Too Soon Gone

Where on earth do I belong?
I have taken up space on this orb
for nearly seventy years, many
of these spent in utter confusion,
lost to myself, leaving many
others to wonder, who is this being?
As if I, myself held the answers,
aware of my motivations, I did not;

And I get it, perhaps I am not solitary
in these musings, perhaps it is a product
of age and experience, duration
in a life spent with memories,
reflections, condensation of thirty-
five years of living in the Maine woods,
a home my heart returns to endlessly,
though those days are gone forever;

Even if I could return, I would not,
desecrated forests, polluted waters
where once I swam and floated
without human observation,
contemplating the brilliance
of streaming light from heavenly bodies
not yet emerging into view, swimming
with loons, their young paddling
behind parents, my future not something
I contemplated, rather encountered
often haltingly, day by day, headlong
and too often blindly as if rushing
into blackness, life happening to me,
instead of crafting it, shaping it
into a thing of my own choosing;

And now I sit, watching clouds gather,
listening to birds and the distant thump
of a garbage truck going about its run,
collecting refuse we cannot use,
all the detritus left as a product
of living in the twenty-first century,
too many people, how has it come
to this where, despite wilderness
surrounding me, my thoughts drift
constantly to the unnecessary waste,
not only refuse, but resentments, pain
of those growing up, not knowing years
in human form are precious and short,
building castle walls of separation,
unforgiveness, and it will be gone without warning to all of us, in the blinking eyes left to observe what once seemed an endless, open, uncluttered road of possibilities.

High desert sky, northern New Mexico, 2022 ~ bj

Rattlesnake Encounters

I get that fear is genuine. We have just emerged from two years of it gripping not just people, but countries and the global community as we reacted to news of a pandemic. It became a real test of character and an opportunity to reflect on how we receive information. Are we plugged into media for our news, or are we trusting our inner compass, our guidance, our instincts? Who are we, and what are we made of? Are we so afraid that, in the belief that we are keeping ourselves and others safe, we became as schoolyard bullies? But this post is not about ‘that.’ It is about how aware we are of our own fear, and how we manage it, or at its worst manifestation, how we allow it to control our lives.

Fear is the instinct these bodies were equipped with in order to ensure the perpetuation of our species. All creatures possess it, each to their kind. We react, and the difference between a human reaction and an animal’s is complex. All reside here on this planet, and just because we can eliminate another’s life due to our fear of it doesn’t make it right. Yet many do not even ask critical questions of themselves, though I am quite certain Indigenous people did, and many still do.

Late yesterday afternoon, I was drawn to sit on the steps leading to our front garden area. Daylight was waning, clouds were billowing and amassing as they do this time of year, and after hours in the hot sun giving the bigger trees a deep drink in the midsummer heat, those steps were calling me. As I settled onto the flagstone, something obviated itself in the corner of my vision. My body reacted for a flash, no longer, a visceral startle response, and I did not make more of it, did not escalate it into fight or flight panic. I realize we all have control over this escalation, yet many are like one of those cars that goes from zero to sixty in six seconds. Instinct, fear, panic, reaction. Humans are, as I say, perhaps the most complex species. We are so confused with undefined and unconscious fears that we have driven thousands of unique and beautiful species of animals from this earth.

I realized I had a visitor. Well, hello, friend, I said in a quiet voice. The visitor looked at me with similar curiosity, no doubt, and we sat in silence and allowed one another time and space to adjust. We are both creatures who like our space, I mused, not that dissimilar or unusual in that respect. And yes, this small one possesses the power to kill, as do I. It doesn’t have to define this moment, or any other. After a bit longer, the rattler pulled its head back, not to strike, but to redirect its body into a turn, and it glided off toward the rock wall, making its way slowly, as do I when in new surroundings, as s/he settled under a low-lying shrub for what I suspected was the evening.

Earlier in the day, our dogs were in their large enclosure, and they would not stop barking. Last time this happened, a large bull snake had decided their hay bed was a nice cool place to spend the day. Chris emerged from his shop, and I from the house, as we walked to their yard to determine what was agitating them. As we approached, we heard a rattle. If you have never heard this sound, it is pretty unusual, and unique to the species that claims it. I am small, and I am just as afraid of you as you are of me! Please give me space to determine my next move! There s/he was, curled up in Peanut’s hay bed, eyes bright, rattle erect and vibrating. We released the dogs to relocate to the house, and I spent a moment communicating to the snake that it needed to find another place to hang out. An hour later, I checked and it was gone. Later that evening, I believe it was the same creature who met me in the garden.

This morning, Peanut was again uneasy. Chris walked around the corner of the house and came upon the rattler and a mouse, clinging to the rock wall above it. We had been setting traps and checking all the minute places where rodents might gain access to the inner walls of the house in exactly this corner. Nature knows we abhor killing when there are other options, and now this. I don’t believe I am imagining that the snake appeared as our rodent trap, providing her/him food whilst eliminating some of our rodent issues. Last year, we had rodents chewing wires under the hoods of our vehicles. A prairie rattler, same variety as the one I speak of here, took up residence under a pile of stacked lumber.

I know some might fear snakes, spiders, jellyfish, whatever. All I am asking is that people explore the origin of these fears, and consider the options of peaceful coexistence on a planet already in crisis due to the care-less actions of our species. In the immortal words of Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”

 

Our morning visitor ~ bj 2021

Dark to Light

From the dark ocean to the lighter skies
of New Mexico, Mother Earth remains
my focus, my love, my joy;

It took awhile to learn different soils,
rich loam to clay and sand, mysterious
deep sea waters to high altitude desert,
cradled by Ponderosa and piñon forests,
and yes, a river runs through it,
though not like it used to,
this is dry country, interspersed
by monsoon rains, brittle brown landscape
highlighted with hues of verdant green
now looking more like New England
in the summer as I plant, now trees,
shrubs, now a greenhouse garden
so that we might sustain ourselves
on bitter greens throughout long
cold winters;

A friend I met years ago in Hawai’i
told me, upon discovering our intent
to move from the islands to the Southwest
years ago and sensing my distress at
not being on or near big bodies
of water for the first time in my life,
don’t worry! In New Mexico,
the ocean is the sky!
And how that comes to be true,
I cannot begin to convey; more
and different varieties of clouds
than anywhere I have been, sweeping
and sliding through crystal azure heavens,
and even in midwinter as temps dip
down below freezing night and morning,
at mid-day under the brilliance
of stark sunlight, it is easy to peel
back the layers and work in shirt sleeves;

And if I have learned nothing else
in this blessed life, it is that, given time,
any place putting me close to the ground
of this alluring planet is sacred, and if its spirit
has been damaged, it takes little time
and care to reveal its essence, once again.

 

David Austin rose “Bathsheba”
– grown and photographed by bj ~ 2022

Lakeside

Have you ever heard something fall
under water, the dull scrape
of a fishing weight onto granite rock,
the drag, fisherman on the surface,
oblivious to you hiding, suspended
alongside dull mossy green bass,
still and not struggling between
crevasses of boulders, tumbled by time
into that glacial abyss; now tugging
his thin nylon line free, only to break
calm waters to cast again, this time
perhaps successfully;

The shafts of brilliant sunlight
as they pierce the shimmering pond,
how they illuminate that same boulder,
glint of metal on stone, almost too startling
for limited vision, breath taken in order
to descend, lungs now burning,
foolish gill-less fish, unable to remain
submerged indefinitely;

And now I rest under the bluest sky,
breathing in, exhaling that thin mountain air
without effort, cracking of beaks breaking seed
or the snoring of dogs, discerning sounds
as if in command of my own destiny, which,
as we know, is as indistinct a fabrication
as those distant lakeside conjurings.

Pause

There is a pause, before the rosy light of evening
blinks her last, as fragile hummingbirds cease
their whirling dance around feeders
and the incessant cackle of jays, the waterfall
trilling of blackbirds, retreat to the deep arms
of the forest as night creatures emerge
from hiding to seek sustenance;

Can they comprehend, these young progeny,
how invisible luminous threads connect us,
one to the other, in the busyness of the everyday,
illusions that prop up economies, small dramas
of striving toward loves we sustain patiently
without question, the push and pull drawing them
toward consciousness or away from the light?

Coyotes howl in the distance, owls softly hoot
in snags across the road, insects scurry about
seeking their own forms of shelter and it is
so simple, these rhythms of the cosmos,
the silent grinding whirl of planets in orbit,
moon and sun taking turn in the daily business
of living, the opening and closing of days
and lifetimes.

Piñon Jay, New Mexico ~ bj

Turn on Your Heart Light

The heart is a lonely hunter, soaring
high above, taking the long view,
eyes ever sharp, focused on the objects
of its affection, and yet in flying free,
never asks another to suffer bonds;
Still, heart without head can be
an isolated experience; some of us,
you know, have little choice
in the matter, we are simply called
to another realm beyond logic
with which the world seems entranced;

Perhaps this is why I am beguiled
by the redtails who hunt here,
setting down whatever I am doing
to contemplate with rapture
as they glide, formidable
gaze missing nothing of import
to them anyway, landing heavily
to stand, thick wings mantling
and flexing, muscular thighs poised
to run down what they cannot grasp
in that free-falling dive, oh!

The patience of these majestic ones
as they hover over a prairie dog hole,
waiting a seeming eternity for something
to emerge as it will, sometimes;
I admire them as I do no human being,
the wild animal soul suffers no fools
as does the heart, where it suits,
the mind’s record keeper absent
or sleeping, tucked away in an old
musty library somewhere, lost
in rumination, weighing rights
and slights and caring not at all
about connections so fragile
they might cease to exist altogether.

Red tail hawks hunting in our field, northern NM ~ bj

Under the Quiet

Golden showers stream down
in dappled luminescence,
crescent slivers of fragrant
eucalyptus leaves
and she sits, no distraction
save the gurgle of a coppery-
bottomed meandering brook,
sparkling and nosing its way
through giant boulders
rolled into place long
before flows were choked back
to mere trickles, still it exudes
contentment, beauty;

She wonders at the silence
under the silence, what is the
texture of a thing unseen?
Too fine a vision has gotten her
in trouble more than once,
overactive imagination
they called it yet it persists,
and her mind can’t stop wondering
if there is this, than there must
be that, something deeper
in the woven shadows of trees,
the hollows of husky trunks,
the shapes of billowing clouds,
themselves harbingers of light
released from cerulean skies
in the form of diamond drops,
lustrous liquid giving off
the only sound in a world
once silent as grass,
or the thoughts that plague
her now.

Mana Rd., Big Island HI ~ 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?

Closing the Gap

Stay in the distance, watch the light,
it is all you need; It is all I ever craved,
this meeting with light imbued forms,
spirit beings that visited me when young,
floating up the canyon, me standing
small, eagerly awaiting that reunion;

The Church would have called them
evil, figments of imagination,
not recognizing anything outside
their own proscribed reality, black books, old
white men directing men, women standing
ever on the outside looking in, told they are
crucial, a support system for the Patriarchs,
though heaven forbid this was disclosed
directly;

So women remained background images,
baking cookies, cross stitching pictures,
singing hymns, and I yearned
for any other life, free from this
indentured servitude in a nylon body
suit slit for necessary procreation,
bouncing baby after baby
on bruised knees, tender from all
that bowing and scraping;

Yes, if it was sin, I was all for it,
liberty to make my own mistakes,
free from castigation, worthy, I knew,
in the eyes of Creation, never believing
myself otherwise, and I made many
painful choices, yet here I sit, whole
in my own person, still questioning,
still wondering, day after day,
at the purpose of it all;

Will humanity survive, and if it does,
I can assure you, it will not be because
we all filed into neat lines, but rather
because we burst free from imagined
constraints to discover, as if for the
first time, the wonders awaiting us
each day we draw breath, seeds cast
everywhere by Earth herself, and us,
in open-eyed wonder, finally deciding
to tend them as if all life hinged
on their germination.

desert sunset, BJ