Plume

Rising phoenix-like from the core of our Mother,
she gathers shards of herself into long, sinewy
fingers pointing straight or now diverging
into strands of molten marvel, goddess breadth
of hips dancing, swaying, undulating ribbons
of pāhoehoe folding in and over the land;

Now to temper in salty waters, spilling forth,
expanding continentally in the unseen depths
of turquoise sea to rise anew, again, bony spine
arching above, belly anchored far below
on the ocean’s quaking floor, tremors felt
through seismic needles oscillating wildly
or sporadically slowing, never flatlining;

Creation made manifest, insistent, beyond
the reach of meddling hands, this is lovely
Hawai’i nei, land of volcanoes, Pele’s domain,
locus of wonder, millennia in the making,
verdant forests rooting in rock, curls of ferns
in misty elevations furling in and out of memory,
mosses drinking vapor in droplets, conducting
underground symphonies to tangled roots,
ōhia striking through ebony lava with fluffy
crimson blossoms as majestic koa soar above;

An ancient kinetic knowing rules her expanding
coastline, slowly waxing under Hina’s watery eye
while we slumber soundly beneath her pale glow;
meanwhile creatures of the night begin rustling
and emerging from the cool of earth’s
dark shelter until dawn streaks watercolors,
welcoming the morning sun.

Volcanoes National Park lava tube
Volcanoes National Park – fern forest
Bark of old koa tree, Volcano Village

Kalapana lava flow – 2016
Ōhia (Pele’s flower) on the flanks of Mauna Kea
Pololu Valley, early morning – 2015
~ all photos ©Bela Johnson

CRUMBLE

Pieces of an intricate puzzle
are how I assemble life,
not pausing to consider position on the template
nor noting how many fragments remain
heaped on the fringes,
awaiting destiny’s promptings.

Days arrive on tradewinds
blowing me this way and that,
shuffling the mix until, exhausted,
I surrender once more to the grand Equalizer,
plans pulling up even with spontaneity.

To tie it together, attempting to make sense
through conclusions and deductions
might prove the downfall of science
in an overreach to flex grey matter
beyond its intended orbit.

Who can tell in the final analysis
what remains of the ruminating centuries;
heaps of equations and algorithms
scattered amidst the remnants
of yet another forgotten,
if magnificent, civilization?

Mathematical_equations

Lost in Translation

The voices speak in silence,
drowned not upon the wind;
deep inside lurks a stillness,
point of light in a dark crystalline sky.

Are they drawn from imagination’s well,
unconfused by chaotic din?
Does it matter where wisdom is garnered
like sheaves of grain in an August field;
asking nothing, freely sharing
until language loses meaning
in translation?

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Groundless

An avalanche or a rockslide cleaves sharply

from its origins; boulders of perception tumbling, tumbling

thundering carelessly over terrain flinching passively;

unexpected projectiles lodging fragments into storied ice.

 

Millennial madness, and it drives and it falls

as it plummets and crumbles into heaps of rubble and debris,

like emotions or grief lodging sideways into DNA.

 

Choreographed over ages too wide and deep to fathom,

mountains draw themselves down toward the sea;

humans carelessly careen into one another,

conductors of orchestrated imaginings

waiting to fasten on,

as the ground slips away, and away.

 

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Unmoored

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As a writer, it seems I’ve come to this strange juncture of late, where words are beside the point. It’s not writers’ block, because I could always write about anything under the sun. It’s more like a space in time where I find I’m fatigued by the effort of using language. Has this ever happened to you?

I used to ‘hate’ math, or anything to do with numbers. Yet most of my life I have experienced deep encounters with the symbolic. And, similar to Carl Jung, it is toward these symbols that I feel compelled – especially the more I observe language used and abused, whether in conversation or in written form. Is this the sort of world Einstein inhabited? If so, I’ve missed my calling as a mathematician!

Words are powerful instruments that connect and lend us a common thread to follow. Yet if the pen is mightier than the sword, are symbols not more powerful than the locution we employ in describing them? Further, how are thoughts transmitted to begin with? Are they not formulated from a place essentially void of verbiage? Even if we label certain impulses feelings, it requires a secondary effort to interpret them. It removes one from the emotion, itself – which admittedly can sometimes be a good thing. And yet …

So here I am, writing about not using words! Perhaps I’m trying to excuse my lack of verbosity this past month or more. But honestly? I’m simply in the frame of mind I have described right now, not sure in which direction I am headed. Maybe, as Joni Mitchell lyricized in Woodstock, it’s the time of year, or maybe it’s the time of man – and I don’t know who I am, but life is for learnin’… I’m not experiencing distress, though I do feel a bit unmoored. Drifting off into an ocean of possibilities, it feels right to simply go with the flow.

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The Desiderata

 

This old Max Ehrmann poem is as relevant to me today as ever it was:

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

I posted this a few months back for fellow WordPress blogger  Shakti Ghosal, and the dialogue that followed sparked this post. I thought I’d share:

Shakti: What a virtuous nugget you have brought in here with “The Desiderata.” Great and eternal truths, but sadly we fail to articulate and germinate most of these in the hurry-burry of our lives. Consciousness of the “peace within” is what I have been striving for … with limited success.

I believe the genesis of our fear is our attachment to our perceived outcomes. How do we “let go” remains our challenge.

Bela: My thoughts as to ‘why’ we project our fear outward and/or subsequently attach (it?) to others is clear to me only in that I believe humans are great reflectors and refractors – it’s almost as if one of the main reasons we are here in this world is to recognize and marvel at its beauty; to ‘glorify creation’ which I believe is a Biblical expression. So these qualities are innate, or so I suppose. And then due to confusion and conflict, we are thrown or caught off-balance, and the dance begins between what we ‘know’ (as in the remembrance of our innate goodness) and what we ‘practice’ (as the result of our confusion).

There must be a reason humans are so attachment-oriented. If mothers did not ‘attach’ to their young; if mates didn’t ‘attach’ to one another; if families, friends and communities were not compelled toward attachment, we might learn nothing of caring and compassion – and there would be little to anchor us in the chaos of creation. On the other hand, we certainly have mastered transferring those impulses of healthy attachment onto situations, places, things and substances which no longer serve us; indeed unto those which may actually render us harm (and knowing this deep down, are we provoking our own fears?). And so discerment seems imperative – in order that we not only survive, but that we thrive and learn and grow on planet Earth.