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.

The Frequency of Home

Perfect timing is universally ordained,
though once I did not believe it so;
perfection was something I could attain
with enough effort, enough input,
by simply and assiduously being Enough
for everyone and for all time;

Then the learning began.

Years of silence, accustoming myself
to feeling the rhythms inside that synced
with the beat of Mother Earth’s pulse;
the drumbeat rolls coming not from others,
who could never fully be satiated anyway,
but welling up from within, unbidden;
swelling and coursing through my vascular
system, cleansed upon every intentional
breath by the ever-vigilant center
of being, my trustworthy heart;

Then it was discernment, and this only years
later after the chaos and struggle had died
down with those umbilical separations, mother
from child, and then, mother from child
again and anon, the multilayered garments
cast off, shell by shell of the crusty cricket
chirping in my head, humming, droning,
dropping steady pools of grievous tears until,
beyond comprehension, my eyes glistened
with clarity, no longer the weeping, wailing guilt
of my own lost youth revisited, as it seemed
in these fragile partings;

I wonder at the endless capacity of women
to mother others, long after progeny
have vanished from our everyday view;
perhaps it was this closeness, this bond
I wished somehow to recreate with those
let into my private sanctuary; and it sounds
as though I knew at the time the quantity
and quality of those who breached the gates,
but I did not; and time and again, life shook me
down and down, human fallibility rearing
its maned visage, facing off, facing down
until I had no choice but to retreat, once again,
into solitary until, with yet more experience,
I began to harvest grain from the chaff,
carefully weeding out if not disavowing myself
entirely of the very species I had come
into this life to embrace;

Nobody said it would be easy.
No one said it would be this hard, or take
this long, or try my sanity so arduously.
What price, maturity? At what cost comes peace
of mind? And yet it arrives in proper measure,
day by day, moment by moment, in the silent
interstices between thoughts, words,
and the inevitable vicissitudes of existence.

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.

The Teaching

THE TEACHING

Schooled to the rigors of religion, if I took nothing else away
from those origins it was faith; faith that a child’s prayers
would be answered by forces unseen, and I took root
in that faith like fieldstone, anchoring my small body in cracks
and crevasses formed by flooding time, a snake secreting low
and tight, protection sought in the shade of midday,
giving nothing away, not a breath, shutting out the discord
of voices, dissonant sounds that soothed the ears of others
with that tinge of the familiar;

Sitting in newly-mown grass, breathing in the herbaceous bouquet,
eyes attuned to breaks in the pattern, movement underneath,
always underneath, what moved in shadow most fascinated,
pill-bugs rolling tight when threatened, millipedes threading
through miniature thickets, grasshoppers navigating the tangle,
smell of damp pungent earth drawing eyes and nose closer,
seeking level with a world unto itself, and I never ceased cringing
while watching careless feet stomping thoughtlessly upon
unseen realms, Jack and the Giant, gentry and the dispossessed,
disparity a background hum in the grace of my limited freedom;

Trudging up arid mountain trails or down into gushing streambeds
suited best, the mentholated air of eucalyptus mixing with the dank odor
of leaf mulch swirling in eddies and under boulders, fishing wet mats
out with my hands to bury my nose in that humid bouquet while the rest
of the world disappeared into a collage of confusion to which many
accustom themselves while a rupture grows like an aneurysm in the center
of the soul until that longing bursts forth like a swimmer breaking surface,
a yearning to gulp oxygen like life itself, that corporeal kinship
with the earth, a silent whisper, Return.
Return to me, and be whole.

images ©Bela Johnson 2019

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)

Where Do We Go from Here?

It can be frightening to observe the body breaking down while nothing Western medicine offers seems to help. If this is happening, perhaps what you are experiencing is much deeper than what can be detected on the surface. If possible, consider emergence rather than emergency, for in some way your core self may be asking you to attune to a more profound life path than you are currently upon. Yet even if you sense this, even if you know somewhere deep inside that this seems true, where do you begin to access the assistance you need in order to facilitate this emergence, this opening to the depths of your being?

Dedicating oneself to deep inner work requires a time commitment that many find hard to assimilate into busy lives. Most simply want the “quick fix,” a pill or procedure to offer instant relief. And Western Medicine more or less promises the same, so it’s tempting to capitulate to a system supported, in large part, by a massive pharmaceutical industry. The integral, multidimensional Being That You Are, however, may not respond to such remedies. Instead it urges us to get in touch with our deepest desires and express this passion work in a meaningful way. This takes time and focus we might believe we lack. Yet if we are to discover balance, if we are to experience quality of life in the years we have left on the planet, a lifestyle change might be in order. This can begin with an honest review of how we expend resources, both time as well as money.

Once the basic bills are responsibly dealt with, for this alone can alleviate a tremendous load of health-eroding stress, what are you worth? How much time do you spend in self reflection, time in nature, enjoying creative ventures, physical movement, prayer, meditation? What resources and time do you allocate to self care on a regular basis, whether or not your expensive health insurance covers it? Do you see a counselor, go to an art class, support or prayer group, get a massage, get a new hairstyle, read, listen to music, attend a self improvement workshop or take yourself out for a healthy and relaxing meal? Perhaps you don’t think you can afford these little luxuries of time and money and depend on that medical insurance to take care of you when you fall apart. Notice I say when, because unless you are extremely lucky or have amazing genes, without a focus on maintaining your physical, mental and spiritual needs, sooner than later things tend to break down.

In the end, no matter how we try,  we can’t give to others when we, ourselves are tapped out. Recognizing our own resistance to change is an important step. When we realize change is difficult but ultimately rewarding, we can embrace the excitement of beginning a new, more self respectful way of living. Anyone at any level of income can find ways to improve their lives. Each of us possesses challenges. Accepting and moving through these rough patches results in modicums of wisdom, depth and maturity. Dedication to a path of self awareness and self improvement helps us handle what life doles out. We can choose to accept our challenges as growth opportunities rather than cursing our lot in life. We can possess an attitude of gratitude, regardless of circumstances. It is from this humble stance that blessings emerge in often unexpected ways.

(previously published in part by The Maine Eagle, 2002 – ©Bela Johnson, Medical Intuitive)

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.