Travelogue II – Angels Everywhere

Angels have visited me in many forms in my life. I have felt their fiery presence from the unseen realms and have met them in the bodies of human beings. (If you’re curious, this is one of those encounters.)

In a previous post about my Pacific Northwest travels, I mentioned that I like it best when I’m lost. Driving around on inspiration leads me to the most unexpectedly astounding places and events. On this day after slate skies broke open to reveal the first rays of sunlight I had seen since arriving, I headed out with a bounce in my step. I hadn’t let the drizzle and grey skies get me down; had hiked the past few days despite the weather. Still, the sun was a welcome change, if only for its warmth.

This time I meandered and found myself at small wildlife preserve on the (Puget) Sound. Nobody was in the small parking lot, and when I got out of the car, I immediately spotted eagles soaring on the bluff behind me. It was nesting time, and these raptors were active seeking food for nestlings. Still, it was amazing to watch them soar. I walked down to the driftwood-strewn beach, marvelling at a snowcapped mountain range in the distance. I also noticed a brownish haze which I had also seen before leaving the house in the morning. I wondered if, like last year, there were forest fires in British Columbia and Montana. I quickly texted the friend I was housesitting for and she could only guess at the mountain range, as I had no idea what direction I was facing nor where I was. She didn’t know about the haze, thought it might be smog from Seattle, though we both thought that improbable.

Presently a car pulled into a nearby stall in the still-empty lot, and a woman and dog emerged. We made eye contact, the woman and I, and I asked her what mountain range we were looking at. The Cascades, as it turns out. And the haze? It’s the marine layer, she said, and filled me in as to what atmospheric conditions precipitate it. I loved her dog up a bit while we continued chatting about this and that, the way women sometimes do. Before we went our separate ways, she said, “Hold on, I have something for you in the car.” I could not imagine what it could be, as I waited a bit awkwardly. Then she turned back to me beaming, with something in her hand, “Here, this is meant for you. I painted it myself.”

Just when I dip into despair about the human race, my faith is restored by a simple act of kindness. And I must remember that, despite  seemingly endless human assaults on Mother Earth and her children, I must remember our potential. And nourish those seeds with as much energy as I can possibly muster. Thank you, sweet stranger. Thank you. With all of my heart.

Ebeys Landing, WA ~ bj

photo: bj

Here and Now

The concert grand stands indifferently
in a palatial room built to house it;
Hardly anyone spends time here,
admiring frescoes and French lace,
worn Italian club chairs gather
in around no one, empty opulence
marking privilege of the lost
and missing inhabitants;

Halfway around the world,
a bustling marketplace explodes
with the din and stench
of the streets, sweat mingling
with rotting vegetable matter
and the smell of human desperation;
gnarled hands of laborers place goods
in the manicured hands of tourists,
a toothless smile exchanging empty symbols
for a better life, benediction
of the Foreigner whose life is inconceivable
as a spaceship from Mars;

Who can fathom choices, freedom the elusive
butterfly in a garden which must be tended
by honest sweat and toil which,
in the opulence of the parlor, slips quietly
into shadow like the ghostly curtain remnants
hanging limply on patterned walls.

 

Kilkenny Castle, photo ~ bj

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.

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.