Glimpse

Shards of light splinter azure skies piercing grey
and white veils hung over days we have grown
accustomed to, days drowned in deluges of drenching
rain once sent to nourish, now stripping shrubs
and flowers of nutrients washed deep asunder;

One tree standing stark and brittle, cut
down in last week’s pruning while others thrive,
throwing verdant foliage out as springtime winds
casually whirl them down to boggy soil, carpeted
now with thick mulch meant to soak up excess
in anticipation of summer heat yet to come,
as it will, eventually;

Changing climate brings to mind old plantation
days, hard labor cutting cane, hacking through
jungle-thick mountain forests, knee-deep in mud,
to construct miles of irrigation ditches, flumes
and sluiceways now used recreationally, history
fading for all but a few lingering elders
whose scattered memories find their niche
in the rolling wheel of apocryphal time.

All photos ©Bela Johnson

Common Ground

I go down burrowing, a badger unearthing
for the sake of it, a sort of mining known only
to the creature and sometimes the human heart,
the latter less willing to surrender its complexities;

On the surface doves appear to assert territoriality,
the movement stitched to their DNA, do the dance,
wings loosen, shrug and sidle as feathers ruff out;
the pup tracks likewise, older now, more apt to
shake it free than to assert his alpha dominance,
respecting, as may be, the gods that surround him;

Scanning the horizon, a single humpback breaches
fully out of water, distant upright dirigible crashing
again and again, only to propel itself upright nearly
a dozen times before it submerges; sated, it seems,
for the time being;

Sublime teachers all, critters of which we are kin,
bipedal human animals preferring drama over quanta,
emotions, life in the head lands; yet tune in silently
and there you are, come back to the earth, bosom
of creation, return to the senses and simply be.

all photos ©Bela Johnson

What Has Been

This post is entitled appropriately as my ode to 2018. 2019 seems downright revved up, as we begin with the first dry weather we’ve had in some time. And the energy to clear up what was muddled most of last year! Aloha, All:::

Rain streams now in sheets, curtains sweeping,
drumming over metal rooftops, drawing me out
of slumber, winking like a mole as I snap
on the light, settle onto the spare bed
and begin to write, for there will be no sleep
in this sudden pitch of restlessness;

The waters of an uneasy spirit are drawn down
from overhead clouds masking what can only
be known when night filters out distractions
of the day; too much chaos, obligatory
conversations, automatic responses triggered
by years of people pleasing, dishonoring
my own deep need for less of everything;

And how could I have known this was
a requirement for sanity in glaring headlamps
of the world’s demands, as if Creation itself
could not possibly move forward without
my constant input;

Ironies abound as ends have overtaken means,
while the stark realization that life goes on
with or without me is finally the liberation
sought all along, freedom arriving,
at along last, unfettered and perpetual.

Waning light, Kailua-Kona
Around the bend, Kailua-Kona
Nishimura Bay view, Kohala
Lucy ponders the end of another year

All photos ©2019, Bela Johnson

The Reckoning

Aloha Ka Makani O Kohala!
The observant will note this small
hand-painted sign upon entering
the sacred lands of North Kohala,
known generally and simply
as Kohala;

Faded in the relentless sunlight
of that desert region, scrubs
of kiawe punctuate shoreline
un-beleaguered by development
thus far, iron gates buttressed
by lava rock piers encroaching
ever northward, flanked by irrigated
micro landscapes tended to entice
the wealthy to these hallowed shores;

Meanwhile the sign, all but forgotten
with time and tide, ignored by those
fixated on expansive Maui views,
cheap land compared to sister islands,
yet oblivious to Hawaiian words,
why bother translating? Until,
structures set in place, the winds
begin to kick, first the red dirt,
then the butts of those inhabitants
deceived into believing they were safe
somehow from the`āina herself,
turning bitterness into hedgerows,
more walls, spreading outward,
ever outward, fortresses of folly
in a land well known for her mana;

The war against nature escalates,
bankrolls drained into more and richer
landscapes, all foreign to these shores,
and the cost of water begins tapping
reserves of sanity, yet what else to do
but visit rarely, mini-mansions swept
empty by the makani, inhabited more
by a staff of maintenance workers
than the residents themselves,
and perhaps this is as it should be,
even unto their scripture, the last will
be first and the first will be last;

Money can buy things, little else,
and in the end, the`āina and her elements
will prevail; and as the little grass shack
leaps to mind and the simple life
of subsistence increasingly makes sense,
we continue downsizing, simplifying,
reducing our own tiny imprint
on this glorious windswept land.

There is a saying here, mauka to makai, meaning mountain to ocean. It is almost like meaning the whole of the place. For Hawai’i nei was originally allocated into ahupua’a, units of division that provided mountains for hunting, fields for planting, and ocean for fishing. These photos demonstrate how different mauka, or mountain regions, are from makai, the ocean landscape. In Hawai’i, elevation is everything. As always, all photos ©Bela Johnson. Aloha.

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