Contemporary

The Amazon burns, things are far of hand,
too many world leaders well beyond their command,
our planet, this paradise, abundant with life is far
out of balance and cringing with strife; the elephants,
tigers and rhinos are game for the fat wealthy hunter
to target and maim, and the hands of the greedy
with grease in their palms are dictating the lives
of the simple and calm;

As we sit and observe, there is nothing but dread,
the visions explode in the heart and the head,
yet daydreams can change in the blink of an eye,
our minds are our own to redeem or deny;
a focus, when held, on the future we see,
can follow our hands as we nurture the tree
whose branches can hold all our dreams and our hopes,
yet we must take the actions our conscience invokes.

Oncoming, Ongoing

I don’t know how I swallowed the myth
that life would ease with age, itself,
the oncoming traffic of debts
and obligations never slows; in fact
it seems sped up as we work at carving
out time away to regain sanity lost
in forgetting that all is illusion;
still, the gift of distance allows us
to recapture tender moments that now seem
luxurious in the face of ongoing fatigue;

Meanwhile the lens of memory narrows
until I can view naught but the carefree,
the careworn falling away into mist,
an idyllic life in the woods on a lake
and the ability to shut the world out
once I turned down that dirt road;
the young mother I was then, growing up
alongside my girls as I watched
them pull away into worlds and circles
of their own, bit by bit, until college
conveyed them to a distant shore
for the remainder, running headlong
into partners and jobs and college debt
as their own pirouettes began turning
in the dance of independent creation;

Now I find my own rhythms in gardens
or creating art, meditation in motion,
an outlet for emotion; still I ponder
escape, a prisoner in Paradise, even
as the fount of gratitude fills
back to overflowing and imagining
a better life anywhere else dissolves,
the image shattering, the tinkling glass
falling in shards around my feet
as I pick up the fragments of my future
to compose them into a mosaic
for visions yet to be apprehended.

Hold Fast

Hold onto the preciousness of this day, squeeze it
until dawn breaks, fanning out like silvery wings
of a hawk circling overhead, spreading a watercolor
morning across misty skies, eggs cracked into creamy
melted butter in a hot silvery pan;

Hold fast, wind sweeping across undulating fields,
cracking dead limbs from ancient trees, ruffling
whitecaps in this ever-changing oceanic landscape;

Drop anchor, stay awhile with the presence,
the in-draw of breath, the outflowing currents
of busy-ness, postulations, abstractions, suspicions
cast away now, before they clinch and claw
at the treasured peace of bliss held in the moment,
for this, as we make it, this intentional pause
stretches into constellations of ticking time;
We can choose. This is our life.

The Frequency of Home

Perfect timing is universally ordained,
though once I did not believe it so;
perfection was something I could attain
with enough effort, enough input,
by simply and assiduously being Enough
for everyone and for all time;

Then the learning began.

Years of silence, accustoming myself
to feeling the rhythms inside that synced
with the beat of Mother Earth’s pulse;
the drumbeat rolls coming not from others,
who could never fully be satiated anyway,
but welling up from within, unbidden;
swelling and coursing through my vascular
system, cleansed upon every intentional
breath by the ever-vigilant center
of being, my trustworthy heart;

Then it was discernment, and this only years
later after the chaos and struggle had died
down with those umbilical separations, mother
from child, and then, mother from child
again and anon, the multilayered garments
cast off, shell by shell of the crusty cricket
chirping in my head, humming, droning,
dropping steady pools of grievous tears until,
beyond comprehension, my eyes glistened
with clarity, no longer the weeping, wailing guilt
of my own lost youth revisited, as it seemed
in these fragile partings;

I wonder at the endless capacity of women
to mother others, long after progeny
have vanished from our everyday view;
perhaps it was this closeness, this bond
I wished somehow to recreate with those
let into my private sanctuary; and it sounds
as though I knew at the time the quantity
and quality of those who breached the gates,
but I did not; and time and again, life shook me
down and down, human fallibility rearing
its maned visage, facing off, facing down
until I had no choice but to retreat, once again,
into solitary until, with yet more experience,
I began to harvest grain from the chaff,
carefully weeding out if not disavowing myself
entirely of the very species I had come
into this life to embrace;

Nobody said it would be easy.
No one said it would be this hard, or take
this long, or try my sanity so arduously.
What price, maturity? At what cost comes peace
of mind? And yet it arrives in proper measure,
day by day, moment by moment, in the silent
interstices between thoughts, words,
and the inevitable vicissitudes of existence.

Travelogue 1: Pacific Northwest Revisited

I am disinclined to travel these days, preferring to remain in the half-acre gardens I have created with my own hands these past five years. Yet on the spur of the moment, I agreed to a three-week house and pet sitting gig for dear friend in one of my favorite places to visit, the Pacific Northwest. Being springtime, I knew the weather might be dicey. But after surges of early summer heat in Hawaii, I was looking forward to some relief.

Lucky for me I adapted fairly quickly, taking a couple of days to rest and acclimate, going from needing seventy degrees indoors to keep my teeth from chattering and my muscles from tightening up to sixty-five two days later, then simply let the temperature be what it would be. Four days from my arrival, the sun broke through predictably platinum skies.

Every day so far, I have gone out hiking. Old growth forests draw me in with their majestic beauty; beaches, though breezy and quite chilly this time of year, offer expanses of space in which to contemplate horizons yet to be realized, literally and figuratively. I never know what to expect from solitude in unfamiliar places, and this journey shook me down further, rattling out fears and patterns not usually obvious in my everyday routine. It’s good to dislodge the demons, to venture forth and discover that life perpetually surprises.

When I travel, I follow my nose whenever possible. Being lost brings me the most interesting adventures. The first place I stumbled upon was a beach in the early morning, a lone older man sitting in a folding chair close to the shoreline, fishing pole propped in the sand, stiff wind notwithstanding. I walked a few hundred feet toward him, but he seemed disinclined to chat, likely preferring the solitude I, myself treasure. As I turned to go, an eagle swooped over my shoulder, seagulls in screaming hot pursuit. The harassment likely annoyed the eagle who was doubtlessly tending a nest nearby. Houses lined the upper portion of the beach, separated by a buffer of driftwood typical in this part of the world. The eagle landed on a familiar rooftop and I knew this because of the streaks of white dribbling from the ridgeline. Anchored in strong talons, she began tearing apart the fish she had caught, and was left alone for a few minutes until one persistent scavenger alighted a few feet behind her. Having had enough at that point, she fled to the tall conifers. And I returned to my rental car, switched on Apple Maps to figure out where I’d gotten to, and headed out to hike a nearby forest trail.

iPhone shots taken from a distance are not ideal. Still, you can see the snow-capped Cascade Mountain Range, a cropped shot of the fisherman, and a crop of the rooftop eagle.

A Day for The Earth

There are snapshots in time, places where
one feels the eyes scratching over the surface
of some offensive scene, cymbals clashing
inappropriately during a tender interlude,
spell dissolved in the cacophony, never
to return again free of that memory;

Then there are backdrops nature paints
without premeditation, figures juxtaposed
against a canvas that can only contribute
to the light in one’s own eyes, the numinous
shining through, and I know in the center
of my bones that we must preserve this place,
its atmosphere beyond measure or means
by which we could precisely calibrate
how our human impact has contributed
to its degradation;

All we have is now, no time for regret,
rather embrace what we can do from
this moment into moments mounding,
overlapping, mindfully repeating
like a prayer to infinity.

All photos ©2019 Bela Johnson

RITUAL

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