La Même Chose

When I gaze out over the field
and spot a herd of elk, which
upon closer inspection
is really only distant
sagebrush; when I, in a flash
lasting no longer than a
millisecond, see my own body
as a juniper tree, I no longer
question it;

We are all made of the same
elements derived from this earth,
and I can be forgiven if I confuse
a log for a prairie dog’s alert body,
facing toward the sun,
a Muslim bowing toward Mecca.

Contemplations under the juniper and piñons ~ bj

Filling the Void

Some things are not meant to be,
though I still save space for them,
not knowing divine timing
or even my own mind sometimes,
and what is this compulsion
to occupy perceptual emptiness,
is it simply creativity seeking
a natural outlet, the crashing surf
carving out caves on Mt. Desert’s
rugged shoreline or the smoothing
of lava rock at the base of Halawa’s
thundering waterfall?

I can wish, and in wishing
place my desires on the altar
of possibilities, then forget them
if I am wise, releasing attachment
to outcome, opening time’s parachute
upside-down, the beggar’s empty cup
yawning with space minus the desperation
of those truly in need of wish fulfillment;

Meanwhile the two empty chairs sitting
next to and caddy corner from mine
leave room for those yet to arrive, and even
they do not know, anymore than I, what seats
will be occupied when and where
in the near or distant future;

Imagine my surprise then when, one day
and least expected, the fulfillment
of those forgotten desires returns to gladden
or to haunt, depending (be careful
what you wish for); the unexpected visitor
materializes, and I am left to wonder
at which juncture I might have yearned
for such an encounter, prepared or not.

Wisdom Watch

On the gentle winds that swirl around,
I hear the echoes of past, present, future,
voices of the ancestors, whispers
only the smallest attenuated bones
of a dog’s ear can hear, but:

Listen;

Just under the threshold of consciousness,
word images form, wisdom that comes
in an archaic language long forgotten,
and yet in dreams, understood;

Extraordinary hearing is not necessary,
only the desire to attend to prompts
normally screened out, leaving most
unaware of their existence, which does
not invalidate them;

Ignorance is a thing disregarded,
still, simply because one does not
Believe, does not make anyone smarter,
reveals, in fact, an unwillingness to accept
the viewpoints of others;

Listen.

Learn. Wisdom can be taught,
but not if one’s ears are shut.

 

Complementary

Awake in the pre-dawn, the fields look empty,
vast; wild creatures have long claimed the night,
daytime unsafe for them in the company
of our species, and I know somewhere out there
is a fox leaping onto a rodent, a bear padding
toward her den in the nearby hills, mountain lion
retreating to the mountain cliffs she considers home;

Stars slowly fade as light emerges, tentative at first,
the black and white world retreating,
pattern repeated for as long as memory holds,
a glimmer, then a glow, and finally shifting gears
into daylight, shadows retreating, colors emerging
as if from slumber themselves, and I wonder;

If we are here to witness these cycles, to sync
our bodies in rhythm with those of the planet,
how is it so many court discord, mayhem,
dark against light, light denying dark,
when the brilliance of midday lacks contours,
thus interest, to my own camera lens?

Deep

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 turn away
(were it even possible) 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 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, and opportunity lies
in discovering wonders of a pine forest far
from lake or ocean. I must ponder more deeply
the meaning of water.

Photo taken in Kohala, Hawaii

Exposed

Things will never be what they once were, yet haven’t these pandemic times been a needed shakedown of colossal proportions? A viral reminder that sameness, routine, even the time of a ticking clock are all human constructs, illusions we have gathered around us, bright individuated cloaks of security; still there is no comfort in the thin shrouds in which we now find ourselves clad, shivering in our newfound quasi-nakedness, and suddenly the formerly faceless man or woman pandering on the street corner seems eerily familiar;

Springtime in New Mexico is a blustery affair, Stellar Jays flying sideways, Black Vultures swept up high, then low on colliding thermals, protection sought in tall Ponderosas, time to gather what acumen they possess in order to move on, survival keeping them close to Mother Nature’s bones, and the main difference between those avians and us is that they sense their bit of earth and range within the scheme of it, there is no desire for more, nor longing for what might have been;

Hubris is the sole bane of the human species, and if Covid has served us well, it has been to level the playing field, teach us in a kinesthetic way the folly of self importance, demonstrating under a magnifying glass how alike we are to the man under the cop’s knee, unto the fears of the cop himself; shaking us down and down until we can see all others within our own psyches, and it is only then that we glimpse how akin we are to what’s outside the bubble of comfort and even how interdependent we are with all of it; a tiny virus has randomly crossed racial barriers, oceans, continents and economic strata to reach into the soul of things and root out our deepest fears, and if we remain strong, grounded and focused, the winds of change sure to blow many off-course cannot penetrate even the sparsest of garments;

And so we wait, cultivating patience where before it may have been lacking; we live, laugh, love and grieve with those we have come to know far better in this pause of shut-down, unmasked in the face of a new intimacy while we breathe in the gift of life, feeling gratitude for all we have been given; then it’s back to the Garden, where we get our hands dirty as we mindfully match pace now with nature’s rhythms, the inevitable awakening into a season of buds and bright blossoms; and eventually, in harmony now with All That Is, perceived Serpents included, we may finally reap the long-awaited harvest.

Acequias, or irrigation ditches, were hand dug all through New Mexico by the conquering Spaniards. Beginning in the 1600’s up until present day, these have been used to irrigate fields in this dry country.

Wide Open

An avalanche or a rockslide cleaves sharply
from its origins; boulders of perception tumbling,
tumbling, thundering carelessly over terrain
flinching passively; unexpected projectiles
lodging fragments into storied ice;

Millennial madness, and it drives and it falls
as it plummets and crumbles into heaps of rubble
and debris, like emotions or grief lodging
sideways into DNA;

Choreographed over ages too wide and deep
to fathom, mountains draw themselves
down toward the sea; humans carelessly careen
into one another, conductors of orchestrated
imaginings wanting to fasten on,
as the ground slips away, and away.

Photos of the Rio Grande Gorge taken on Christmas Day, 2000 

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.

Buddha and the Effigy

A vast ocean casts itself
into view, each wave thunders
to shore as if it had
always known; black sand
responding, surrendering
to the current, an entire
unseen world existing
under the sea.

I don’t even recognize
who looks out from my eyes
some days, I know so little,
perhaps it’s god or something
like it, trying hard
to get through;

If the soul does not exist
as some Buddhists say,
what lies beyond the body,
what unifying presence
holds worlds together?
Maybe Siddhartha had
a blind spot, too;

In the end, does it matter
if we summon what is sacred
from within or without?

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.