I have spent too many hours marking time,
waiting for changes to come, passing precious
moments in feckless meandering, spinning wheels,
Ariadne in the shadows, balls of twine raveling
and lying in a tangled heap at my feet;

Now we have arrived, dream fulfilled, bustling rats
abandoning the airship that has sailed true,
conveying us here upon shores we once inhabited,
threaded up steep mountain slopes climbing high
and higher until the panorama unfolds, island scarlet
and gold giving way to azure, indigo, purple, pink,
green everlasting, anchoring us back to forest
and field, sacred groves, room to ramble,
all of it, all.




I ask first the trees, honoring the foliage
that shades fragile skin, Will you take root
in my heart?

I ask the black and gold glittering sands,
Will you accept the imprint of my passing?

I ask the ocean, placing palms and soles
upon shores cooled by your blessing,
Can you cleanse away the temporal madness
enjoining me to a fractured humanity?

I ask the pali, jutting purposefully out
and over the sea, What shall I sacrifice
to your astounding beauty so that you might
endure all that is yet to come?

I sit in wonder and my spirit is calmed,
as the breeze gently enfolds her daughter,
whispering, whispering:

This is all: you are my eyes and ears;
you feel our is-ness, your hand records
our passing, awakening others who might,
in their own time, and in their way, return
to us pure and whole and healed.

all images © 2019 Bela Johnson

The Turning

She knew it was safe, now her feet chose a path leading far
from dark uncertainties, of boarded-up options into an oasis
of light, a clearing of both heart and mind, a dendrological dive
into oneness with nature, which tree was which, identifying
those whose leaves dropped with the chill and those
that remained, holding space in that jigsaw landscape;

Forays down to the wellhead were spongy with moss, layers
of leaf and needle underfoot, trickling underground streams
flowing beneath quasi-soil draped over granite boulders
and pooling into a still point where, aboveground, stood
a granite casing with crude wooden cover; deeper still, tethered
to the bale of a three-gallon pail, lay the object of desire, cool drink
or promise of a steaming kettle as the vessel was cast into depths
repeatedly until just the right toss dredged itself clear and icy cold;

Filling buckets for each hand to grasp before carefully replacing
the cover, hoisting the weight of water and heading uphill, back
to the moonglow arc of light softly radiating from the cabin, tinge
of woodsmoke in chill air, teapot gently rattling on iron grates,
home was harbor into which her boat slipped silently
and without complaint;

And part of her began to grasp the value in releasing, shedding
non-essentials, detritus to which one could become accustomed
as if plugging all the holes, those islands of free-ranging thought,
could confer security somehow, would grant serenity, tranquility
of mind first and finally; still, peace was innate when she was able
to handle the shake-down, that honest meeting, self to self, dark
to light and back again, the terror of un-being confronted,
a deer caught in crosshairs, vole surrendering to the fox;

And as the seasons turned like leaves in the wind, dancing,
spinning, settling; as ice and snow gave rise to muck and flow
and the lake groaned and shifted, turning impossibly heavy crust
over into crystal prisms glinting in the narrow shafts of sunlight;
as the waters opened up and the loons returned, echoing
their mournful cries into a deepening dawn and dusk, she, too
began to thaw and sense, as if the first time, creation awakening
in her bones, and her own heart likewise took flight and soared
like the great blue heron, circling freely in those endless cerulean skies.

Lake lies beyond the granite boulder you see in the distance.
Looking across the water where we could ski when the lake was frozen.

All photos taken many years ago on a cheap camera. Not nearly as good quality as the newer equipment, but these photos framed the memories. Aloha.
© Bela Johnson

Birthday reflections, 2016

Birthdays and holidays have always been tricky for me. These are occasions where we indulge in the pleasure of being remembered by those we love, times we can feel a bit special and pampered. Or at least that’s true for many women I know, some givers to the point of exhaustion.

But here’s the quandary: for many years, my husband has borne the brunt of my disappointment, whether in him or in others who have occasionally failed to display requisite feedback. While on one hand I love celebrations, when paired with expectations they surely lead to disappointment. Chris is a practical guy, one who demonstrates devotion on a day to day basis. An earnest man, he is quick to assess, slower to process, yet inevitably one who seeks forgiveness when words or actions are out of line with his noble heart.

What my partner grants me every day I draw breath is priceless: the freedom to be, to explore, expand and contract, to write, reflect, take photographs, go back to school and embrace whatever each new day presents. In my personal history, freedom has always arrived with chains around its ankles. Too often it padded in on the heels of betrayal, jealousy and unspoken bargains and entitlement. I hardened myself early on, beginning by telling my father he could stuff his inheritance back into his bank book. I was not for sale, never would be.

Two faithless husbands followed that early family life, along with two blessed daughters. This duality did not escape me, for what was given always seemed to demand equal sacrifice. I worked both inside and outside the home, proving to an oblivious world that I was not a helpless, hapless victim. Still, lessons continued as they will. Clearly relationships were where my mettle was tested, but this did not become summarily obvious until well into my fifties.

Through no calculated means whatsoever, I got lucky. For over twenty years this man has stood by my side, and though our early days were fraught with growing pains, the peace we finally attained is beyond measure. Only in the past year or two have I begun to truly and utterly comprehend the scope and meaning of freedom, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with things money can buy. Which only goes to show that a media-driven society that equates purchases with love is juvenile, piteous and damaging to anything so fragile as the human heart. I wish I had learned this sooner, but am grateful to the core I learned it at all.

2014-11-23 13.34.21



The glass is full, half-empty now,
you know we all complain
I copped a bye and grabbed the ring,
to sum up this refrain.

Or so I thought; came back with tears,
of deepest gratitude;
just down the road I sought relief
in midst of plenitude.

Will longing end, the journey cease?
With utter certainty;
the mind turns on and flips and spins
shades of insanity.

To find within what lies afield
has been the human quest;
while hearth and home, familiar bed,
is where I take my rest.

When the rains come

and they have,

and they have –

the porous ground pulls in nutrients,

cane toads wake up from a long,

long slumber.


It has been dry in Hawai’i nei,

we have all been thirsty

for this liquid manna pouring forth

from the socked-in heavens;

breathe it in,

ears attuned to the dance

as it slides off metal rooftops

and collects in the pockets

between spongy grasses

and decaying fronds.


Envisage liver red worms

slithering freely as they convert

crumbling soil, nourish starving saplings

while half-ripened bananas arch

on rugged stalks, filling fruit

as the figs and the foliage

and the birds and the bugs

merge a chorus of thanksgiving

drowned out in this happy deluge.




Some days the love just wells up inside of me

and it is frightening to contemplate

the magnitude and breadth of my place

in Creation’s scheme;

A gratitude for life, for the creatures in it,

the diversity and color and timbre of voices,

abundance of individuality;

goodness of the ground I am

privileged to cultivate.


Trees that allow me to climb them,

bare feet gripping branches where hang

round-bodied orbs impossible to consume

in their profusion – meant of course

to share, to give away,

fulfilling fruit’s ambition to spread seed.


Folks come to Hawai’i and head for the beach

to warm winter-weary limbs in a viscous bath of salt,

and though I am a swimmer, it is to the land I am drawn.

Stepping out my back lanai in the late afternoon to water,

arcing streams of salvation to each green and growing thing;

even unto a plethora of flowers to which I surrender delight.

Years of harsh winters before arriving on these shores

and I couldn’t bear to watch fragile petals crumple;

dead stalks propped up with frost.


Gazing up over the tops of giant Norfolk pines,

the sun pales to a palette of pinks and golds,

enfolding the land in the indigo twilight of evening.




Forgetting barren landscapes,

the vast deserts of the Southwest,

I head for home in three.


Three cold and grey, misty days

of late May in Portland town;

leaden skies pierced clear through

with explosions of color on the ground.

Blossoms unconcerned with human comfort

riot through streets,

spilling over onto sidewalks,

needing only space

in which to ramble.


Paradox surrounds me,

in city or in country;

in life as in death, whether noted or not.

Alone in its midst, I rally

to punctuations of light and dark,

tension and placidity;

scarcity and fecundity.


Embracing life on its own terms

allows me to love

even this chill as it penetrates my bones.

The imprint remaining may haunt

or be forgotten; the point being perspective

which, when cherished,

becomes my future.


~ bj


2013-05-25 18.53.162013-05-21 10.45.522013-05-20 20.29.53

Round Peg, Square Hole


I never wanted to be smart. It hampered social interactions with the most desirable element. No cute boys were in my ‘brain classes,’ and friends I had since grammar school began drifting away, dividing like so many cells in a petri dish. (Never mind that these same ‘dorky guys’ ended up being far more interesting, and in many cases better looking, in later years. But that’s for another story.)

In high school, I actually elected to take a course that lay outside my ‘gifted’ program. I wanted fresh faces; new opportunities. It resulted in the only “C” grade I ever received. The class simply did not capture my attention, despite the plethora of new faces. What misery it was to discover my GPA falling like winter temperatures in that faraway place I was soon to call home, though little I knew of it at the time. Life was about to hang a sharp right, unraveling at lightning speed on several fronts.

Forty years later, these impressions seem lifetimes away, yet memories arise from time to time and I observe them as if animated in 35-millimeter frames. The film unwinds from the flat black metal reel; runs out. A small burn mark sears itself in the tail’s end, while the reel click-click-clicks until the projector is shut down.

Perhaps there is more truth than fiction to this analogy; for life, if fully and cognitively experienced, continues to surprise at every turn. Reflection is a fabulous tool to assess how cyclical is existence; how it catches us as we revolve around the wheel of opportunity and instruction.  Suffering seems less pointless in the face of one’s spiritual maturation.

I think humans learn best from what stamps itself into memory, much like holes singed in celluloid. Taking refuge in this knowledge, I discover redemption. Nothing is regrettable; all experiences ultimately culminate in gratitude.