Instinctual

Winding down the mountain road,
layers obviate themselves; Ponderosas
and then cottonwoods and aspens
on either side, the Vallecitos River
winding along now-fallow fields, rolled
or baled hay stacked near livestock,
snow-capped peaks in the distance,
mountains beyond mountains, visible
as far north as Colorado;

Oversized ravens are ubiquitous here,
flapping indigo-tinged ebony wings,
cruising on thermals or alighting
in treetops, their croaking voices
telegraphing location or simply
sounding off for the sheer joy of it;
they live and die, never having seen
the ocean;

Today what caught the eye was one
of these beauties sailing along,
landing gear fully extended, close
but not near enough to its intended
perch in the aspen; strangely reminiscent
of an osprey descending onto
oblivious prey, one minute swimming
along and the next, dinner;

And so we live, not knowing when
or where things will change, top
of the food chain, no swooping
pterodactyl wings slicing the crisp,
blue air above, driving fear deep
into animal feet seeking safety
in the ground of what we feel.

 

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.

Reflections on Divisions

There is a divide growing in the US larger than the Grand Canyon.The Grand Canyon is a spectacular natural wonder, whereas events leading up to the scope of this divide have been anything but. 

Quite literally, Americans have been cleaved along lines of those for Democracy, equality for all; those who are ‘pros,’ pro choice in every way. We support each other in the enjoyment of freedom in all its forms; we help those less fortunate without exception and generally pay our due in the hope that all might have the chance to simply live. 

Then there are those who blindly follow charismatic leaders, despite often dehumanizing actions and efforts to maintain a certain social order, class and gender segregation, and the established dominion of white male supremacy. I have asked myself many times why women, in particular would support this sort of person, the sort who openly brags about ‘grabbing them by the pussy’ and diminishes women of intelligence, empathy and of course color. The sort of person who would rob them of choice and even their own children. (The fiasco at the Mexican border has become a wretched second Berlin Wall.) Just because it hasn’t happened to them does not mean it is not happening. 

In the end, I must conclude that fear is the culprit. Fear of change, of losing their privilege, of being in unfamiliar territory with those different from themselves. Somehow these dear folks have lulled themselves into greater and greater actual peril by simply not wanting to think for themselves. By simply not doing their due diligence when it comes to what they espouse. Many are Christian, yet fail miserably at the very principles Jesus taught. These principles are ridiculously simple, yet are made complex enough that people believe they need someone (usually male) to interpret ‘the word of God’ for them. Do they not realize that too often this goes according to selfish motives and whims needed to control congregants and fill coffers? When these sorts of masses give, god bless them, it is too often role driven. Secure in their place in society (or so they imagine/assume), they are convinced their actions are benevolent toward often-distant people they support through comparatively meager donations motivated by needed tax breaks. The recipients are likewise grouped under labels: poor and victim leap to mind, yet their actual lives and personal histories are as far removed as outer space. Thus it is easy to label these others as welfare cases, leeches sucking blood out of a society just trying to move its privileged forward. The givers have not broken bread with these desperate factions of societies; have not listened to their stories nor experienced any sort of cultural diversity, first hand. 

Always one to support divergent views, I have found myself so alienated from those hypnotized by the current government as to not have much of anything remaining in common. If we were to get together, what on earth would we talk about? And so I am left to will them my best intentions, and call it good. I have no desire to listen to rationalizations and justifications for their behavior, as there simply are none that can account for exclusions and suppressions of ‘undesirables’ in the eyes of these few. We have no time to indulge ignorance anymore. Global warming is real, this is not open to dispute, listen to science or go back to the cave of ignorance at your peril. The Sixth Extinction is upon us, and we are in the throes of a massive pandemic that is not going anywhere soon. To turn a blind eye to these sorts of wake-up calls is to negate our responsibility as human beings toward the Collective, our sisters and brothers as well as all sentient beings and the environment we depend upon for our very existence.

None of us chose color or gender, we were all and equally born into this life, albeit into very different circumstances. Life is short. We are tiny, less than microscopic specks in a universe filled with wonder. To hold any sort of self importance in a day when sharing and collaborating to figure out how humans might continue occupying space on this amazing spinning ball called earth is truly all we have time to do. And it will require all our creativity, all our heart in order to accomplish a badly needed shift away from established consumerist, exclusionary practices. Opening our eyes to the realities of the time is not only preferable anymore, it is imperative. Be the change you want to see. And if that change has only to do with you and yours, it may be time to rethink priorities. Bless you all.

Wide Open

An avalanche or a rockslide cleaves sharply
from its origins; boulders of perception tumbling,
tumbling, thundering carelessly over terrain
flinching passively; unexpected projectiles
lodging fragments into storied ice;

Millennial madness, and it drives and it falls
as it plummets and crumbles into heaps of rubble
and debris, like emotions or grief lodging
sideways into DNA;

Choreographed over ages too wide and deep
to fathom, mountains draw themselves
down toward the sea; humans carelessly careen
into one another, conductors of orchestrated
imaginings wanting to fasten on,
as the ground slips away, and away.

Photos of the Rio Grande Gorge taken on Christmas Day, 2000 

Complicit

I read him Mary Oliver’s luminous words
in bed at night, perceptions written
nearer her end and yes there is sadness,
his eyes well uncomfortably,
who wouldn’t wish (were it possible)
to turn away from the degradation
of nature loved with the whole
of our hearts;

The loons on Goose Pond, circling
around us with crimson eyes, echoes
of their haunting cries tattooed
into memory, early morning and dusk,
nine chicks that year and two adults
and one would be hard pressed today
to hear a single pair if lucky,
human encroachment into nesting areas,
refusal to admit error in bulldozing
sacred spaces for greed and profit,
filling wetlands, giant killer bees
building, harmony absent, drones
taking over the hive,
and what are we, if not complicit?
None are blameless;

It seems a lifetime ago, smoke cannot
pour itself back down the chimney;
opportunity now lies in discovering
wonders of a pine forest far
from lake or ocean.
I must ponder more deeply
the meaning of water.

In Two, A Not-Too-Distant Memory

I

Sounds like a woman screaming.

Then I snap back from my twilight reverie,
Coyote is on the move, or calling the brood
in for the night; there must be a den of them
across the vast fields and rushing stream,
seeking safety in the forest about the same time
every evening now. I realize this, being my
sixth eventide on the mountain.

II

The elk are stalking me, noticing traces
of my passage along their own pathways
through these fourteen acres;

I have likewise lowered strands of barbed
wire used to top acres of fence line
where I notice tufts of blonde fur, revealing
fence-vaulting preferences; having no
serious tools with me on this visit, my gloved
wire wrapping will have to do until we are able
to make more permanent adjustments
to allow them passage, once again;

Someone once sought to keep them out,
but elk have roamed these mountains
for as long as time; I say let them pass;
one day we shall meet, Elk and I,
and I will know more about this majestic
creature than ever before.

Eternal

 

The poem that had to be written at two in the morning;
was it carried on the wind building force in the night,
pushing harder on my head until, evoking surrender,
I turn the page and silently push the pencil,
watching words forming, shapes curving alongside
one another, forging bond between graphite
and sinew, seemingly benign,
but lest it appear deceptive, consider:

These words cast upon vellum one twilight
in the midst of my days will remain
long after this puzzle life breaks apart,
leaving only a specter which once I perceived
to be me, as if the I who loves you
could be captured
on a page.







 

 

Flight

Once in a great while I detect glimpses, sensations,
impulses; what it felt like, those intrepid days
of youth, out of the house, seeding my own liberation,
or so I thought; I could dress up, casting spells
upon the dance floor, long wavy auburn hair flowing
about me, a radiant halo, mistaking those highs
for the freedom I sought;

Then transpired love and loss and love and agonizing
loss again and again, two daughters, lives to protect,
their well being my focus, my own maturation very
much linked to theirs though I knew it not, who does
at that age I wonder, if we are to be completely honest;

Inevitable cracks in the veneer, intimacy too complex
and so I perpetuated it thus, attracted a man that needed
nothing so much as fantasy though the world knew it not,
destined to dissimulate, propping up a ruse, the irony
of it all;

Waiting in the wings, my heart’s desire, nothing expected
or suspected, still it mellowed into rapture of sorts,
partnership longed for requiring years to clarify,
fleshing out the spectre of its origins, girls growing up,
leaving home for college, independence, meanwhile
what I had constructed lay in ruins all about, sparkle
gone, what to do with that kind of sorrow but crumple
into weeping until it appeared unending;

Decades later it has come, those winking memories linking
back to that sense of deliverance, only now it feels real,
and I must discover how to mend the gap, years inside myself
alone, isolation or immolation, phoenix readying for flight,
ashes of failures at my feet, leaden cloak shed
from tired shoulders and shrugged aside, free and clear
and entirely, if fairly late to the party, fundamentally whole.

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Mothers Day 2020

Today I posted an apology to my mother, now deceased, on Facebook. Apologized for not being more patient, more understanding; in essence a better daughter. Immediately friends rallied around me, supporting and consoling in these shared reflective times in that way women do. My mother raised us in virtual self-imposed isolation. She sequestered her shame in a beautiful home with an abusive husband, her constant companions being sorrow and confusion at how a man she adored could turn so savage and loving, in turn. If social media had existed, I wonder if she would or even could have reached out for the comfort she desperately needed.

She was only eighteen, a child herself when she gave birth to the first of seven healthy children. I was fifth down the line, her baby girl, the object of her devotion through most of my childhood. It was complicated as she clearly favored me, which set up many years of resentment from my siblings. I was not aware of the repercussions when young, children take what love they can get. Later on I resented her in turn for causing such confusion and heartbreak amongst my siblings. And on it went, the baton was passed and I seized and flat-out ran with it.

I wonder how parent/child relationships would alter if we could time travel to the future, just far enough to consider what we are about to say or do. My child self had the luxury of few filters when it came to Mom. My father was unsafe at any speed, so what I stifled with him, I let fly with her. It was not constant, and I was not often unkind, but even after I left home, there were excuses not to call or visit except when it suited me. I was wrapped up in my own adult dramas then, with the challenges of an errant husband and two little girls to think about. Coping was just about what I could handle. Yet even when the girls left home, I called mom less and less frequently. She had found religion, and I tired easily of the conversion tactics. Had I more tolerance, I might have found a way around the touchier comments. Had I cultivated patience, I might have realized she was getting old and older, more and more frail and finally death overcame her non-resistance to it. She had suffered enough to consider it a benediction.

As I approach my sixty-seventh birthday next month, I don’t know if it’s mortality or the prevalence of pandemic-driven morbidity that tugs more assiduously at the strings of my heart. I feel tender and a little raw and a bit weepy. As diligent as I was about my own mothering, I made mistakes as she said I would. I don’t know if kids are even meant to understand, but parents are very much growing up alongside them. This, whilst trying to fill shoes of archetypal proportions. Mother. Father. Even with the best of marriages or parenting intentions, who among us can ever measure up to these impossible standards?

Wishing all of you mothers everywhere a blessed Mothers Day tomorrow and every day. It’s the hardest and paradoxically the most rewarding job on the planet. May we all support one another in sharing the kind of love we either received or lacked from our own moms. With genuine forgiveness, love and compassion flows like singing water. May we all attune to its frequency. Aloha.Kohala Mountain Road morning glories ~ bj

Seagulls

I must keep reminding myself,
this is not just about me; nothing
I have done or failed to do,
it was timing, good or poor,
none of us could have predicted
just how and when the changes
this precious earth needed
in order to cleanse herself
of one species’ avarice and greed
over those of all others, well,
it was bound to come;

I sit here contemplating seagulls
I once used to sit and watch
on the causeway to Mount Desert
Island with her icy emerald waters,
tides flowing in and out,
leaving small crustaceans for them
to pick and peck, dashing
these hapless shelled creatures
upon granite boulders again
and again, breaking them
Apart;

A metaphor, a sign, an understanding
that the shell of my own seclusion
contains tiny cracks and, if dropped
from the great height of self importance,
bursts open, freeing its vulnerable center,
naked and helpless in the face
of what cannot be known by a mind
desirous of plans;

Timing may be not to my liking,
but surely as the cycles of nature
assure me that change is inevitable,
so we shall soon be on our journey
to another place where, surrounded
by forest and stream, a homecoming
of sorts awaits to stitch us back
into rhythms of season and soil.

photo: Chris Johnson