Life on the Ranch

Looking out this window seems sacrament. We are surrounded by Ponderosa pine forest, and, as in Hawaii with the ocean, I tend to take the trees more for granted, the longer our tenure in this place. I remind myself to remain better in touch with not only these regal giants who hold their ground with very little rainfall, but with my own inner, deeper, more profoundly feeling self. (And the mind skitters on. Returns to that pause in the narrative. Reevaluates her response.)

Brilliant snow surrounds us, and storms don’t last long. The most we’ve experienced of gray and stormy skies has been two days each, then the sun reclaims its dominance in cobalt blue skies. I just today got a book on building a year-round solar greenhouse. Our plan is to convert a sizeable garden, already footed with railroad ties and a short wall reinforced with metal lathing to prevent tunneling incursions from gophers and squirrels. Excited. Solar anything made sense in Hawaii, and makes double sense here in the high desert.

Speaking of snow, it is usually powdery here, not the wet, heavy ice-storm-prone snows of New England. Yet it follows that there is a profound difference in the forest composition. Pine forests in the high desert look like planted tree farms without the deep leaf mulch of their wetter sister woodlands. Likewise, the forest service issues permits to cut and gather dead and down trees, which keeps detritus cleared out in what can be tinderbox territory. Our part of the Maine woods was so lush that on what was once 65 acres of lakefront forest, we rarely walked the whole of the property. Here, we walk our 14 acres morning and night. This morning’s treat was a huge turkey, flushed out by the Heeler, soaring 45 feet into a Ponderosa. Nevermind the symbolism of Turkey on a total solar eclipse day, it was a splendid sight to behold. We love the creatures who frequent this land!

frozen dog water 😉

the current clearing we’re working on (notice  the beginning of a brush pile).

The unfinished Adobe bought with our property.  We hope to finish it one day.

After the storm two days ago. Part of the same clearing, above.

Changes, Changes

Hawaii was a visual banquet. At every turn I couldn’t help myself. I visually grabbed until, overstuffed, I collapsed in sensory overload. Lush tropical foliage, expansive ocean views that ranged from turquoise to indigo, most set against jet black lava. A loop road circles around the entirety of Big Island, where dry lava desert gives way to breathtaking cliffs, verdant fields, and always Mother ocean below. Water was the main theme, not only in the ocean and tropical rains, but in the very air, itself. Yet after 15 years, I was ready to return to a land with four seasons.

Moving back to the high desert of New Mexico was like going on a diet. The terrain is sparse; it does not impose. Water is a theme, though in a very different way. Here, water is badly needed. At all times. A desert’s gifts are revealed slowly, with patience and attention to subtleties. Cloud formations can stop me in my tracks, and seem to exist here as nowhere else I have traveled or lived. Enormous ravens swoop through forests and valleys whilst elk roam close to the house in the wee hours, and colors of all sorts stand. Out. Large expanses of gently rolling flat will surprise with a sudden view of a snow-capped mountain range. Driving north into Taos on the main highway features the Rio Grande gorge split open like a melon. At its bottom snakes the river, green and rolling, more or less, depending on the season.

This morning brought snow, though very different than in what can be a very bleak New England, this time of year. Always, always the sun strives to poke through the clouds here, so within an hour, we had snow, brilliant sunshine, billowing dark gray nimbostratus, snow, gusting winds, and more snow. Tomorrow we may set feet onto bare ground.

Hope you are all feeling the spirit of the holy days. Don’t let the pandemic fear paralyze you. Stay safe however you must, but also strong by getting out and getting the blood moving. Breathe deep with an open heart. Nature heals. She truly does. Blessings, all.

Complicit

I read him Mary Oliver’s luminous words
in bed at night, perceptions written
nearer her end and yes there is sadness,
his eyes well uncomfortably,
who wouldn’t wish (were it possible)
to turn away from the degradation
of nature loved with the whole
of our hearts;

The loons on Goose Pond, circling
around us with crimson eyes, echoes
of their haunting cries tattooed
into memory, early morning and dusk,
nine chicks that year and two adults
and one would be hard pressed today
to hear a single pair if lucky,
human encroachment into nesting areas,
refusal to admit error in bulldozing
sacred spaces for greed and profit,
filling wetlands, giant killer bees
building, harmony absent, drones
taking over the hive,
and what are we, if not complicit?
None are blameless;

It seems a lifetime ago, smoke cannot
pour itself back down the chimney;
opportunity now lies in discovering
wonders of a pine forest far
from lake or ocean.
I must ponder more deeply
the meaning of water.

In Two, A Not-Too-Distant Memory

I

Sounds like a woman screaming.

Then I snap back from my twilight reverie,
Coyote is on the move, or calling the brood
in for the night; there must be a den of them
across the vast fields and rushing stream,
seeking safety in the forest about the same time
every evening now. I realize this, being my
sixth eventide on the mountain.

II

The elk are stalking me, noticing traces
of my passage along their own pathways
through these fourteen acres;

I have likewise lowered strands of barbed
wire used to top acres of fence line
where I notice tufts of blonde fur, revealing
fence-vaulting preferences; having no
serious tools with me on this visit, my gloved
wire wrapping will have to do until we are able
to make more permanent adjustments
to allow them passage, once again;

Someone once sought to keep them out,
but elk have roamed these mountains
for as long as time; I say let them pass;
one day we shall meet, Elk and I,
and I will know more about this majestic
creature than ever before.

Eternal

 

The poem that had to be written at two in the morning;
was it carried on the wind building force in the night,
pushing harder on my head until, evoking surrender,
I turn the page and silently push the pencil,
watching words forming, shapes curving alongside
one another, forging bond between graphite
and sinew, seemingly benign,
but lest it appear deceptive, consider:

These words cast upon vellum one twilight
in the midst of my days will remain
long after this puzzle life breaks apart,
leaving only a specter which once I perceived
to be me, as if the I who loves you
could be captured
on a page.







 

 

Arrival

I have spent too many hours marking time,
waiting for changes to come, passing precious
moments in feckless meandering, spinning wheels,
Ariadne in the shadows, balls of twine raveling
and lying in a tangled heap at my feet;

Now we have arrived, dream fulfilled, bustling rats
abandoning the airship that has sailed true,
conveying us here upon shores we once inhabited,
threaded up steep mountain slopes climbing high
and higher until the panorama unfolds, island scarlet
and gold giving way to azure, indigo, purple, pink,
green everlasting, anchoring us back to forest
and field, sacred groves, room to ramble,
all of it, all.

 

 

Kamakani

Winds kick and gust, twisting limbs
and shaking foliage and branches loose,
culling the dead and startling the living
into a wakefulness that strengthens, even
as surely they flinch at the onslaught;

Large foot-long seed pods drop to the ground
in varying shades of mottled green and brown,
inserting themselves into garden beds amidst lilies
and flowers, comically stuck upright into places
unlikely to host them otherwise;

Yet without this early spring ritual, daily
gathering the giant leaves and shower tree pods,
a lush blush-pink gumdrop canopy and the plethora
of rich nubbly breadfruit peeking out from beneath
the shade of huge ulu leaves could never evince
such utter delight, and this abundant landscape
would give way to the monotonous green lawn many
prefer here, fearing high winds and the occasional
tangle of gnarled branches snapping suddenly
and startlingly to an indifferent ground.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes!

Last Monday we closed on the lovely property pictured here. We are now in a position of having secured the ground for our future whilst awaiting the selling of the home we have lovingly restored from old Plantation times to its present incarnation. It’s been so much fun, and yes, a lot of work! We never planned on leaving it, so we made it our own, tropical gardens and all. You can view it here.

Still, we might have known better. Living wide open necessitates a willingness to shift and grow, both inwardly but also occasionally outwardly, at least for us. So back we go to where we lived many years ago. The high desert of New Mexico is singularly unique. And we look forward to the variety of topography and wildlife we remember from that time, as well as different opportunities for us both. Aloha for now!

photo credit for all images: Laurie Hilton; last image: Alexander Berlonghi

Embracing the Magic

Aloha, dear people:

Sorry for my scattered check-ins and the cessation of my own WP posts, I do value this WP community. A few months ago, the Universe tapped me on the shoulder and it precipitated some major life changes that we are in the  midst of just now.

If you’re wondering what your own future holds in 2020 and beyond, despite Eckhart Tolle’s caveat to remain in the moment (and many of us practice this on a daily basis),  I will pass on a keyword that may or may not resonate with you. That word is alignment. To my inner knowing, more and more we are being called into aligment, and many of us are discovering this requires a physical, geographical relocation. Such is the case with us.

Thus for the past three months, give or take, we have diligently placed our noses to the grindstone and finished a long-awaited addition to our house in preparation to sell it and move on. (The link just highlighted will take you to the listing. Please share if you are so moved, and mahalo!)

We have greatly enjoyed 15 years on this island, and have been blessed with a fabulous community. Still, Chris has been working far too hard and we look forward to balance and a more sustainable lifestyle. I hope to get back into radio and professional writing, as well. And not to be minimized, the move will take us nearer to our girls. Fifteen years is a long time to rarely see adult children. So here we are.

Stay tuned for more news, once we finalize things on the other end. And here’s wishing you all a peaceful New Year. Remember the “A” word, and you can’t venture far from life with heart and soul. Blessings, Bela

Whisper

Before the brief but long breath of lifetimes
was profound silence, and if sounds were apprehended,
they were but whispers compared to the chaos most
have come to accept as the new normal;

Before memory, arrived humans and wild creatures
and whooshing winds, lapping briny waters caressing
pristine sands strewn with strands of brightly frilled
emerald kelp, thundering waves lashing rocks
and promontories, scooping away scuttling crabs
and tiny bright fishes marooned in sun-warmed tidepools;

Our hearing has become dulled and a rushing sound
lingers when din is relinquished to wilderness, eyes
maladjusted to nighttime perceptions, fearing darkness
despite the thrill of a million stars blazing overhead,
hoot of a horned owl or the scream of panther, howl
of coyote or swooshing bats in flight;
all the world is calling our body back into unity
with itself, we, the lone wallflowers standing against
the school gymnasium wall, forgetting the dance
all have been summoned to, worried and frightened
and oddly secure in our fragile and fraying cloak
of invisible self abnegation.

Bela Johnson photo: taken from the top of Hurricane Ridge, Olympic Peninsula, WA, 2019