Point of Origin, A Koan

I woke up this morning and Got It,
I mean, kinesthetically in-my-bones
to-my-soul Got It. All was perfect,
the heaviness the damp brought about
was gone, and in its place, an incredible
lightness of being;

Of course the mind stepped in
to save the day, or so it thought,
to analyze, compose, order this new
awareness, as it were, to card catalog it
under A for anomaly, or perhaps label it
enlightenment, something it thought
it had defined but clearly had no idea,
No Idea. For this had little to do with that,
leaving the mind floundering,
as it were, on the shoals
of its lonely self importance;

But you Can be useful, I said
whilst mopping its tired, beaten brow,
but give it a break just now, I am content;
as something deeper recalled the voice
of Dorothy, I have traveled all the way
to Oz, seen the Wizard, cringed in fear
at the flying monkeys, All This Way!
Only to discover, Auntie Em, there’s
no place like home!

New Mexico sunset ~ bj 2022

Rattlesnake Encounters

I get that fear is genuine. We have just emerged from two years of it gripping not just people, but countries and the global community as we reacted to news of a pandemic. It became a real test of character and an opportunity to reflect on how we receive information. Are we plugged into media for our news, or are we trusting our inner compass, our guidance, our instincts? Who are we, and what are we made of? Are we so afraid that, in the belief that we are keeping ourselves and others safe, we became as schoolyard bullies? But this post is not about ‘that.’ It is about how aware we are of our own fear, and how we manage it, or at its worst manifestation, how we allow it to control our lives.

Fear is the instinct these bodies were equipped with in order to ensure the perpetuation of our species. All creatures possess it, each to their kind. We react, and the difference between a human reaction and an animal’s is complex. All reside here on this planet, and just because we can eliminate another’s life due to our fear of it doesn’t make it right. Yet many do not even ask critical questions of themselves, though I am quite certain Indigenous people did, and many still do.

Late yesterday afternoon, I was drawn to sit on the steps leading to our front garden area. Daylight was waning, clouds were billowing and amassing as they do this time of year, and after hours in the hot sun giving the bigger trees a deep drink in the midsummer heat, those steps were calling me. As I settled onto the flagstone, something obviated itself in the corner of my vision. My body reacted for a flash, no longer, a visceral startle response, and I did not make more of it, did not escalate it into fight or flight panic. I realize we all have control over this escalation, yet many are like one of those cars that goes from zero to sixty in six seconds. Instinct, fear, panic, reaction. Humans are, as I say, perhaps the most complex species. We are so confused with undefined and unconscious fears that we have driven thousands of unique and beautiful species of animals from this earth.

I realized I had a visitor. Well, hello, friend, I said in a quiet voice. The visitor looked at me with similar curiosity, no doubt, and we sat in silence and allowed one another time and space to adjust. We are both creatures who like our space, I mused, not that dissimilar or unusual in that respect. And yes, this small one possesses the power to kill, as do I. It doesn’t have to define this moment, or any other. After a bit longer, the rattler pulled its head back, not to strike, but to redirect its body into a turn, and it glided off toward the rock wall, making its way slowly, as do I when in new surroundings, as s/he settled under a low-lying shrub for what I suspected was the evening.

Earlier in the day, our dogs were in their large enclosure, and they would not stop barking. Last time this happened, a large bull snake had decided their hay bed was a nice cool place to spend the day. Chris emerged from his shop, and I from the house, as we walked to their yard to determine what was agitating them. As we approached, we heard a rattle. If you have never heard this sound, it is pretty unusual, and unique to the species that claims it. I am small, and I am just as afraid of you as you are of me! Please give me space to determine my next move! There s/he was, curled up in Peanut’s hay bed, eyes bright, rattle erect and vibrating. We released the dogs to relocate to the house, and I spent a moment communicating to the snake that it needed to find another place to hang out. An hour later, I checked and it was gone. Later that evening, I believe it was the same creature who met me in the garden.

This morning, Peanut was again uneasy. Chris walked around the corner of the house and came upon the rattler and a mouse, clinging to the rock wall above it. We had been setting traps and checking all the minute places where rodents might gain access to the inner walls of the house in exactly this corner. Nature knows we abhor killing when there are other options, and now this. I don’t believe I am imagining that the snake appeared as our rodent trap, providing her/him food whilst eliminating some of our rodent issues. Last year, we had rodents chewing wires under the hoods of our vehicles. A prairie rattler, same variety as the one I speak of here, took up residence under a pile of stacked lumber.

I know some might fear snakes, spiders, jellyfish, whatever. All I am asking is that people explore the origin of these fears, and consider the options of peaceful coexistence on a planet already in crisis due to the care-less actions of our species. In the immortal words of Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”

 

Our morning visitor ~ bj 2021

Ink Not Yet Dry

The longing to be loved is profound,
the soul sings life into being,
a journey not yet taken, yet once
in progress, so often reprising
experience already inked and dried,
fading on paper not meant to last;

The manuscript is not complete,
we are all unfinished works
in the making, and repeating
what once was
brooks little space for a new
unmanifest destiny of envisioning
all we may dream into being
by dint of our own acts and visions;

Be wary of casting others into molds
too snug to allow for expansion,
human proclivity of those seeking
sentience whilst ignoring the limiting
tendency to love with condition
merely what is befitting,
rather than embracing
with wholehearted acceptance
the splendor of a liberated co-creation.

Monstera maze ~ bj 2017

Under the Quiet

Golden showers stream down
in dappled luminescence,
crescent slivers of fragrant
eucalyptus leaves
and she sits, no distraction
save the gurgle of a coppery-
bottomed meandering brook,
sparkling and nosing its way
through giant boulders
rolled into place long
before flows were choked back
to mere trickles, still it exudes
contentment, beauty;

She wonders at the silence
under the silence, what is the
texture of a thing unseen?
Too fine a vision has gotten her
in trouble more than once,
overactive imagination
they called it yet it persists,
and her mind can’t stop wondering
if there is this, than there must
be that, something deeper
in the woven shadows of trees,
the hollows of husky trunks,
the shapes of billowing clouds,
themselves harbingers of light
released from cerulean skies
in the form of diamond drops,
lustrous liquid giving off
the only sound in a world
once silent as grass,
or the thoughts that plague
her now.

Mana Rd., Big Island HI ~ bj

Breathe

Mysterious new things move
to the cadence of nature’s drum,
the cry of destruction loudly rings;
Aloha aina, care for the land,
it matters not where we choose
to root ourselves, the mandate
is the same: we must return
to the Garden, discover innocence 
lost when simple was subsumed
by life so complex that some days
I wonder how long I can manage it,
threads frayed, threatening to unravel;

Yet when I walk out into messy,
immerse my hands in soil, work
at amending what has been stripped
by too many years of consumption
without consideration, my spirit calms,
settles into what is there in front of me,
head not spiraling out into orbit, here.
And now, now, now;

This is what we are given, this moment,
breathing in, then out, listen to the
heartbeat of nature; observe
with a raptor’s eyes all that surrounds,
notice the little things, the seemingly
unimportant, purpose-less details
in a world fixed on production,
and learn; for we might well need
that sort of knowledge in the days
to come.

Photo taken on our ranch. This Redtail Hawk watches over us,
observes everything we do. Pretty cool.

Hairball

Driving to the post office two miles
down the road, a camouflaged coyote sits,
watching traffic go by, head swiveling
to and fro, ears perking up when I spot her,
and we think we speak different languages;

Yesterday as I approached our mountain home,
a female elk stood in the center of the road
she was crossing, long enough to inspect the car,
the occupant, who knows, I am not a fan
of anthropomorphisms, and yet I did take note;

It is in nature I feel most at home; still, the danger
during these pandemic times is that I might
once again forget I am part of the human race,
having learned the importance of community
only recently in this long life;

I think I am alone with these strangling feelings,
I think I am free inside myself and yet,
during yesterday’s drive, zoning out as the miles
ticked by, I felt an orb of release, like coughing
up a hairball, and it was solid as the golf balls
we kids used to crack open, only to discover miles
of something like rubber bands,
as unlike the ball’s shiny dimpled exterior
as guts are to the face we show the world;

And so these inner fibers, once released by inside
or outside forces stretch and rebound, extend out
and return to me, as they have done, year upon year,
remaining unchanged unless, that is, I alter
something perceived, an old pattern or habit, thus
unsticking the bonds that solidify them within.

©Bela Johnson 2021

One Equal To All

I stand alone, silhouetted
by the dawn, queen of the mountain,
the hill or nothing at all,
tiny speck on a speck of stardust,
endlessly orbiting in a vast,
wide universe, wondering
(do trees and coyotes wonder?),
waiting, I suppose, to rejoin
the human race
after too much isolation,
and where are the invitations?
Hidden, as well they might be,
behind colorful masks
and color-less fears;

Pandemic bringing all of us
into parity with those sequestered
by choice, yet even the monks
of Tibet have their community;
and what, if anything,
have I drawn from an experience
I did not volunteer for?

Me, me, me. The one who scoffs
at self importance in others.
Other.
Self.
Same.

That’s the takeaway.

Buddha and the Effigy

A vast ocean casts itself
into view, each wave thunders
to shore as if it had
always known; black sand
responding, surrendering
to the current, an entire
unseen world existing
under the sea.

I don’t even recognize
who looks out from my eyes
some days, I know so little,
perhaps it’s god or something
like it, trying hard
to get through;

If the soul does not exist
as some Buddhists say,
what lies beyond the body,
what unifying presence
holds worlds together?
Maybe Siddhartha had
a blind spot, too;

In the end, does it matter
if we summon what is sacred
from within or without?

Old Journal Entry

Going back into my journals for the first time in years, I discover it’s interesting to note how clearly I perceive things now, compared to 15 years ago. For all those sheltering in isolation with others they are not quite used to being with 24/7, perhaps these old meanderings might give rise to your own deeper contemplations …

July 4, 2005

Is it fear or is it excitement? Such a question for those of us raised not to expect much or anything at all;

How to be with inner trembling without precipitating an earthquake? Life goes about its business, we are here waiting in the wings for it to happen, whatever that might look like;

Perhaps it is excitement only, then again, maybe fear. But if I don’t know, why label it at all? Say it’s both or neither. But if I don’t sit still enough and listen, it becomes a mantle, then a shroud;

Am I sad or am I angry? Allowing neither, they have become, as have I, confused. Sitting on a powder keg of emotion, I tremble with energy burning inside, steaming my vitals like massive hydroelectric turbines (and we wonder why, by mid-life, we feel burned out);

How to disengage from self destruction now seems bigger than searching for what path to walk or spinning wheels at the scrim of the past;

What an intense awakening! To realize that, at some fundamental level, I lack deep awareness of the benevolent nature of the universe;

Disrupted early on by promises rarely met with integrity, instead, behind the power of the original delivery lay a raw, wounded place in another’s story;

How to unravel myself? I go deeper into ‘belief’ and find it less substantial, and when visiting it again, it seems to strangle less. What emerges is more my own truth.

mid-1970’s

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes!

Last Monday we closed on the lovely property pictured here. We are now in a position of having secured the ground for our future whilst awaiting the selling of the home we have lovingly restored from old Plantation times to its present incarnation. It’s been so much fun, and yes, a lot of work! We never planned on leaving it, so we made it our own, tropical gardens and all. You can view it here.

Still, we might have known better. Living wide open necessitates a willingness to shift and grow, both inwardly but also occasionally outwardly, at least for us. So back we go to where we lived many years ago. The high desert of New Mexico is singularly unique. And we look forward to the variety of topography and wildlife we remember from that time, as well as different opportunities for us both. Aloha for now!

photo credit for all images: Laurie Hilton; last image: Alexander Berlonghi