Beanstalk

We are all moving on to the next level,
just as he did after coming through
walls, us sitting at our kitchen table,
pleading eyes confused, conflicted;

Nobody spoke of suicide in that place,
yet there he was, and I had to ask
another neighbor if she knew
what had happened;

I remember passing by a lone figure
walking a small white dog,
and sometimes I thought it a woman,
sometimes a man; ahh, this being
was mahu, a two spirited one,
yin and yang that might have merged
into a lovely ebony and ivory symbol,
while instead, his Japanese parents felt
only shame, and so freedom
was sought by moving to a large
east coast city where those of like
kind could seek a life free from
judgments that bound them in ties
far too snug to house the beauty
of their souls;

Distressed parents conspired
somehow to bring their son back,
yet back to what? A life in this
tiny town with its own ideas
of how firstborn sons should act?
Instead in despair, they found
their son hanging limp
from a rope
in the garage,
imagine;

When his spirit came to us,
it was with a desire to find
a way to transition between
this world and the next, and so
we envisioned a beautiful
beanstalk, glistening ivy green
with heart-shaped leaves,
its sinuous vines a strong rope
without obligation of gravity,
and it grew and branched out,
carrying this dear one
into a magical realm
where harmony might prevail,
higher, further from the suffering
of simply living with yearnings
his broken family could never
comprehend.

Tahitian Gardenia ~ bj

The Consistency of Dirt

I always had dirt between my toes, beginning when I was old enough to toddle, and my parents did not care, having come out west from Chicago, land of the freezing, and I do not remember any scolding for it, surely I would if it existed, walked on blistering asphalt too, never caring if my feet hardened into hooves, all the better to play horse, romping and galloping around the yard;

I went to Hamilton Park bare chested in only white underwear, more like shorts back then, and I will never forget the boys that made fun of me on the merry-go-round, free as they likely would never be, instead targeting a smiling little girl, sun streaking her chestnut hair blonde, but you know, I never went without a shirt after that day, so it must have made quite an impression, the end of innocence, perhaps we all recall this in our lives;

Five years old and off to school, I do not recall rebelling at shoes, only the delight in learning, and walking with neighborhood kids picked up along the way, a small gang of non-thugs back then, the place was safe, ridiculously so compared to these times, our school tucked neatly into the arms of a huge mountain range; breathing fully, natural as a mountain goat, and to think city folks need yoga to teach them what came naturally to children raised
in sunshine and lush surroundings;

Moving to New England after high school gave me another sort of grounding, bare feet tucked into thick socks and boots, but oh, the forest! The lakes! I never missed those barefooted excursions, I would always be nature’s child, wild as the fisher cats and foxes roaming the woods, swimming with the loons and giant bass, naked as there was no one to notice; my new form of bare feet for over three decades, a dance with nature that would always be, both girls raised in the forest, free as too many children will never experience;

Then it was off to Moloka’i, the girls choosing public over homeschooling, local kids walking barefoot to school, their wide brown feet slapping red dirt roads and the one short sidewalk on the way up the hill from the ocean, no chastisement from teachers, families recently freed from pineapple plantation work, and who was there to mandate otherwise? Still I wonder, thirty years later, have the rules changed? Or will there always be places that subconsciously realize we need bare ground under our feet in order to heal this fractured species of ours?

Enchanted

The music of the universe greets me daily,
voices on the wind, crackling through
heavily laden boughs of pine trees,
chattering black and blue birds arriving
in massive flocks every morning to the feeder,
ravens and magpies keeping their distance,
waiting on fence posts out by the fields,
trusting that what fed them yesterday
will show up in perpetuity, abundance
in the midst of winter’s cold; meanwhile
the pack of coyotes howls and yips,
acknowledging the bounty tossed
across the road nearly every day;
with compost tumblers full, we have
enough to share;

None of us knows what will greet us
as we open eyes and senses
onto a new day, fresh start for every
sentient creature on earth;
how we meet the Mystery is up to us,
cranked on caffeine and sugar,
boarding the train to a city high rise,
or quietly, softly, in wonder at another
precious gift, the sky, the clouds,
the breath we have drawn since birth,
bellows of lungs automatic, in, out,
are we aware of their significance?
Are we grateful for the intelligence
of these bodies, treating them kindly,
reverently even, as we stroll
into brilliant rays of blessed sunlight?

Here and Now

The concert grand stands indifferently
in a palatial room built to house it;
Hardly anyone spends time here,
admiring frescoes and French lace,
worn Italian club chairs gather
in around no one, empty opulence
marking privilege of the lost
and missing inhabitants;

Halfway around the world,
a bustling marketplace explodes
with the din and stench
of the streets, sweat mingling
with rotting vegetable matter
and the smell of human desperation;
gnarled hands of laborers place goods
in the manicured hands of tourists,
a toothless smile exchanging empty symbols
for a better life, benediction
of the Foreigner whose life is inconceivable
as a spaceship from Mars;

Who can fathom choices, freedom the elusive
butterfly in a garden which must be tended
by honest sweat and toil which,
in the opulence of the parlor, slips quietly
into shadow like the ghostly curtain remnants
hanging limply on patterned walls.

 

Kilkenny Castle, photo ~ bj

Akin

I am but one minute speck
on the face of this earth,
the same countenance reflected
back to me in field and forest,
in the shriek of bats as well
as the sonar they emit,
the whistling and bellow of elk
as they descend from higher ground
for the winter, the piñon jays,
sapphire blue bodies so different
from their indigo Stellar relations,
gliding in for their morning seed;

When I peer into a body of water,
I see not a mirror, but a plethora
of faces of untold numbers
of creatures that dwell in the depths
as do I, in my own element;

Yet what is this element spoken of?
Is it the air I breathe? The earth
walked upon, the blazing fire
of the sun, cool slices of moonlight
or the quarter-sized drops
of rain that splash upon my forehead?

What am I, if not an assemblage
of all these components, sheathed
in the thinnest veil of skin,
so transparent that I can glimpse
blood coursing through a busy
network of veins, necessary waters
of my body, invisible synovial fluid
keeping joints in motion, bending
and lifting to the billionth degree,
work I have happily performed
since my youth, preparing
for winter, spring, summer, fall;

It’s all the same, here on the mountain
where life at altitude is as unpredictable
as nature can be anywhere, anytime,
only here it cannot be ignored,
and the garden thriving in the heat today
can be frost-encrusted by tomorrow
morning, who can predict?

This time last year, birds were falling
from the skies, a freak storm
that bent trees over double,
and some we lost while some grew back,
and isn’t that life? Is that not, at its root,
the existential distillation of our existence?

Our winter wood supply, so far. 2021

Coyote Blessing

When first I arrived ahead of him,
to put this new house in order
while he remained in Hawaii,
finishing up what needed done
in that place we had resided
for fifteen years, it was chaotic;

Covid had created seeds of disorder
that have now germinated
and sprouted into some sort
of angst-mongering monster,
sower of division, pitting fear
against dread, as humans question,
aloud or in private, the duration
of their own tenure here on earth,
stripped down to primal longings;

Sitting in this big ranch house,
back to the utter silence I craved
all those years on the islands,
surrounded again by forest and fields,
the glowing eyes of nighttime creepers,
tracks laid everywhere, elk, deer, turkeys
and other travelers, an alien weed
in fields of another’s familiar;

Lying in a bed left by prior occupants,
grateful for the gesture, yet not mine,
nothing ours, not yet, the tailings
of other soul paths, confusion accented
by harsh designs that agitated rather
than soothed my jangling heart;
and then it came, a series of yips
and howls, accompanied by a steady
bark, threaded with eerie whines
looping through, a mad conductor
whipping up a frenzied forest symphony;

Coyotes circled the house, not once
but several times, bark, bark, yip, yip
and that unhinged high-pitched wail,
a beau geste causing hair to rise
on my forearms, thrilling as it disturbed,
while my nerves settled, bit by bit,
as, like faeries in ancient fields,
they performed their welcoming ritual,
bringing me back to the ancient tones
inhabiting a once-tribal land;
and I laughed along with them, howling
like a madwoman, while the sound faded
out of range, having accomplished
whatever they came to do,
despite my own interpretations.

Our backyard forest, populated by the healing herb mullein. ~ b

River Thoughts

The river thunders, to no applause
in particular; rolls along, rippling
and eddying without thought
or expectation of feedback,
though I can’t help but think
all of nature thrives under
an appreciative gaze;

We once watched endangered
river otters cavorting in plain sight
just under the bridge of a much
larger river, we told no one;
fishermen dislike that they are forced
to share with these sleek creatures
we thought dolphins, when first
they caught our eyes,
out of context, having come
from Hawaii only recently;

Our smaller Vallecitos river is
magnificent in its own right,
rushing lifeblood to this struggling
ranching community, altitude
too high to receive much precipitation
in liquid form, preferring the snows
of winter, and those have been
in shortfall for years now, water levels
everywhere having dropped
precipitously, and with the decline
comes the invariable unrest
in people dependent on the bounty
of the land;

And so this rainy day is particularly
welcomed while the dampness
is in marked contrast to the bone dry
of the region, and as a fire blazes
in the hearth, ranch dogs lie fidgety
like grammar school children forced
inside for recess in inclement weather.

Mr. Peanut awaits what’s next

Squirrely

My stomach lurches and rises, falls
into complacency as I ponder events
of the morning, neighbors meeting
and greeting, my outward self effusive
whilst my insides struggle with parity,
and such is this life of introversion;

I yearn for the human experience,
all of it, and I constantly question
how to fit into the whole of it,
how others seem to manage,
socialization being a complication
long dealt with by a trained persona,
treasured heart-to-heart connections
all too rare and fleeting;

Still, I surely know my place is ever
to understand, to experience, integrate
an unforced and unconditional
acceptance, like or dislike stationed
alongside a badly needed unity
in this fractured human existence;

And then there are the squirrels,
my love of all creatures, even unto
feeling more akin to them than
to my own species, and yet
yesterday, one of these fat rodents
breached the garden wall, slipped
between wood and wire, destroying
newly sprouted seedlings, eating them
down to the roots, dahlia stripped
of too many leaves to survive, flowers
and lettuce decimated;

And I pondered guns and obliteration
and dens and tiny ones underground,
awaiting the return of an imagined parent,
and I simply do not know some days
who I am and what I represent at the core,
if not the celebration of all life, just
as the neighbors mentioned above offer
a live trap, options to relocate, a solution
not dreamt of at first, contributing
to the juxtaposition of confusion
and immense gratitude I feel nearly
every day for my fellow imperfect,
evolving human beings.

I know, it’s a chipmunk and not a squirrel. S/he is not the culprit spoken of ;

Gifts from The Middle of Nowhere

I had a poem queued up to post; it has been awhile and I am just now getting back to writing after months of settling into our new digs. And then things transpired that I wanted to share with you, dear readers. We bought this ranch last July in the midst of Covid, and still I wonder what our purpose might be in having been strongly guided here, far from our island home.

We are, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere like never before. Since arriving to the sounds of coyotes circling the house at dusk, elk leaving signs they had visited near our door, red tail hawks circling and flying, seeming to observe all we do, inside and out …

Then there was that time we sat in the upstairs bedroom, gazing out over the vast forests and fields, when a squirrel hopped out of the stately red cedar where we hang our bird feeders, onto the roof, only to have a hawk (The Hawk as she has come to be known) swoop down, scoop it up, stare intently at us on the other side of the window, and fly away, our mouths literally agape with wonder. It might seem a challenging place to ‘make a living,’ but most assuredly, this is The place to make a life for ourselves. For nature lovers like us, this high desert proves to be filled with undisputed wonder.

Shortly after arriving, walking up into the forest I spied a tiny horned toad that was easy to grasp and hold in the palm of my hand. Sauntering down into the fields months later, I scooped up not one, but two snake skins, one big, one small like mother and baby, mom showing junior how to slither out of his skin. In the midst of clearing brush, a huge older red tail hawk’s nest obviated itself in the midst of the dense, thorny growth. And through it all, there was The Hawk, circling and calling, circling and observing the goings-on on what is clearly her home turf. Yesterday she alighted in a nearby Ponderosa, invisible but keeeer-ing, all the same. I whistled back in imitation. She called again. I whistled. Chris was nearby, and said it was a call he never heard her use before. To my mind, she was clearly communicating for the sheer fun of it. Then there was the flicker at the feeder, and flicker feathers I find, here and there.

A couple of weeks ago, we were down clearing thorny scrub from the acequia (irrigation ditch the Spaniards dug by hand back in the 17th century; most are still in use today), when a herd of red cows with their babies materialized to watch us through the neighbor’s fence. I slowly walked up to them, cooing and cajoling, and one in particular, Number 50 as her ear tag displayed, seemed most curious and brave. She was skittish at first, but soon relaxed into chewing her cud. Days later whilst walking back uphill from the neighbor’s, I spied a red cow in our own fenced field. With me walking and Chris in the truck, we gently rounded her up and back into her own pasture, where her baby awaited to nudge and bump some milk from a slackening udder. All the time, her eyes were on us. I joked with Chris, saying she must have been beaming into our brains, ‘I need a break from this little brat!’ As we repaired the neighbor’s rugged fence section placed across the ditch, she wandered over to inspect. First she tried to broach it with her head, and when that didn’t work, she leaned her considerably bulk into it, to no avail. We thought that was that.

Yet this morning, we awoke not to the usual bird song, but to a protracted ‘mooooo,‘ coming from just outside the window. She seemed to have sensed our regard, for she turned on her heels and slowly made her way across seven acres of field, back to the herd. When we went to inspect our fence line repairs, nothing seemed amiss. But one could see how she had found a corner of the ditch fence portion and somehow tucked under it. Both ways. After further repairs, we’ll see what awaits us tomorrow morning. But frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to rise and see her munching outside our window, once again.

Where the elk left their gifts.
Elk far in the distance.
The acequia – the cows materialized at the end of this stretch.
Elk – again, far away in the neighboring field.
Flicker at the feeder.
Baby ‘horny toad.’

Neap

The snow pulls free from the pines,
islands of bare ground begin surfacing,
a young fox appears at the bird feeder,
huge flocks of wild turkeys gather
in the field below, males fanning tails
out, ever aware, movement, sound
causing them to rise into crisp blue air,
straining to gain altitude, then gone
up and over the rocky hill where elk
traverse and wildcats hunker down
in their stony caves;

Ice cracks and breaks and the river flows
once again, days warm and thaw, nights
freeze over, mindful walking essential
in this seasonal landscape as we cull
the dead and down for firewood, pile
limbs into giant gumdrop structures,
ready for tomorrow’s torch;

These things I have noticed
since moving here seven months ago,
and what I have learned is to
find the rhythm, meet the day, open
to untroubled possibilities alongside
others simply living out our days
in circadian heartbeats, while the fate
of humanity hangs in the balance
of a dying Order gasping like fish cast
high upon sandy shoals,
waiting for the smallest of neap tides
to once again turn in its favor.