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

Reflections on Divisions

There is a divide growing in the US larger than the Grand Canyon.The Grand Canyon is a spectacular natural wonder, whereas events leading up to the scope of this divide have been anything but. 

Quite literally, Americans have been cleaved along lines of those for Democracy, equality for all; those who are ‘pros,’ pro choice in every way. We support each other in the enjoyment of freedom in all its forms; we help those less fortunate without exception and generally pay our due in the hope that all might have the chance to simply live. 

Then there are those who blindly follow charismatic leaders, despite often dehumanizing actions and efforts to maintain a certain social order, class and gender segregation, and the established dominion of white male supremacy. I have asked myself many times why women, in particular would support this sort of person, the sort who openly brags about ‘grabbing them by the pussy’ and diminishes women of intelligence, empathy and of course color. The sort of person who would rob them of choice and even their own children. (The fiasco at the Mexican border has become a wretched second Berlin Wall.) Just because it hasn’t happened to them does not mean it is not happening. 

In the end, I must conclude that fear is the culprit. Fear of change, of losing their privilege, of being in unfamiliar territory with those different from themselves. Somehow these dear folks have lulled themselves into greater and greater actual peril by simply not wanting to think for themselves. By simply not doing their due diligence when it comes to what they espouse. Many are Christian, yet fail miserably at the very principles Jesus taught. These principles are ridiculously simple, yet are made complex enough that people believe they need someone (usually male) to interpret ‘the word of God’ for them. Do they not realize that too often this goes according to selfish motives and whims needed to control congregants and fill coffers? When these sorts of masses give, god bless them, it is too often role driven. Secure in their place in society (or so they imagine/assume), they are convinced their actions are benevolent toward often-distant people they support through comparatively meager donations motivated by needed tax breaks. The recipients are likewise grouped under labels: poor and victim leap to mind, yet their actual lives and personal histories are as far removed as outer space. Thus it is easy to label these others as welfare cases, leeches sucking blood out of a society just trying to move its privileged forward. The givers have not broken bread with these desperate factions of societies; have not listened to their stories nor experienced any sort of cultural diversity, first hand. 

Always one to support divergent views, I have found myself so alienated from those hypnotized by the current government as to not have much of anything remaining in common. If we were to get together, what on earth would we talk about? And so I am left to will them my best intentions, and call it good. I have no desire to listen to rationalizations and justifications for their behavior, as there simply are none that can account for exclusions and suppressions of ‘undesirables’ in the eyes of these few. We have no time to indulge ignorance anymore. Global warming is real, this is not open to dispute, listen to science or go back to the cave of ignorance at your peril. The Sixth Extinction is upon us, and we are in the throes of a massive pandemic that is not going anywhere soon. To turn a blind eye to these sorts of wake-up calls is to negate our responsibility as human beings toward the Collective, our sisters and brothers as well as all sentient beings and the environment we depend upon for our very existence.

None of us chose color or gender, we were all and equally born into this life, albeit into very different circumstances. Life is short. We are tiny, less than microscopic specks in a universe filled with wonder. To hold any sort of self importance in a day when sharing and collaborating to figure out how humans might continue occupying space on this amazing spinning ball called earth is truly all we have time to do. And it will require all our creativity, all our heart in order to accomplish a badly needed shift away from established consumerist, exclusionary practices. Opening our eyes to the realities of the time is not only preferable anymore, it is imperative. Be the change you want to see. And if that change has only to do with you and yours, it may be time to rethink priorities. Bless you 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?

Old Journal Entry

Going back into my journals for the first time in years, I discover it’s interesting to note how clearly I perceive things now, compared to 15 years ago. For all those sheltering in isolation with others they are not quite used to being with 24/7, perhaps these old meanderings might give rise to your own deeper contemplations …

July 4, 2005

Is it fear or is it excitement? Such a question for those of us raised not to expect much or anything at all;

How to be with inner trembling without precipitating an earthquake? Life goes about its business, we are here waiting in the wings for it to happen, whatever that might look like;

Perhaps it is excitement only, then again, maybe fear. But if I don’t know, why label it at all? Say it’s both or neither. But if I don’t sit still enough and listen, it becomes a mantle, then a shroud;

Am I sad or am I angry? Allowing neither, they have become, as have I, confused. Sitting on a powder keg of emotion, I tremble with energy burning inside, steaming my vitals like massive hydroelectric turbines (and we wonder why, by mid life, we feel burned out);

How to disengage from self destruction now seems bigger than searching for what path to walk or spinning wheels at the scrim of the past;

What an intense awakening! To realize that, at some fundamental level, I lack deep awareness of the benevolent nature of the universe;

Disrupted early on by promises rarely met with integrity, instead, behind the power of the original delivery lay a raw, wounded place in another’s story;

How to unravel myself? I go deeper into ‘belief’ and find it less substantial, and when visiting it again, it seems to strangle less. What emerges is more my own truth.

mid-1970’s

Forest Home

I have chosen to come here to this place, bleak
and dry and windblown after the harshness of winter;
the land has been in isolation too, as it perpetually will
uncomplainingly, year following year, why do we humans
resist it so? The is-ness of life is a thing we have to remind
ourselves of, lest we forget all is in divine order;

The elk are out most mornings, grazing and moving further
toward the denser Ponderosa forest, following seasonal
dictates of their species; boundary fences notwithstanding,
they leap and bound over all but the highest barrier
and I rejoice that I have spotted, just this morning,
the places they bed down at night and traverse the terrain
we are now privileged to steward for what time it is ours;

What are our collective impulses and dreams? Have we
lost all sense of feet planted on earth, pulse of the planet
drawing us this way and that, moving in herds or alone
as befits the calling (and we are summoned, no mistake),
yet I arrived here in the midst of a global pandemic edgy,
unsure we had done the right thing, planning a move
from our lush Hawaiian landscape to this high desert
that once captivated with pungent scents of sage
and juniper, pine and cedar, magical carpet of cones
and needles and quartz scattered as if nature intended
nothing so much as delight;

Without courage we are lost, without faith we lack
a compass, without taking chances, we miss
opportunities that await the global citizen for whom
this collective in-breath provides pause to reflect
on the quality of choices made daily in a life
meant simply for us to breathe deeply
and enjoy the journey.

 

Dreaming Awake

I had to look twice, glancing
out the kitchen window as the flutter
of a mynah bird’s jet black wings
jogged my vision into memory,
the giant frond of a Queen Emma lily
flung carelessly by a kicking wind,
bent not broken into a shape resembling 
the appendage of a giant blue heron,
yet how could that be, here in Hawaii?

From one shore to the next,
one continent of time sliding
into present tense, images juxtapose
into a full fantasy life, fronds and wings,
shadows of pterodactyls still roaming
the earth, nothing ever really vanishes
as some aboriginal tribes would vouch,
though we can claim obliteration;

Reach back and forward into the now
of memory, let the mind slip and slither,
producing its own version of what
is perceived, and it might astound you
or not; yet how can one explain the impulse
to wander out to affirm, grounding self
in solidarity, or is all but illusion?

Of Death and Magic

Cracking through his crusty skin,
the butterflies await therein;
In trembling light, antennae perched
in front, ahead, and primed to lurch;

The quavered sense that life’s amiss
somehow obscures the hours of bliss;
the chores and drudge originate,
perspective laid upon his plate;

It stretches out, then snaps again
around a fix-ed clutch of ken,
persona-non-so gratified as truth
confirmed with startled eyes;

The darkness plunges overhead,
a trembling, aching fear and dread;
As sensate options push and shove,
pure mercy fills him with its love;

The spell is cast, illusion broken,
he lives no more like pawn or token,
and from a trusting, willing mind
white magic steals in from behind.

Butterfly House, Botanical Gardens, Albuquerque, NM ~ 2019 Bela Johnson

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

Apparitions #writephoto

Gaze long enough into the mist
and forms appear, a figure, two,
fairy folk, the hag, an angel,
as if the barge to Avalon had
never faded far into memory;

Look without looking, summon
with your heart wide open
and perhaps they will come,
hestitant at first, trusting
no human (and who can blame them),
but you, you seek their trust,
and all artists know what it is
to be marginalized;

These folks or angels
(for who can say), appearances
fluctuating according to pleasure
or whim, shape-shifters all,
having learned wariness long ago
beyond our reckoning surely
as we grow impatient, sharpening
rather than softening the retinae,
losing rather than capturing,
lessons learned well
in the dominant paradigm
of patriarchy;

Balance is the way of the world,
and She will have her way; yet
we who remain curious witness
this reemergence, resurgence
in a world increasingly in need
of visions thus recreated.

all photos @2019 Bela Johnson

Inspired by Sue Vincent’s Thursday #photoprompt Destination