, more and more frail and finally death overcame her non-resistance to it. She had suffered enough to consider it a benediction.

As I approach my sixty-seventh birthday next month, I don’t know if it’s mortality or the prevalence of pandemic-driven morbidity that tugs more assiduously at the strings of my heart. I feel tender and a little raw and a bit weepy. As diligent as I was about my own mothering, I made mistakes as she said I would. I don’t know if kids are even meant to understand, but parents are very much growing up alongside them. This, whilst trying to fill shoes of archetypal proportions. Mother. Father. Even with the best of marriages or parenting intentions, who among us can ever measure up to these impossible standards?

Wishing all of you mothers everywhere a blessed Mothers Day tomorrow and every day. It’s the hardest and paradoxically the most rewarding job on the planet. May we all support one another in sharing the kind of love we either received or lacked from our own moms. With genuine forgiveness, love and compassion flows like singing water. May we all attune to its frequency. Aloha.Kohala Mountain Road morning glories ~ bj

Wound Mending

The crescent mark left by a garden knife
is slowly mending, unresisting as I cleave
yet another lifted layer of my own skin
from its center until a proper feeling
of softness returns to adjacent banks
of that once-jagged riverbed;

Like one’s own feelings repeatedly
disregarded, trauma inflicted by those
unaware of consequences, of actions
and words cast carelessly about
like roadside refuse, transformation
taken back by my own hands becomes
a thing of beauty, weaving words
into textiles for the fabric
of the soul, spinning veils
of verbiage into mantles fit
for undefended hearts.

Clear Vision

I saw her today, glimpsed her like a new creature
shining and bright, free of the heavy cloak of denotation,
bronze I have cast her in despite myself, all these years
of believing she could in any way be known;

Inside my own skin I remain a mystery, unfolding
like the lotus flower, each new leaf and bud tender
and unfurling, tainted only through these selfsame
definitions, assumptions; we all do this in the dance
of discovery, alone or in tandem;

And I really wonder at the fabric of existence, itself,
a morphing, unified body with attributes thought to be
self and self, unique only insofar as they escape demarcation,
for once named, limitations are imposed and wrapped,
neat little packages, box steps imposed on modern dance,
monotones seeping into a technicolor palette;

What if we could begin again and again, mindful
of past assumptions, apprehend the self and others, eyes
unshuttered, clearly seeing and without bias what lies
before or within us, without guile?


photo ©Bela Johnson

Little Dog Update

You may have read about it here.

Amazing news.

After Chris has taken food to little dog every morning and evening for months now, he discovered this note yesterday. We don’t know who the writer is referring to; another person had been leaving a bowl of water from time to time, and likely a little food as well. In the end, the result is the same.

Little dog has a new forever home! Her efforts to defy capture must have meant that something inside of her little feral body told her to persist. She somehow must have known her special person was on the way. And we could not be happier to have contributed to the quality of this creature’s life. Yay.

Plume

Just get over it, she says,
words spewing like hot lava
from icy lips; intention beside
the point and yet how could I
have understood back then?
She would remain forever mute
on the origins of that rage
and I had the rest of my life
yet to figure it out;

Fifty-five years later,
soles of my sneakers burning,
legs quaking involuntarily, gazing
into fissures snaking red with liquid
earth, ambling along swirly hued
ebony rock cooled now into solid
only barely; to gaze, open-mouthed,
as fiery flows spilled forth, mauka
to makai, plumes of billowing smoke
arching high into the waning light;
stars swimming in mirages of heat
while the surf pounded incessantly,
though try as it might, it could not
beat back an expanding shoreline;

On the the path again, heads full
of wonder, while these feet,
long alienated from restriction
of canvas and sole, began swelling
and bulging like some alien creature
yearning to range free, and I am once
again struck by the irony in her words,
If the shoe fits, wear it;

But I’m tired now mama, and my feet
are blistered and raw; still I see you
more clearly through exhaustion
and defeat and your pain suffuses me
with sorrow for all who suffer this
volcanic process of purge and birth,
forging new land into harbors
for the heart.

(Kalapana lava flow 2017 ~ bj)

 

I’d Rather Be Bitten

It’s a scurrilous affair to be the target of an assault upon our humanity. Judgments, condemnation and criticisms all aim to reduce our opinions of ourselves, and are often successful in altering how others view us as well. We may well learn best through adversity, but none of us likes feeling attacked. It perpetuates suffering on both sides of the defenseless/defensive coin, especially when it’s of the insidious variety. That’s how the term backstabbing doubtless came into being, this feeling of being assaulted from behind where we can’t view the perceived enemy. And it’s a coward’s way out, this character assassination. It may temporarily grant the accuser a sense of superiority, but of one thing we can be certain; if we observe another engaging in this practice, it’s only a matter of time before they place us squarely in their sights.

I grew up with some fairly critical people, and would venture to say that years of habituation brought this trait out in me. I was an extremely sensitive child in a chaotic environment, and did not receive much guidance in handling the world with equanimity. And though I did garner some fundamental truths which would later prove beneficial, the chasm between what was practiced and what was preached was too vast for my child’s mind to bridge. Only later with age, experience and my own inevitable mistakes in parenting was I able to put the past into greater perspective. It’s still a process at midlife, so I suspect some lessons are deeper than mere conditioning.

As a teenager, I bolstered my fragile sense of self by finding fault with someone I thought better looking than I was, smarter, more talented or popular. Even if I shared these thoughts with no one else, a sense of smugness enveloped me like the proverbial warm fuzzy blanket. Eventually though, and it wasn’t too long in coming, that wrap felt suffocating. To something more decent inside of me, it just felt wrong. Hacking others down did not fill me up, nor did it give me any genuine or lasting sense of self worth. In fact it lent nothing of these attributes, it only carved a hole in my soul.

It has taken many years to rout the poison of criticism from my core. Like standing before a polished mirror, the presence of truth reflects back anything unlike itself. In this space, I am able to experience an up-swelling of compassion for the child that was me and for all the confused children in the world, trying as best they can to survive and thrive in adverse circumstances. Thus my ruminations extend to the child that lives within every adult, and it is easy to experience forgiveness and unconditional love, both for myself as well as for our deeply flawed yet simply human race.

 

Tangential

It’s facile to ponder fault
in others whose treatment of us
seems appalling.

Then we glimpse suffering
in desperate animal eyes,
recognizing predatory illusion.

All the lessons of the Masters
fall deaf on ears that will not hear,
fearful eyes refusing to see

all the manifest Universe is God
or none of it is.

fantasy_universe-normal

Streets

How can it be in this land of plenitude,
our fellows spilling out now
into city streets, smearing pristine glare
of glossy retail windows
with the crime of their insanity?

I walk and talk with open heart,
not from a place where vacant stares
meet hollow eyes;
hear his story, however true,
offer a meal he declines,
proud he is employed, no longer able
to dig holes, he says,
since someone crushed the back
of his skull with a rock.

Live long enough and it all seems plausible,
as we stroll along, talking unselfconsciously
in a throng of iPhone-toting trust fund youth,
oblivious to the suffering their lack of empathy
stamps securely on a world they inherit.

4226365774_607c01ede2_z

Waiting Game

If I knew I would die on a Thursday, would I be as anxious to get to Friday?

Waiting is something I’ve done a great deal of in this life. It has taught me both vigilance as well as patience. Waiting has been my teacher in nonattachment. As a kid, it was so hard for me to pause, both because I was an active child but also because I loved outdoor adventure. It was all I could do to sit tight and wait until the next camping trip, the next fishing excursion. It seemed to my child’s mind that all I did was wait. And wait some more.

Yet in these times, there is very little that is predictable. Waiting on situations to change or for people to shift aside selfish motives and embrace planetary stewardship in earnest is an exercise in something far beyond ordinary waiting. It’s a waiting that may never end.

Embedded within this realization lies the inevitable bevy of opportunities: the gift of enlarging my compassionate nature. The advantage of deepening my inner practice, achieving greater parity in walking my talk. Discovering stillness in the valley of distress. Ferreting out redemptive value amidst the rubble of the mind’s landfill.

Waiting_by_shimoda7

 

Sweet Forgiveness

My mother didn’t touch me, but you can’t give what you didn’t get. ~ Maria Shriver

Why has it taken me most of my life to understand parents as fallible human beings rather than the perfect archetypal models my Inner Child yearns for? Don’t I already understand that a lack of forgiveness only hurts me in the end? Of course I do. Now.

It was pivotal when I comprehended forgiveness as a two-way street. I thought absolving another was an offering, my own noble gesture. It seemed a thankless task, then, when crushed expectations boomeranged that gift back into my lap. It took me years to discover the root of forgiveness arising organically from a combination of cerebral understanding, spiritual desire and a heart longing to be free from the burden of recurring disappointment and perpetual sadness.

I was not a happy child, though I pretended to be upbeat to fit in. If I could garner recognition and acceptance from others, that elusive prop of ego known as I must exist. In fact for years I felt as though I only lived for others, as if the mirror in another’s eyes would reflect my precious heart back to me. Then I could begin to love myself enough to justify life such as it was.

I felt the impostor well into my forties, if not fifties. Cynical about all things including happiness, you couldn’t have told me anything different. Like most human beings, I needed to learn the hardest lessons myself, experiencing enough adversity that the message finally stuck. As I acknowledged my own suffering, it became easier to empathize with all living things following a similar directive to survive and thrive.

Finally, what arises quite naturally these days is the desire that all beings discover clarity of heart, encouraging the dissolution of confusion and acrimony. We all possess history that we either learn from or are unable, for whatever reason, to rise above. Perpetuating a state of antipathy cripples us emotionally, poisoning others we might least wish to harm. Forgiveness is key in unlocking many liberties, not the least of which is the freedom to express more fully that which our inner nature has ever intended. And that inner nature is love.

wild honey