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.

A Day for The Earth

There are snapshots in time, places where
one feels the eyes scratching over the surface
of some offensive scene, cymbals clashing
inappropriately during a tender interlude,
spell dissolved in the cacophony, never
to return again free of that memory;

Then there are backdrops nature paints
without premeditation, figures juxtaposed
against a canvas that can only contribute
to the light in one’s own eyes, the numinous
shining through, and I know in the center
of my bones that we must preserve this place,
its atmosphere beyond measure or means
by which we could precisely calibrate
how our human impact has contributed
to its degradation;

All we have is now, no time for regret,
rather embrace what we can do from
this moment into moments mounding,
overlapping, mindfully repeating
like a prayer to infinity.

All photos ©2019 Bela Johnson

Wound Mending

The crescent mark left by a garden knife
is slowly mending, unresisting as I cleave
yet another lifted layer of my own skin
from its center until a proper feeling
of softness returns to adjacent banks
of that once-jagged riverbed;

Like one’s own feelings repeatedly
disregarded, trauma inflicted by those
unaware of consequences, of actions
and words cast carelessly about
like roadside refuse, transformation
taken back by my own hands becomes
a thing of beauty, weaving words
into textiles for the fabric
of the soul, spinning veils
of verbiage into mantles fit
for undefended hearts.

No Vanity

There is green, and then there is the delicate
curled chartreuse ribs of a fern frond
as sunlight trips fantastic through the rhythm
and hum of a late afternoon, busiest time of day
for folding in fragments of lost time in preparation
for the long shadows of impending nightfall;

Meanwhile peachy colored bell-shaped blossoms
drop from angel trumpet trees, hibiscus hybrids
twist tight their once-riotous display and do
not contemplate whether enough eyes
have witnessed the shade or texture of what has,
for them, taken not inconsiderable time and effort
to pull together for all who would witness,
setting the stage for a repeat performance
on tomorrows yet to come, bold beauties
on parade, regardless.

Coast

When the silver spool of dawn unravels
in languorous wisps, as clouds unfurl low
and wide in the overhead sky, my gaze sweeps
broadly and what I behold is the artist’s palette
come to life, a masterpiece with every dawning
and dusky day while the earth spins slowly
on her axis, oceans holding fast to the anchor
of gravity, fathoms of depth containing secrets
they intend to keep for eternity, horizon bending
at the ends, not level as many presume;

Soon a stark light prevails, flattens out,
shadows vanish as too-bright colors define
this segment of day, creatures move or retreat
as befits patterns held by generations of their kind,
minutes tick somewhere in cities and towns,
bells toll, hands of giant timepieces click into place
ticking time with the pace of that frantic life,
while elsewhere the sleek white neck of a swan
settles into its downy shoulders to paddle serenely
around the cool mossy waters of a still,
reflective pond.

Photos ©Bela Johnson

Loving the World

My Instagram post this morning quoted Mary Oliver, “My work is loving the world.”

Despite what the day brings, and sometimes it seems overwhelming, could there be anything more meaningful? When the floor slips out from under my feet and I fall like Alice down the rabbit hole, I can be certain I will eventually land on solid ground. And it is this ground of my existence I trust.

Enjoy these sunrise photos I took of Pololu Valley. Aloha. Be well.

The Teaching

THE TEACHING

Schooled to the rigors of religion, if I took nothing else away
from those origins it was faith; faith that a child’s prayers
would be answered by forces unseen, and I took root
in that faith like fieldstone, anchoring my small body in cracks
and crevasses formed by flooding time, a snake secreting low
and tight, protection sought in the shade of midday,
giving nothing away, not a breath, shutting out the discord
of voices, dissonant sounds that soothed the ears of others
with that tinge of the familiar;

Sitting in newly-mown grass, breathing in the herbaceous bouquet,
eyes attuned to breaks in the pattern, movement underneath,
always underneath, what moved in shadow most fascinated,
pill-bugs rolling tight when threatened, millipedes threading
through miniature thickets, grasshoppers navigating the tangle,
smell of damp pungent earth drawing eyes and nose closer,
seeking level with a world unto itself, and I never ceased cringing
while watching careless feet stomping thoughtlessly upon
unseen realms, Jack and the Giant, gentry and the dispossessed,
disparity a background hum in the grace of my limited freedom;

Trudging up arid mountain trails or down into gushing streambeds
suited best, the mentholated air of eucalyptus mixing with the dank odor
of leaf mulch swirling in eddies and under boulders, fishing wet mats
out with my hands to bury my nose in that humid bouquet while the rest
of the world disappeared into a collage of confusion to which many
accustom themselves while a rupture grows like an aneurysm in the center
of the soul until that longing bursts forth like a swimmer breaking surface,
a yearning to gulp oxygen like life itself, that corporeal kinship
with the earth, a silent whisper, Return.
Return to me, and be whole.

images ©Bela Johnson 2019