Composer

Communication is composition,
ideally orchestrated if fortuitous enough
to grasp one another by our carefully
chosen words;

Yet too often in bright headlamps
of passing thought trains, we stand
transfixed, unable to move forward
or back, confused and confounded,
misconstrued meaning having wrung us
flat through slight inflection, unintended
direction; our own mind grasping
that tempting baton and running directly
to the finish, team long forgotten,
striding solo in self imposed isolation,
owing sadly to misinformation.

Dance

Passion peaks and wanes, conflagrations
cannot burn forever, yet if tempered and fed,
a gentle glow is maintained, steady heat,
protracted afterglow;

If we could always remember this moment
now, just as we are, tensions resolved
in baptismal sweetness, life would be
a dream; but we do not, and for all I know,
humans lack the capacity for sustained
euphoria, always something, anything
to pull us into crisis, individually
or collectively;

The young will live forever, the old
hold tragedy too vividly, death
stalking at every turn, and if
the middle way seems ripe
for embracing at middle age,
those days are subsumed in children
leaving home or careers revealing
themselves untenable and we,
with empty hands shaking out
residual memories and thoughts
and habits not readily put aside,
do not easily welcome acceptance
as a viable alternative;

And so we begin again.
At any stage of life. We recommit
to living with each sunrise, and
as the day spreads its magic
and mayhem, we learn to dance.
And we learn to love the dance.
As we learn better how to love.
And that in itself unites us.

 

Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.
―Ursula K. Le Guin (October 21, 1929 – January 22, 2018)

Missive on Missiles

Yesterday we had a shakedown for residents of Hawaii. A false alarm popped up on cellphones warning us of an imminent ballistic missile attack. I didn’t have my warnings enabled, but my husband showed me his phone. Our reactions were much the same. Well, what are we going to do about it? If it happens, it happens. We live in a crazy world. A provocative lunatic sits in the Oval Office. We would be surprised at nothing.

When this nation elected its current President, I could barely lift my head for days. I had the most ominous feeling of doom, not a sentiment easily conjured. Here we had finally raised a beautiful black man to the highest office in the land, something the flower child in me rejoiced at heartily. We were moving toward a more equal society. ‘Different’ people were crawling out of the woodwork to glimpse the sun, some for the very first time. It was not perfect, but it was a reason to feel promise in the bones. Then the Shadow emerged and is still looming large, insulting our humanity at every turn.

Jungian psychology might posit the Shadow to be a necessary part of the soul’s maturation. As we recognize the dark parts of our own psyches, integration is possible. We become more fully human and compassionate, understanding if for the first time that we all possess the ability to kill and to heal. Once we are mindful of our least acceptable traits, we are capable of choosing right action more often than not. I just mourned that it had to happen on this kind of scale in order to more fully awaken the collective.

So here’s the thing: What were your feelings? Your first thoughts or impulses? When one looks Death in the eye, priorities get quickly shuffled. The cards that rise to the top of the deck are those most worth noting. Did you feel fear? Anger? Outrage? Terror? Did your head spin, searching social media for a kind of discharge and/or comfort? Or were your contemplative feet rooted to the earth and did She give you a sense that there was nothing to panic about, knowing life itself is transient, that if this is your time so be it, it’s been a good life, no regrets, gather those you love close, I am ready to face whatever comes and I have taught my children to accept the same?

Knowing one’s last thoughts and sensations in the face of the worst happening is to know oneself more fully. It is an opportunity to embrace our own shadowy elements of anger and fear and really see how powerful it is when many occupy similar head spaces. Now that we are granted another glorious Hawaiian dawn, in Mary Oliver’s words, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

 

Unsure who took the pic, but this is our tiny town. The Clintons arrived the day after the missile scare event. Unsure if any connection.

Thought Tinker

The headaches come and she weeps alone;
afraid or is it ashamed to let anyone know
the hurt inside, the eye-popping terror
of a heart in chains, distress kept private
in a world that yearns for performance art;

I myself get them rarely, though I am
familiar with pain, can locate it at will
should the need arise, summon it boldly
to my lips. Whether in service to some
particular end I had in mind or a means
unto itself, this kinship with my own
darkest nature can surprise, stirring
deep revulsion at the unsavory;

To what end is this constant shaving,
whittling away perceived rough edges
when those I love most in life maintain
their own feral nature?

[photo: One of the more reclusive, yet fully vocal Melodious Laughing Thrush youths who visits our birdbath to luxuriate. They are very vigorous bathers!]

Scraps

Do not torture yourself with what-if’s,
unknown to you now or in future times,
mind-blowing images the result
of imagination in overdrive, time to regroup,
redirect into something worthwhile;

Humans are creative beings who do not
do well when long sated, beacon-like rays
of mental anguish beaming fore and aft,
searchlights meant to discover what lurks
in the shadows of dissimulation;

We all go thence, mindfulness is telling,
indulging fantastical ruminations
in the lax moments of a perfect day;
Better to dwell upon beauty in unexpected
places, focus on wind and weather,
the wet noses of dogs and the crumbling
of fertile soil, bending palms in waning light
or perfectly veined golden birch leaves
dropping onto crystal-encrusted ground;

I will never cease asking questions
despite education to the contrariness
of Whys, neverending hamster wheel
of insanity yet still I query, Why this life?
To what purpose the suffering?
I have read abundant teachings,
there is merit in all wisdom,
little snippets meant for stitching, warp
and woofing into wonder meant to comfort
both our bodies on the coldest winter night.

Postponing Joy

Remember Wimpy from Popeye cartoons? I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today! That guy knew what he wanted and couldn’t wait to enjoy it, although I’m not entirely sure about the indebting part, but I digress …

Some truths are hard to swallow. Yet is it possible we court death in postponing joy? When you die, says the Koran, God will call upon you to account for all the permitted pleasures you did not enjoy while on earth. From the Talmud, A person will be called upon to account, on Judgment Day, for all the permitted pleasures he might have enjoyed but did not.

I possess a wicked work ethic, and don’t consider it a bad thing. No matter the pressures of daily living, no matter what sticky situation I find myself mired in, I can always source joy through creative expression and participating in nature. If I find myself making excuses or justifications (some indeed compelling), it is important to recognize them for what they are so that I do not delay any longer. If I sense the corners of my mouth are cranked down in frustration or too much concentration, I know it’s time to get out into the garden and/or with the dogs and start smiling again.

Deepening consciousness through whatever avenues requires that I open my eyes to what is around me, to awaken further to how thoughts and desires co-create my life, moment to moment. Perhaps if one were ever mindful of temporality, one would live that much more fully. We could prioritize like never before while dismissing grievances and getting on with engaging ‘best possible self’ more than occasionally.

 

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Refract

How easy it is to reveal our best
in writing; reflective, unlike life
which requires reflexive, interactive,
unpredictable; like it or not the mirror
is held up and there we are refracted,
simply human, the same myriad collection
of jukebox tunes flipped out and panned
in turn on impulse perhaps, able to
be present to the situation or not, with
or without guile depending, personalities
the stanchions we prop ourselves up on,
unfurled in part or fully fledged;

Merely to be is to remain surprised,
for instinct requires nothing less nor more,
existing unpretentiously as the dance we cut
in on just as the rhythm changes, slow and blue
to whiplash fast, sparks arcing off heels,
forget dusting off the old, the new sweeps us
up and up into unchartered territory,
realms felt to be inhabited only by the gods
and yet here we clearly stand, two feet planted
on this earth, gobsmacked into wonder
once again.

 

Dust Devils

Swirls and curls picking up detritus
along the way and setting it down
elsewhere, never mind human order;
this is our mother the earth, and she is
magnanimous and destructive
in turn;

Whether we worship gods or devas,
the dandelion parts with her seed
on the same howling winds
that scatter ashes of the dead,
and what seems random
is ransom for living amidst wonder
on this swirling blue marble
punctuated by our paltry presence;

History drums out repetition,
victories in battle interpreted as favor
of the gods while peaceful coexistence
is again bitten back on blistered lips
of the poor and downtrodden, laboring
in dusty fields to eke sustenance
for strapping sons sent off to fight
once and over again;

While the sun rises and sets,
virescent rivers flow and great grey
oceans surge, tides rocking giant beds
of glaucous kelp, rolling coral bones
along endless driftwood-encrusted
shorelines as certain as our next breath
until it’s not, and we fall to the knees
in supplication, seeking forgiveness
for our lack of attention, too busy
to notice beauty, mossy life wedged
in tiny fissures, puzzle pieces
of a baby’s granite skull
as the earth continues on
in perpetuity with or without us.

This Sweet Life II

A sense of place … again and again we return to this puzzling concept. Wendell Berry, America’s best-known bioregionalist, says if you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are. Does our actual physical location determine our ability to construct the life we yearn to lead?

Wandering from place to place, looking for our environment to provide us with the deep inner peace our souls yearn for may be futile. We have been culturally conditioned to look for what we need outside ourselves, making many of us road warriors, devoid of a sense of place and stewardship to the planet we call home. Committing ourselves to some corner of earth we choose to call home allows us to envision the greater sense of connection we share as planetary participants. If we live somewhere long enough, over time we begin to relate to our sense of place, to observe ourselves in the greater scheme of things.

Constant drifting has left many of us with an inner restlessness where we seem unable to sit still long enough to feel the rhythms connecting us with the lifeblood of Mater earth. This mater is substance, earth, our flesh, blood and bones. Place your ear to the ground, and soon you can synchronize your own heartbeat to the pulse of the planet. It is in seeking solitude that we discover this profound connection, not in isolation from our felt sense of connection to the whole.

Feelings of alienation can cause us to move around unduly, to seek a sense of place, purpose and inner peace somewhere outside the self. When we journey inward, the rhythms we attune to in the pounding of our pulse are the same as the tides, as the terra firma on which we place our feet. The isolation many of us feel is a product of a life spent paying homage to our individual nature. And isolation can only have merit in context and relation to other aspects of our being.

On examining the mysterious tarot cards, the solitary Hermit falls between the Adjustment card and that of Fortune. We are not meant to perpetually wander in order to discover that which we seek. This Hermit’s number is Nine, symbolic of turning inward before embarking on something new. Flanked by an Eight (Adjustment) and Ten (Fortune), our Hermit has relationships with both. Eight is the number of transformation and rebirth. Ten represents completion as well as new beginnings.

These Major Arcana cards of the tarot are symbolic of the Hero’s journey we all embark upon to become sentient and fully human beings. Knowing when to retreat seems appropriate only in context to the whole. The Adjustment card speaks to weighing things carefully before making a decision. The Hermit then compels us to retreat within ourselves to find what is true for us at the time. It cautions us not to become distracted with busy-ness or possessions. When we succeed, we move into the Ten card’s Fortune, where we realize that what we have been seeking is not to be grasped through consumption, rather it rests within our quiet imponderable nature. We discover an inner strength we did not perhaps realize we had and discover, often to our delight, that we possess the will to embrace life such as it is with simple and profound acceptance.

 

(excerpted from Inner Tapestry Journal, Bela Johnson 2005)

Temporal

The exquisite beauty of youth
is lost on the young, ego
in overdrive, unseated soul;

We’re as deep as what we
think we know, but oh!

A fragile petal waiting
to be plucked; and from
that very moment, life
begins winking off and on
until, settled into its vase,
it crescendos, withers
and dies;

But in the interim,
what informs the flower?