Little Dove

Anxiety for me is not a teeth-chattering,
nerve-rattling affair, rather the tendency
of an untended mind to flutter toward
the familiar always a heartbeat away
from cool, grounded sanity;

When you return at day’s end, I step
into your world for a moment of comic
relief, little blue dove riding thermals
of your mastered stride, little girl trailing
behind daddy and his toolbox, eager
to discover how things work;

Feeling the weight of chisels soothes
ruffled feathers, caressing copper, steel,
the oiled wooden handles which,
in your perfect patient hands, creates
both the smooth carved boxes holding
treasures as well as the home
in which we live, life-sized canvas
for my own design.

collaborative design: Chris and Bela Johnson with artist Deb Thompson
cremation urn made from reclaimed island hardwood – C.Johnson
designed and created by Chris and Bela Johnson
designed and built by Chris Johnson


The drumbeat of water is the best sort
of background noise, punctuated
by birdsong and the occasional
distracted glance at nimbostratus
hovering in the distance, invitation
to tease their own condensed element
back to earth;

And now here it comes, sideways slants
glancing off metal rooftops, gusts
of wind billowing off corrugated eaves,
settling onto shrubs and bedding plants
tucked into mulch for a summer not
quite yet arrived;

While the southeast portion of the island
liquefies under Pele’s fiery fingers,
unseasonably protracted showers continue
here in the north, saturating sacred ground,
percolating down and into turquoise ocean
channels to draw the gaze wide and vacant
over vast distances, infinite possibilities
cresting just above an indigo horizon;

I do not know how I would fare living
inland, perpetually having been anchored
to one shoreline or another, yearning
for seas on which to launch a thousand
projections; hopes and dreams carried
forth on variable winds meant to capture
and billow the sails of fellow mariners.

~photo series “What the rains bring,” ©Bela Johnson

Scents of Place

There is something profound
delimiting each place I have claimed
as home; the tar-pungent tang
of creosote bush portending rain,
sweeping sideways as though pencil-
sketched on dun-colored canvas
as it spills from oceanic heavens along
open stretches of Mojave desert;

The smoke of brush fires tended
by human hands breaking trail through
twists of hemlock- and fir-peppered deciduous
forests of rural Maine; freshly-felled poplar
hewn into cones by toothy beavers busy
harvesting food and shelter for an ever-
impending winter as nearby cattail-flanked
marshlands waft musk into nostrils aroused
by their complex bouquet;

Now home in Kohala, Paklan and varieties
of gardenia overwhelm the senses first,
while undertones of Cattleya and banana shrub
glide subtly on variable breezes spiked salty
from nearby oceanic cliffs as Pamplemousse
blossoms overwhelm the more subtle lavender
and rosemary, mint and oregano bedded in
to round out a complex tropical palate;

The eucalyptus groves of my youth fill gaps
in the imagination, painting scenes like
so many watercolors bleeding into one another
until, despite what I might have attempted
to paint, a more vibrant vision emerges
to sustain me;

Life turns capriciously on the unsuspecting,
contrasting signals drifting into awareness
as though conveyed along scattering winds,
yet in one stroke, certain odors bear gifts
both past and present, sliding the doors
of time like slices of glass under a microscope,
shifting blueprints of existence, mysterious cards
in a gypsy’s hand shuffling once, twice,
imparting significance to the present moment
only to calibrate again to situation and experience
as time extends itself into infinity.

“…Magnolia blossoms fill the air and if you ain’t been to heaven, you ain’t been there…”
(New Orleans ~ Guida and Royster; image: bj)



Bread by hand is baked
in oven, tapped out gently,
further cooling, placed in storage,
bagged and ready, then is toasted
days and after, to a crisp
and even browning;

Edges blackened,
flash of silver knife is peeling
curls of butter loose from glass jar,
lying gently side by side
on sizzling surface, act of magic,
solid/liquid, freely flowing
into puckers, cut in quarters;

Teapot whistling, time is ticking
in the dance of daily ritual,
now and then the mood is settling,
moving forward, life revealing
many things, while morning
streams its sweet elixir
from which springs the chilly burst
that winter brings.



As the sun sets through the trees, I realize
another day is done, curtain dropped,
nothing special accomplished, only gratitude
for gardens greening, fruit ripening, flowers turning faces
to greet the dawn, meeting miracle of clean air and rich soil
as we slip in and out of shelter, hearts overflowing;

Home is sanctuary, place of recharge and rest,
restorative tonic healing interface between us
and the chaos outside our gates. At the end of the day,
there is none better; no comparison breeds contentment.
Each evening our gaze is fixed as fire abandons us
to the liquid indigo of night, exit stage left, vanishing
Houdini scattering gifts of glittering starlight
as promise, so we do not forget;

And it flows, glowing orb, down beyond the straight queue
of Norfolk pines, spreading belly like melting butter hitting
hot pan, bleeding into horizons beyond which we might
never venture. No one may beckon him back,
though lives depend upon his return on the morrow;
we must trust and trust again, each evening
of this lifetime and beyond.



I’m accustomed to gazing at stars beyond stars
soaring like dragons across the night sky.
Wrapped in fleece, I steal away,
bare feet padding across dew-soaked grasses,
rolling onto my backside, bathing in moonlight.

Like a faerie dipping into the heart of a flower
to indulge in the nectar renewing her mantle,
I must return to solitude and sanity.

These city ramblings are a Cinderella story,
and if I languish, my shine wears thin.
I fear that all remaining will be shadow,
the ruffled collar of Rat, scuttling into the sewer
with the advent and brilliance of day.


He rolls over, nestles into her back;
warm, soft hands cupping bony ribs,
slack belly, full hips.
Years they have lain this way,
waning dancers in the twilight.

She turns, his synchronized movements
practiced upon nights beyond number;
limbs flailing, twisting, entwining.

This is comfort, closing out their days
after the world leaks in.
This is life, restoring rhythm until,
like the last smear of a comet’s tail,
their light extinguishes,
and another assumes its place.

image: Carolyn Weltman


Whitecapped waters toss barges about

in the dark of the Alenuihaha

as if they are toys.

Listing on massive sides,

chained to tugs; no intrinsic

momentum of their own.


Each night I watch as they roll –

dumb weighted things

pitching along to another destination.

Scarred containers stacked perilously,

one atop the other; strange multilayered

wedding cakes on water.


This is how it is,

here on Hawaii Island; all these islands.

Quietly we garden, grow our food,

live our lives.

Still, we shop in stores – searching

for bargains essential to shelter, mobility,



What would happen, then, if just

one receptacle, replete with precious cargo,

skidded free; bobbed clumsily before sinking

deep into the drink?

(I’m sure it’s happened before.)


Mainlanders don’t know, they on their

bigger island do not consider.

And why would they?

Lost to the world outside their door,

not hugging the sea.

As are we.


~ bj



Ahhh … The Light!

I’ve discovered the best synonym for light is magic. For years I would talk with artist friends who would exclaim, eyes flashing, “Oh, but the light!”

This always confounded me. I couldn’t imagine what they were talking about. Light was light enough, and dark was too dark to see well. And then there were simply those times in nature when I felt as though I had entered another dimension – a world fit for sprites. I felt so small, and all was wonder and delight. Undulating aurora borealis! Shafts of sunshine streaming through the forest canopy! Morning dew transforming young eucalyptus leaves into the most extraordinary shade of aquamarine! Beams of glittering gold penetrating the depths of the sea just as a giant manta unfurls its massive wings and glides on by! Of course what made all the difference was the quality of the light, but somehow my racing mind didn’t draw that particular conclusion.

Digital changed my life. Film was just too frightening for a frugal little perfectionist. If I couldn’t get the shot just right, my inclination was to forget it altogether. Then my daughter gifted me with a sweet little Kodak digital, my first – and eight years later, I purchased a Nikkon Coolpix. I began taking pictures again.

Now I take hundreds of shots on my Android phone and load up my Dropbox. I don’t know if I’ll ever go through them all, and sometimes I despair that I hadn’t taken the Nikkon along. But the file size on the phone camera is just right – I don’t have to worry about waiting forever for images to download onto my computer. Ah, the simple pleasures.

Which brings me into the light, so to speak. The other night I took the dogs for a hike down by the shore, about an hour before sunset. And oh, god, the light – the light! It was just about as enchanting as anything could be:

All shots taken with my LG Thrive phone. Imagine if I had had a “decent” camera … 😉

Fact Simile


I always said I could write about anything. Give me a picture, subject, predicate. Poetry or prose, grant me a sunny day and I’ll witness miracles all around that flow effortlessly from my pen. Writing is what I have always done and will always do, regardless of the circumstances. And yet, perhaps like many these days, I feel overwhelmed with changes. Movement. Every time it feels as though I’m rooted to the earth, up I’m pulled and whisked off to yet another unknown destination, whether physically, mentally or emotionally. Yet these days despite the chaos, I am much less rattled by trivialities. As though jelly could inexplicably morph to granite.

What I can relate with impunity is that I have grown tremendously in the past couple of years – in areas of life least expected. Sensitized in ways others might feel overarching, I am tapped into nuance the way many realize they are capable of only under considerable duress. Tongue in cheek, my youngest labels me high maintenance. And perhaps that rings true, though it’s not as if I can simply flip a switch and turn it off, despite occasional times of wishing it could be so.

Forty-five days ago, we sold our house and moved to another location, a rental this time. Higher in elevation than before by a thousand feet – which is everything in Hawaii when it comes to weather – we have been chilled to the bone most of the summer. Mainland friends report scorching heat from west coast to east, so we are grateful for a temperate if chillier and wetter climate than we are accustomed to. Rains have fallen unceasingly – uncharacteristic of an area predisposed to drought over the past dozen years.

In two weeks’ time, we will be moving yet again. Only this time we will be losing twelve hundred feet of elevation, which guarantees warmth at least, if not dryness. For we will be migrating ever so slightly east from our original windswept north shore location – to Kapa’au from Hawi – thus ensuring a bit more rain and a bit less wind, gracing landscapes green year-round and lending a different feel to the very air we inspire. A unique aura pervades this new-to-us area, and I’m really looking forward to gathering what fruit falls from that tree. Of course that’s merely metaphor.