Mother

Waves lap at my feet as I stare down sunset,
myself a fixed object on the shore, bringing
to mind reclamation, our oceanic mother
calling me back and through time, sloughing
off my scales, crawling onto the sand
to admire her from another angle; perhaps
only this, in the end, shall redeem me;

At the very least, I know my place now,
fragile feelers in a complex web
of interconnection, taking time at last
to resonate, cell to cell, with the vast
and shifting body of my origins.

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

Of Gardens and Buddhas

Before I began gardening in earnest; before I allowed myself the luxury of flowers rather than the scratching of necessities, firewood and food; before my vision exploded into islands of umber and emerald with spikes of magenta and indigo flanked by tiny waxen buds, I asked my gardening sister how she did it. How to begin, so as not to  spend time in futile effort, to somehow create the perfect plot on the first attempt. How she responded and what I have never forgotten since, all these years later, was to begin in a corner and go from there. Just take that first shovelful and the rest will follow.

Moons and rains too numerous to count have passed and I have learned what survives in xeriscape and what thrives so well in moisture that it must be cut back more or less, depending on what is selected. I have mostly learned more about life. There is no greater teacher for me than the garden. There is no Buddha more evolved than this earth. All the lessons of mindfulness, detachment, the need to let go and drop any preconceived notions of perfection exist in the eternal now of the garden. There’s an alchemy that happens when sweat and creativity mingle and merge into landscape; a transformation that happens quite by chance if not intention.

Hau blossoms begin yellow but turn this lovely color when they drop to the ground.
Some of my first harvested cloves. The tree is now far too big and produces thousands of cloves; so much so, that foregoing the harvest was exercised this year.
Pink Shower Tree blossoms. They smell divine and the tree’s canopy covers nearly half our 1/2+ acre yard.
A variety of Datura, the Angel Trumpet tree seeks wet and shelter from high winds. Started from a stick in the ground, ours now suffuses the southern view out the living room windows.
One of many hybrid Hibiscus cultivated on these islands. This is closest to the Wsdom variety, but it’s not the name I remember and have now misplaced.

The Turning

She knew it was safe, now her feet chose a path leading far
from dark uncertainties, of boarded-up options into an oasis
of light, a clearing of both heart and mind, a dendrological dive
into oneness with nature, which tree was which, identifying
those whose leaves dropped with the chill and those
that remained, holding space in that jigsaw landscape;

Forays down to the wellhead were spongy with moss, layers
of leaf and needle underfoot, trickling underground streams
flowing beneath quasi-soil draped over granite boulders
and pooling into a still point where, aboveground, stood
a granite casing with crude wooden cover; deeper still, tethered
to the bale of a three-gallon pail, lay the object of desire, cool drink
or promise of a steaming kettle as the vessel was cast into depths
repeatedly until just the right toss dredged itself clear and icy cold;

Filling buckets for each hand to grasp before carefully replacing
the cover, hoisting the weight of water and heading uphill, back
to the moonglow arc of light softly radiating from the cabin, tinge
of woodsmoke in chill air, teapot gently rattling on iron grates,
home was harbor into which her boat slipped silently
and without complaint;

And part of her began to grasp the value in releasing, shedding
non-essentials, detritus to which one could become accustomed
as if plugging all the holes, those islands of free-ranging thought,
could confer security somehow, would grant serenity, tranquility
of mind first and finally; still, peace was innate when she was able
to handle the shake-down, that honest meeting, self to self, dark
to light and back again, the terror of un-being confronted,
a deer caught in crosshairs, vole surrendering to the fox;

And as the seasons turned like leaves in the wind, dancing,
spinning, settling; as ice and snow gave rise to muck and flow
and the lake groaned and shifted, turning impossibly heavy crust
over into crystal prisms glinting in the narrow shafts of sunlight;
as the waters opened up and the loons returned, echoing
their mournful cries into a deepening dawn and dusk, she, too
began to thaw and sense, as if the first time, creation awakening
in her bones, and her own heart likewise took flight and soared
like the great blue heron, circling freely in those endless cerulean skies.

Lake lies beyond the granite boulder you see in the distance.
Looking across the water where we could ski when the lake was frozen.

All photos taken many years ago on a cheap camera. Not nearly as good quality as the newer equipment, but these photos framed the memories. Aloha.
© Bela Johnson

Moonglow

I see you, Sister Moon, as you skitter across metal
rooftops, bathing the landscape in your pale
silvery frost, calling me up and out of fretful
sleeplessness, leaving me now to wonder
on which coast I lie, memories of chill mornings,
stoking wood fires, perpetually icy floors,
never warm save for the evening bath steaming
in the early black of night before a tumble
into cool wool blankets, waiting for him to generate
enough heat so muscles could relax enough
to drift into star-spiked dreams;

No choice but to follow as you beckon, teasing
loose the borders of sleep’s inception, drifted wisps
of thought creeping in, vines of phrases twining
into form, spinning wakefulness out of slumber,
then once arisen, watching skies darken implausibly
into pitchy night, once again;

Sleep is respite, not much dissuades me from its
sound embrace, only the occasional ghost tapping
at the windows of my mind, plucking cobwebs
from corners heretofore ignored, prodding questions,
where, what, when and the damnable why,
as if final answers are ever going to be forthcoming
in the pique of midnight hours;

Watch and wait, learn to live in moments, lay aside
expectations, decisions can wait until sunrise,
discover grace under pressure, reside under this
perpetual cloak of uncertainty; life guarantees
nothing, that much I know, and if nothing else,
always remember peace is personal.

Moonset in early morning light through lace curtains ~ © Bela Johnson

Clear Vision

I saw her today, glimpsed her like a new creature
shining and bright, free of the heavy cloak of denotation,
bronze I have cast her in despite myself, all these years
of believing she could in any way be known;

Inside my own skin I remain a mystery, unfolding
like the lotus flower, each new leaf and bud tender
and unfurling, tainted only through these selfsame
definitions, assumptions; we all do this in the dance
of discovery, alone or in tandem;

And I really wonder at the fabric of existence, itself,
a morphing, unified body with attributes thought to be
self and self, unique only insofar as they escape demarcation,
for once named, limitations are imposed and wrapped,
neat little packages, box steps imposed on modern dance,
monotones seeping into a technicolor palette;

What if we could begin again and again, mindful
of past assumptions, apprehend the self and others, eyes
unshuttered, clearly seeing and without bias what lies
before or within us, without guile?


photo ©Bela Johnson

Portal

There’s an invisible portal
in the mantle covering Earth;
look closely without staring:
focus softly, not sharp, and you
might conjure enough filaments
to pop through, unexpectedly
shifting into another realm
long ago expunged
from collective recall;

Most mortals have crowded
out memories beyond three
generations if that, not nearly
enough to make lucid a time
when indigenous folk and their
predecessors roamed a
wondrous green and blue planet,
gathering food and medicine,
striking camp to ramble because
that is what humans do, plagued
as we are with restless impulses,
compelled to elude perceived
restrictions;

The great Mystery held magic,
little known beyond one’s own
boundaries, where wildness
thrived, was necessary to a world
where life seemed more equally
met between predator and prey,
lacking modern means
of expunction;

Where have we come
in telescopic time, how now
to call ourselves civil, struggles
now stranded in boardrooms
and alleyways, even into ethers
of social media where the enemy
that is our own mind can be
sequestered in shadows
without cast;

Are we simply stuffing monsters
back under the bed as bequest
to future generations?

Rock face, Kohala coast
Spirit of the waterfall, Palouse Falls, WA. (See the face looking toward the right? And the leg ‘stepping out of the shower?’
Pele’s fire tender, Kalapana, HI
Do you ‘see’ the greenish/bluish fish toward the bottom of the frame? It wasn’t there, but then again it was. Near Walla Walla, WA.
Even this: someone hung an old deer or elk skull on a tree (to mark a trail? To scare someone or something?) Yet look at it from the side, and you can see an owl pecking at the bark. Clancy, MT.

Welcome to my world. I don’t often write about such extra-sensory experiences, but I have always observed things in nature that are difficult to describe to others (save my husband and girls, who likewise see what most do not.) Don’t look too hard, but try the soft focus suggested in the poem. You might view things differently, and maybe you’ll strike out in nature more often to ‘see’ for yourself! Aloha. (All photos © Bela Johnson)Rock face, Kohala coast.