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

Etheric

ETHERIC

Activate, move! Directions barely registered
in that middle place between worlds;
life in the ethers more familiar, more desirable
than this constant adjusting; bold when she
should choose circumspection; equally
withdrawn when action seems desirable,
imperative even, in the face of those who wait,
feigning patience as though expecting something,
anything, while she remains frozen inside,
tears rolling down pale cheeks, filling roles
chosen by others so that she might survive
the duration of some unknown tenure;

When finally it arrives, that inner direction spills
in surges, haltingly familiar as once-bluster,
then streaming forth clear as spring water,
filling chasms in the incomplete puzzle
form she inhabits, firming up pathways once
simply perceived, interstitial patterns, linked codes
scattered randomly in pitch dark possibilities;

Some say a path is chosen, while others claim
destiny guides, yet in the end (which is likewise
a beginning), one is motivated by forces
only barely understood much less named;
so a deity arises to fill that void, our human need
to attribute, a magic mirror to ask and receive,
and all is well and right; sense is restored, proper
place and timing imbued with meaning,
while mystery, in all its splendor, endures.

Unity

The sea rolls out and cannot pause long before
once again seeking the safety of the shoreline;
children leave home until they sprout sturdy wings
of their own, only to one day return older,
perhaps wiser, with appreciation of rootstock
and richness of the nurturing ground;

Fingers of the infinite, we jump ship and land
on foreign soil, forgetting, longing to return
to that One Magnificent Tree from which billions
of branches have cleaved;

Yet why do we yearn for reunion before we have
fully experienced the capacity and magnitude
of a multidimensional self which ever informs
the One, expanding it, enlarging its own ability
to conceive a more colorful body of light?

Oncoming, Ongoing

I don’t know how I swallowed the myth
that life would ease with age, itself,
the oncoming traffic of debts
and obligations never slows; in fact
it seems sped up as we work at carving
out time away to regain sanity lost
in forgetting that all is illusion;
still, the gift of distance allows us
to recapture tender moments that now seem
luxurious in the face of ongoing fatigue;

Meanwhile the lens of memory narrows
until I can view naught but the carefree,
the careworn falling away into mist,
an idyllic life in the woods on a lake
and the ability to shut the world out
once I turned down that dirt road;
the young mother I was then, growing up
alongside my girls as I watched
them pull away into worlds and circles
of their own, bit by bit, until college
conveyed them to a distant shore
for the remainder, running headlong
into partners and jobs and college debt
as their own pirouettes began turning
in the dance of independent creation;

Now I find my own rhythms in gardens
or creating art, meditation in motion,
an outlet for emotion; still I ponder
escape, a prisoner in Paradise, even
as the fount of gratitude fills
back to overflowing and imagining
a better life anywhere else dissolves,
the image shattering, the tinkling glass
falling in shards around my feet
as I pick up the fragments of my future
to compose them into a mosaic
for visions yet to be apprehended.

Travelogue 1: Pacific Northwest Revisited

I am disinclined to travel these days, preferring to remain in the half-acre gardens I have created with my own hands these past five years. Yet on the spur of the moment, I agreed to a three-week house and pet sitting gig for dear friend in one of my favorite places to visit, the Pacific Northwest. Being springtime, I knew the weather might be dicey. But after surges of early summer heat in Hawaii, I was looking forward to some relief.

Lucky for me I adapted fairly quickly, taking a couple of days to rest and acclimate, going from needing seventy degrees indoors to keep my teeth from chattering and my muscles from tightening up to sixty-five two days later, then simply let the temperature be what it would be. Four days from my arrival, the sun broke through predictably platinum skies.

Every day so far, I have gone out hiking. Old growth forests draw me in with their majestic beauty; beaches, though breezy and quite chilly this time of year, offer expanses of space in which to contemplate horizons yet to be realized, literally and figuratively. I never know what to expect from solitude in unfamiliar places, and this journey shook me down further, rattling out fears and patterns not usually obvious in my everyday routine. It’s good to dislodge the demons, to venture forth and discover that life perpetually surprises.

When I travel, I follow my nose whenever possible. Being lost brings me the most interesting adventures. The first place I stumbled upon was a beach in the early morning, a lone older man sitting in a folding chair close to the shoreline, fishing pole propped in the sand, stiff wind notwithstanding. I walked a few hundred feet toward him, but he seemed disinclined to chat, likely preferring the solitude I, myself treasure. As I turned to go, an eagle swooped over my shoulder, seagulls in screaming hot pursuit. The harassment likely annoyed the eagle who was doubtlessly tending a nest nearby. Houses lined the upper portion of the beach, separated by a buffer of driftwood typical in this part of the world. The eagle landed on a familiar rooftop and I knew this because of the streaks of white dribbling from the ridgeline. Anchored in strong talons, she began tearing apart the fish she had caught, and was left alone for a few minutes until one persistent scavenger alighted a few feet behind her. Having had enough at that point, she fled to the tall conifers. And I returned to my rental car, switched on Apple Maps to figure out where I’d gotten to, and headed out to hike a nearby forest trail.

iPhone shots taken from a distance are not ideal. Still, you can see the snow-capped Cascade Mountain Range, a cropped shot of the fisherman, and a crop of the rooftop eagle.

Jewel

Be the hero of your own life,
gathering disparate threads
as a spider weaves her tapestry
into patterns collected in perfect
symmetry, harnessing dewdrops
of morning, bright dawn
of a new day;

Bending not breaking
through the winds of change,
then radiating like a hundred facets
of a brilliant jewel in the glimmer
of the sun’s first rays.

All photos taken in Sydney Harbor, AU. Playing with jeweled light.
© Bela Johnson

Scraps

Do not torture yourself with what-if’s,
unknown to you now or in future times,
mind-blowing images the result
of imagination in overdrive, time to regroup,
redirect into something worthwhile;

Humans are creative beings who do not
do well when long sated, beacon-like rays
of mental anguish beaming fore and aft,
searchlights meant to discover what lurks
in the shadows of dissimulation;

We all go thence, mindfulness is telling,
indulging fantastical ruminations
in the lax moments of a perfect day;
Better to dwell upon beauty in unexpected
places, focus on wind and weather,
the wet noses of dogs and the crumbling
of fertile soil, bending palms in waning light
or perfectly veined golden birch leaves
dropping onto crystal-encrusted ground;

I will never cease asking questions
despite education to the contrariness
of Whys, neverending hamster wheel
of insanity yet still I query, Why this life?
To what purpose the suffering?
I have read abundant teachings,
there is merit in all wisdom,
little snippets meant for stitching, warp
and woofing into wonder meant to comfort
both our bodies on the coldest winter night.