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.

Futuristic

When the spin slows down to a pin-drop lull,
and time moves forward, collapses,
telescopic Trickster demonstrating the folly
of what most consider solid;
When accepted illusion no longer holds sway,
capturing the monkey mind in sticky spider web
trappings of its own making;

All synapses point click to Now, as perhaps
they always have done, and what can be said?
How can this finger snap in time be configured
into sentences, concepts, a thing written down
and shared, how can word forms be crafted,
steps away from that immediacy
(as they are bound to be), concept wired
to mind controlling hands on keys, eyes
riveted now on print moving?

One day, perhaps, telepathy will become
accepted, sweeping elephantine humanity
into a prismatic jet stream, speed of light
transmitting what is now thus laboriously
midwifed into being.

 

‘Cauldron of Creation” ~ Bela Johnson

In Memory of the Still Living

There are confusing encounters
leaving one gasping for breath,
the mind grasping for understanding;
such is the nature of life and death,
the latter being more recent
in my world of experience;

I eschew addictions, just as they
are sought to resolve what seems
unfathomable to others, and I know
in this life I am meant to demonstrate
more understanding than my petulant
inner child might conjure;
still, it is the most natural direction
in which to gravitate these days,
the world being as unknowable now
as it was then,
and who am I to judge?

Thus when I see this precious one,
once strong and vital, now weak
and yellow and skeletal and all
this happening in the span of a year
in a life too short to be terminal,
feelings arise, and more and yet
more questions on the meaning
of existence;

This time last year, we were wrangling
with thorny bushes that had become
trees, both cursing, he more ardently,
as this was not his first rodeo
in these mountains, and yet there was
laughter, good humor, companionship
of then-strangers taking the measure
of the other’s character;

Loved ones gather now, and I feel
not at all out of place in this tiny trailer
amidst people of a culture I don’t need
to understand; the old man’s body
the main event in the living room,
surrounded by photos of the past,
and who could know fifty years ago
how fate would hold them now
in its thrall?

Two weeks ago, he seemed empty
of life, yet his spirit still felt strong;
today that spirit had its due;
jaundice had receded, and flesh
had mysteriously begun reassembling
on his bones, and once again I marvel
at the same sorts of questions
I have asked all my life,
how does the journey begin
to make sense in the face
of what we are dealt?

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.

 

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

Possibilities

On the opposite side of my heart
lies an echo chamber of silence
where tiny bats dive and swoop,
clearing invisible pathways
in the open skies for those who fly
by day; this pitch black of night
finds deep comfort within me;

As light emerges from shadows,
sweeping them away as dust
from corners of a vast room,
the heart engages, pumps greater
volumes of life force, stretches out
to encompass all the eye surveys,
holding it close in order to enfold fully
as might be, before all is compromised
by those who suffer from lack of beauty
and seek to destroy what is sacred;

And obvious to any who treasure this
earth so, is the magic beheld in the space
between spaces, the cracks in the fabric
of accepted reality, eyes that see beyond
daylight into the soul’s frontiers,
a dimensional shift where beauty is
all there is, gazing deeply into everything
where others may perceive nothing,
a deep river of potentialities and a place
where all is possible in the realm
of grace and pure love.

Split

It’s a new day, and I awaken tired,
having not slept much; perceiving the fear
of the collective, the hum of impending
doom, as a worldwide virus continues
to mutate, according to a greater plan
than we can imagine, and the vaccinated
among us may actually be more culprit
than cure, causing an explosion
of variants to proliferate;

We are a world accelerated beyond any
means possible, faster is better, internet
warp speed lives, packages replacing hands
in earth, chemical drinks in cans replacing
pure water, food sources separated
from our bodies by poisonous fertilizers,
distance and desire, fresh tropical fruits
delivered in winter, shipped green to ripen
by gasses in warehouses,
and how can this offer nourishment
to strengthen our immunities?

I watch sick native people in our community,
addicted to alcohol and worse; soda, canned
food and the hypnosis of television, vulnerable
to viruses, partisan news and soul sickness,
shamans of old far from their rightful place
as healers in the scheme of things, bowed
and beaten into submission by priests,
bent into homogeneity by the white man’s schools,
forced into dubious medicine designed to fight
perceived disease rather than working
with the rhythms of the body and Mother Earth,
and they are dropping like flies, one by one
or in groups, whole families murdered
by their own offspring, a sad fallout
to the speed and separation our species
was never meant to cope with;

I am a generally optimistic person,
yet I am also sensitive to the greater
vibrations of earth and her creatures, humans
among them, caught now in a crux
of our own making, having so thoroughly
trashed our perfect planet with the byproducts
of instant gratification, that we are faced
with Holocene extinction;

Make no mistake, these are perilous times,
and yet we must somehow be able
to help ourselves and others to what extent
we are able, to remain centered and focused,
in order to best know how to move forward
in spite of it all;

And so we retreat, again and again,
to our beautiful high mountain vista
with its varied wildlife, who seem
not to have a care in the world,
survival their primary mandate,
as it has been since their time began;

And yet last fall, a freak snowstorm
and cold snap caused songbirds to fall
from the skies dead; the raptors are
as mysteriously absent as bodies
of water, while wildfires rage over most
of the West, and it is hard to ignore
the fallout of our Creation,
not being gods in the least,
so much to learn, so much to lose.

BJ photo – Polar bear, Albuquerque Zoo, as its natural home in the arctic becomes more imperiled by the day.

Breathe

Mysterious new things move
to the cadence of nature’s drum,
the cry of destruction loudly rings;
Aloha aina, care for the land,
it matters not where we choose
to root ourselves, the mandate
is the same: we must return
to the Garden, discover innocence 
lost when simple was subsumed
by life so complex that some days
I wonder how long I can manage it,
threads frayed, threatening to unravel;

Yet when I walk out into messy,
immerse my hands in soil, work
at amending what has been stripped
by too many years of consumption
without consideration, my spirit calms,
settles into what is there in front of me,
head not spiraling out into orbit, here.
And now, now, now;

This is what we are given, this moment,
breathing in, then out, listen to the
heartbeat of nature; observe
with a raptor’s eyes all that surrounds,
notice the little things, the seemingly
unimportant, purpose-less details
in a world fixed on production,
and learn; for we might well need
that sort of knowledge in the days
to come.

Photo taken on our ranch. This Redtail Hawk watches over us,
observes everything we do. Pretty cool.

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

Hairball

Driving to the post office two miles
down the road, a camouflaged coyote sits,
watching traffic go by, head swiveling
to and fro, ears perking up when I spot her,
and we think we speak different languages;

Yesterday as I approached our mountain home,
a female elk stood in the center of the road
she was crossing, long enough to inspect the car,
the occupant, who knows, I am not a fan
of anthropomorphisms, and yet I did take note;

It is in nature I feel most at home; still, the danger
during these pandemic times is that I might
once again forget I am part of the human race,
having learned the importance of community
only recently in this long life;

I think I am alone with these strangling feelings,
I think I am free inside myself and yet,
during yesterday’s drive, zoning out as the miles
ticked by, I felt an orb of release, like coughing
up a hairball, and it was solid as the golf balls
we kids used to crack open, only to discover miles
of something like rubber bands,
as unlike the ball’s shiny dimpled exterior
as guts are to the face we show the world;

And so these inner fibers, once released by inside
or outside forces stretch and rebound, extend out
and return to me, as they have done, year upon year,
remaining unchanged unless, that is, I alter
something perceived, an old pattern or habit, thus
unsticking the bonds that solidify them within.

©Bela Johnson 2021