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

Of Hearts and Stones

Small stones cobbled the backyard
of the San Gabriel Mountains foothill home
where I grew up, dappled by the light
of pergola and wisteria overhead, flanking
cascading waterfalls and the fishpond
my father built outside my parents’
bedroom window;

Yet it was giant granite boulders larger
than fishing shacks which grounded me
to the woods and waters of eastern Maine,
region of choice for a street-weary soul,
igneous wonders cleaved from glaciers
that covered most of New England
if not all, long before human memory;

Planting anything in that rocky terrain took
fortitude and persistence, pickaxe and shovel
and plenty of insect repellent, for winter
spread ice and snow into drifts and created
crystalline topsoil, while early springtime’s
mud prevented solid progress; thus it was bug-
riddled May before the earth was clear
and pliable enough for groundbreaking;

Still, steadfastness and a rototiller tamed
the garden enough to hoe up, row by row,
a large area in which to raise vegetables
as grocery stores provided little truly fresh,
and farmers markets had not yet caught on
in a time before they widened the highway
and a half-hour commute into town transformed
our lakeside village into a bedroom community;

Every year out of thirty-four, that same plot
heaved up rocks and boulders of every size,
thus before cultivating and yielding those
delectable edibles, one really had to harvest
rocks and more rocks, while piles lined
perimeters to be carried closer to the house
to ring flower gardens or delimit pathways,
or to place on an animal’s grave to prevent
hungry intruders from dislodging rotting
remains;

Nothing and everything changes, routines
may remain, yet nature demonstrates
with each passing season the modicum
of knowledge humans might grasp about
the ground under our feet, so busy are we
jumping into metal boxes and flying
at breakneck speed to obtain life’s
necessities, while stones, ever patient,
mark the ages with a persistence
and perseverance all their own.

Pololu pohaku
Pololu Valley pohaku
Pololu beach rocks
Goose Pond, ME granite shoreline – C Johnson
Goose Pond forest boulder – C Johnson (photo with Vernon Emeliano)
Goose Pond fairy boulder – C Johnson

Scoured

There are those who shun the wind, though I am not one of them. A desert dweller by birth, living in a subtropical environment has me gasping all too often for air, movement of energy, a yearning for fresh. 

Tonight we drove to the end of the road as is often the case after launching balls for Pili pup, stopping to gaze over boundless sea, daily troubles and strife sailing aloft on lilting thermals and out of minds too much with a tumultuous world, despite our remote location in the scheme of it. 

Driving out of the port town of Kawaihae alongside the ocean toward this northernmost region of Kohala, be observant and you might spy a small weatherbeaten hand-painted sign that reads, Aloha kamakani o’Kohala, Welcome, winds of Kohala! Blessed be our clean air and cooler, more temperate climate. This is a place to learn the value of what remains, once all else is swept away on currents of sea and sky. Taking nature’s lead, we loosen the detritus and learn to love the scoured sparsity of a life lived close to the bones of a vibrant landscape.

all photos ©Bela Johnson