Too Soon Gone

Where on earth do I belong?
I have taken up space on this orb
for nearly seventy years, many
of these spent in utter confusion,
lost to myself, leaving many
others to wonder, who is this being?
As if I, myself held the answers,
aware of my motivations, I did not;

And I get it, perhaps I am not solitary
in these musings, perhaps it is a product
of age and experience, duration
in a life spent with memories,
reflections, condensation of thirty-
five years of living in the Maine woods,
a home my heart returns to endlessly,
though those days are gone forever;

Even if I could return, I would not,
desecrated forests, polluted waters
where once I swam and floated
without human observation,
contemplating the brilliance
of streaming light from heavenly bodies
not yet emerging into view, swimming
with loons, their young paddling
behind parents, my future not something
I contemplated, rather encountered
often haltingly, day by day, headlong
and too often blindly as if rushing
into blackness, life happening to me,
instead of crafting it, shaping it
into a thing of my own choosing;

And now I sit, watching clouds gather,
listening to birds and the distant thump
of a garbage truck going about its run,
collecting refuse we cannot use,
all the detritus left as a product
of living in the twenty-first century,
too many people, how has it come
to this where, despite wilderness
surrounding me, my thoughts drift
constantly to the unnecessary waste,
not only refuse, but resentments, pain
of those growing up, not knowing years
in human form are precious and short,
building castle walls of separation,
unforgiveness, and it will be gone without warning to all of us, in the blinking eyes left to observe what once seemed an endless, open, uncluttered road of possibilities.

High desert sky, northern New Mexico, 2022 ~ bj

Dark to Light

From the dark ocean to the lighter skies
of New Mexico, Mother Earth remains
my focus, my love, my joy;

It took awhile to learn different soils,
rich loam to clay and sand, mysterious
deep sea waters to high altitude desert,
cradled by Ponderosa and piñon forests,
and yes, a river runs through it,
though not like it used to,
this is dry country, interspersed
by monsoon rains, brittle brown landscape
highlighted with hues of verdant green
now looking more like New England
in the summer as I plant, now trees,
shrubs, now a greenhouse garden
so that we might sustain ourselves
on bitter greens throughout long
cold winters;

A friend I met years ago in Hawai’i
told me, upon discovering our intent
to move from the islands to the Southwest
years ago and sensing my distress at
not being on or near big bodies
of water for the first time in my life,
don’t worry! In New Mexico,
the ocean is the sky!
And how that comes to be true,
I cannot begin to convey; more
and different varieties of clouds
than anywhere I have been, sweeping
and sliding through crystal azure heavens,
and even in midwinter as temps dip
down below freezing night and morning,
at mid-day under the brilliance
of stark sunlight, it is easy to peel
back the layers and work in shirt sleeves;

And if I have learned nothing else
in this blessed life, it is that, given time,
any place putting me close to the ground
of this alluring planet is sacred, and if its spirit
has been damaged, it takes little time
and care to reveal its essence, once again.

 

David Austin rose “Bathsheba”
– grown and photographed by bj ~ 2022

Lakeside

Have you ever heard something fall
under water, the dull scrape
of a fishing weight onto granite rock,
the drag, fisherman on the surface,
oblivious to you hiding, suspended
alongside dull mossy green bass,
still and not struggling between
crevasses of boulders, tumbled by time
into that glacial abyss; now tugging
his thin nylon line free, only to break
calm waters to cast again, this time
perhaps successfully;

The shafts of brilliant sunlight
as they pierce the shimmering pond,
how they illuminate that same boulder,
glint of metal on stone, almost too startling
for limited vision, breath taken in order
to descend, lungs now burning,
foolish gill-less fish, unable to remain
submerged indefinitely;

And now I rest under the bluest sky,
breathing in, exhaling that thin mountain air
without effort, cracking of beaks breaking seed
or the snoring of dogs, discerning sounds
as if in command of my own destiny, which,
as we know, is as indistinct a fabrication
as those distant lakeside conjurings.

Beanstalk

We are all moving on to the next level,
just as he did after coming through
walls, us sitting at our kitchen table,
pleading eyes confused, conflicted;

Nobody spoke of suicide in that place,
yet there he was, and I had to ask
another neighbor if she knew
what had happened;

I remember passing by a lone figure
walking a small white dog,
and sometimes I thought it a woman,
sometimes a man; ahh, this being
was mahu, a two spirited one,
yin and yang that might have merged
into a lovely ebony and ivory symbol,
while instead, his Japanese parents felt
only shame, and so freedom
was sought by moving to a large
east coast city where those of like
kind could seek a life free from
judgments that bound them in ties
far too snug to house the beauty
of their souls;

Distressed parents conspired
somehow to bring their son back,
yet back to what? A life in this
tiny town with its own ideas
of how firstborn sons should act?
Instead in despair, they found
their son hanging limp
from a rope
in the garage,
imagine;

When his spirit came to us,
it was with a desire to find
a way to transition between
this world and the next, and so
we envisioned a beautiful
beanstalk, glistening ivy green
with heart-shaped leaves,
its sinuous vines a strong rope
without obligation of gravity,
and it grew and branched out,
carrying this dear one
into a magical realm
where harmony might prevail,
higher, further from the suffering
of simply living with yearnings
his broken family could never
comprehend.

Tahitian Gardenia ~ bj

Enchanted

The music of the universe greets me daily,
voices on the wind, crackling through
heavily laden boughs of pine trees,
chattering black and blue birds arriving
in massive flocks every morning to the feeder,
ravens and magpies keeping their distance,
waiting on fence posts out by the fields,
trusting that what fed them yesterday
will show up in perpetuity, abundance
in the midst of winter’s cold; meanwhile
the pack of coyotes howls and yips,
acknowledging the bounty tossed
across the road nearly every day;
with compost tumblers full, we have
enough to share;

None of us knows what will greet us
as we open eyes and senses
onto a new day, fresh start for every
sentient creature on earth;
how we meet the Mystery is up to us,
cranked on caffeine and sugar,
boarding the train to a city high rise,
or quietly, softly, in wonder at another
precious gift, the sky, the clouds,
the breath we have drawn since birth,
bellows of lungs automatic, in, out,
are we aware of their significance?
Are we grateful for the intelligence
of these bodies, treating them kindly,
reverently even, as we stroll
into brilliant rays of blessed sunlight?

Filling the Void

Some things are not meant to be,
though I still save space for them,
not knowing divine timing
or even my own mind sometimes,
and what is this compulsion
to occupy perceptual emptiness,
is it simply creativity seeking
a natural outlet, the crashing surf
carving out caves on Mt. Desert’s
rugged shoreline or the smoothing
of lava rock at the base of Halawa’s
thundering waterfall?

I can wish, and in wishing
place my desires on the altar
of possibilities, then forget them
if I am wise, releasing attachment
to outcome, opening time’s parachute
upside-down, the beggar’s empty cup
yawning with space minus the desperation
of those truly in need of wish fulfillment;

Meanwhile the two empty chairs sitting
next to and caddy corner from mine
leave room for those yet to arrive, and even
they do not know, anymore than I, what seats
will be occupied when and where
in the near or distant future;

Imagine my surprise then when, one day
and least expected, the fulfillment
of those forgotten desires returns to gladden
or to haunt, depending (be careful
what you wish for); the unexpected visitor
materializes, and I am left to wonder
at which juncture I might have yearned
for such an encounter, prepared or not.

In Memory of the Still Living

There are confusing encounters
leaving one gasping for breath,
the mind grasping for understanding;
such is the nature of life and death,
the latter being more recent
in my world of experience;

I eschew addictions, just as they
are sought to resolve what seems
unfathomable to others, and I know
in this life I am meant to demonstrate
more understanding than my petulant
inner child might conjure;
still, it is the most natural direction
in which to gravitate these days,
the world being as unknowable now
as it was then,
and who am I to judge?

Thus when I see this precious one,
once strong and vital, now weak
and yellow and skeletal and all
this happening in the span of a year
in a life too short to be terminal,
feelings arise, and more and yet
more questions on the meaning
of existence;

This time last year, we were wrangling
with thorny bushes that had become
trees, both cursing, he more ardently,
as this was not his first rodeo
in these mountains, and yet there was
laughter, good humor, companionship
of then-strangers taking the measure
of the other’s character;

Loved ones gather now, and I feel
not at all out of place in this tiny trailer
amidst people of a culture I don’t need
to understand; the old man’s body
the main event in the living room,
surrounded by photos of the past,
and who could know fifty years ago
how fate would hold them now
in its thrall?

Two weeks ago, he seemed empty
of life, yet his spirit still felt strong;
today that spirit had its due;
jaundice had receded, and flesh
had mysteriously begun reassembling
on his bones, and once again I marvel
at the same sorts of questions
I have asked all my life,
how does the journey begin
to make sense in the face
of what we are dealt?

Akin

I am but one minute speck
on the face of this earth,
the same countenance reflected
back to me in field and forest,
in the shriek of bats as well
as the sonar they emit,
the whistling and bellow of elk
as they descend from higher ground
for the winter, the piñon jays,
sapphire blue bodies so different
from their indigo Stellar relations,
gliding in for their morning seed;

When I peer into a body of water,
I see not a mirror, but a plethora
of faces of untold numbers
of creatures that dwell in the depths
as do I, in my own element;

Yet what is this element spoken of?
Is it the air I breathe? The earth
walked upon, the blazing fire
of the sun, cool slices of moonlight
or the quarter-sized drops
of rain that splash upon my forehead?

What am I, if not an assemblage
of all these components, sheathed
in the thinnest veil of skin,
so transparent that I can glimpse
blood coursing through a busy
network of veins, necessary waters
of my body, invisible synovial fluid
keeping joints in motion, bending
and lifting to the billionth degree,
work I have happily performed
since my youth, preparing
for winter, spring, summer, fall;

It’s all the same, here on the mountain
where life at altitude is as unpredictable
as nature can be anywhere, anytime,
only here it cannot be ignored,
and the garden thriving in the heat today
can be frost-encrusted by tomorrow
morning, who can predict?

This time last year, birds were falling
from the skies, a freak storm
that bent trees over double,
and some we lost while some grew back,
and isn’t that life? Is that not, at its root,
the existential distillation of our existence?

Our winter wood supply, so far. 2021

Early Rise

Slipping under the covers last night, nestling
into his sweet warmth as we both gaze, astonished
at the crystal quarter moon, hung in the twilight sky
as if borrowed from a Saint-Exupéry watercolor;

This morning I awaken to the morning star,
ready to begin the day regardless of the hour,
observing the sturdy old adobe on the hill, standing
in stark relief to the distant rising sun, a behemoth
so devoid of sound or movement as to appear adhered
to the moving earth as she rotates on her illusive axis;

Elk graze silently in distant fields, nuzzling frosty grass
with their soft muzzles, whiskers lifting dew
from disturbed blades, as they have done seasonally
for generations and more, having just returned
from higher ground; they portend an early fall,
though one never knows at this altitude, frosty mornings
replaced by soaring daytime temperatures reaching well
into the eighties by midday;

We celebrate daily the return to the land of wilderness,
the tracks of deer, howls of coyotes, the surprise
of a snake stretched or coiled in the heat of the day,
gathering warmth for bodies lacking the ability
to generate it on their own; and await the return
of the resident Red Tail hawk, whilst rejoicing at the sight
of occasional Great Blue Herons or the honk of Canadian
geese down by the river; displacing these creatures
from their accustomed habitat would be wrenching,
and there is no plan as yet, this is protected forest land
at least for now, yet we humans must advocate daily
for this shared place we all consider home.

 

Coyote Blessing

When first I arrived ahead of him,
to put this new house in order
while he remained in Hawaii,
finishing up what needed done
in that place we had resided
for fifteen years, it was chaotic;

Covid had created seeds of disorder
that have now germinated
and sprouted into some sort
of angst-mongering monster,
sower of division, pitting fear
against dread, as humans question,
aloud or in private, the duration
of their own tenure here on earth,
stripped down to primal longings;

Sitting in this big ranch house,
back to the utter silence I craved
all those years on the islands,
surrounded again by forest and fields,
the glowing eyes of nighttime creepers,
tracks laid everywhere, elk, deer, turkeys
and other travelers, an alien weed
in fields of another’s familiar;

Lying in a bed left by prior occupants,
grateful for the gesture, yet not mine,
nothing ours, not yet, the tailings
of other soul paths, confusion accented
by harsh designs that agitated rather
than soothed my jangling heart;
and then it came, a series of yips
and howls, accompanied by a steady
bark, threaded with eerie whines
looping through, a mad conductor
whipping up a frenzied forest symphony;

Coyotes circled the house, not once
but several times, bark, bark, yip, yip
and that unhinged high-pitched wail,
a beau geste causing hair to rise
on my forearms, thrilling as it disturbed,
while my nerves settled, bit by bit,
as, like faeries in ancient fields,
they performed their welcoming ritual,
bringing me back to the ancient tones
inhabiting a once-tribal land;
and I laughed along with them, howling
like a madwoman, while the sound faded
out of range, having accomplished
whatever they came to do,
despite my own interpretations.

Our backyard forest, populated by the healing herb mullein. ~ b