Flux

I never wanted famous, though it was proffered
more than once; did not want to grow up
in public, recorded on the cortices of admirers,
on film or stage, no; talent may, through its
own merits, ease its way into hearts to pause
or to remain;

In the shadows or in the streaming blue daylight
I have roamed, senses piqued, attentive, bright-
eyed bird or a conger eel poking tentatively
in and out of its rocky burrow, seeking connection,
but then again wanting nothing so much
as to be left solitary, only the rushing sound
of waves overlapping, shards of sunlight slicing
through the columnar clusters of its coral cave;

In the balance it was nature that saved me,
shaking me down, down, until, touching bottom,
I was free to surface or submerge at will, no fear
of falling nor of what lay in the abyss,
no admonitions from trees or stars; skies did
not loom nor threaten, only sheltered, protected
whether blue or grey; in shrill winds or basking
crystalline stillness it was the same endless
continuum of something grace granted to explore,
within or without that strange flux, perpetual
motion drawing me into its rocking loose embrace,
lulling me, as if for the first time,
into contentedness in or out of the depths.

Puget Sound ferry
Mauna Loa pu’u
Kohala taro patch stream
Mauna Kea
Koa forest, Kohala

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.

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

Journey

In self created confinement I dwell, waves
of consciousness crashing onto undisclosed
shorelines, thundering hooves of phantom horses
approaching through the sands of time;

Some might shudder at these contemplative
spaces, interstices of time before necessary
activities seep in to deplete inner resources,
yet how else to manage my own reserves?

It has ever been thus, on this shore
or that, in woods, blended into desert sage,
on this island paradise many yearn for,
and I wonder at life, at the marking of time,
random wandering through dreamscapes
of beauty, illusion teased into being;

Some call it journey, for how else to wrap
and ponder this packaged tour, fractal
in eternity, a never-ending celebration
of sense and sight and touch, carnality
and wits, the wonderment and awe;

And what is temptation if not diversion,
exorcising the terror of un-being, a race
to the finish, dip in the gold-leafed glory
of being alive, alight with threaded hues,
fabric of existence, cover for sorrow
at the temporality we share, and how
to eke out more, squeeze meaning
from the mundane; debts and obligations,
distractions and decisions, the weight
of knowing it will all be plowed asunder
and always too soon, too soon;

I sit with it daily, the quaking subsided,
ride it out in strong limbs while pedaling,
walk in companionship with creation, eyes
wide-open in wonder, capturing with my lens
what might otherwise be missed.

All photos ©2018 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

Poetic Angst

There is an economy in words, blunted
kindergarten shears in the hands
of an earnest student, shaping patterns
already memorized in forest and field;

A poet’s dilemma as nature herself
spreads and grows, chaos becoming her
in forest and glade, streams crashing,
gushing through boulder-encrusted banks
as gnarled roots of trees wrap stones
in a thirsty quest to survive what is
to come, waning light and the crunch
of frost-encrusted gravel underfoot.

All photos taken in Washington State (©Bela Johnson)

 

Day’s End

It’s three o’clock and the day
has brought a bad haircut, heavy
feeling in the air;

The hair will grow
back, the day will not; there is
no repeating what is done,
only trailing memories;

There is no walk upon the beach,
the sun burns boldly now, my skin
as fragile as a dove’s wing in a gale,
and though my feet yearn to wander,
it’s dappled shade I seek;

Looking out, the rain patters veins
of heart-shaped leaves, seeking
outlet in perpetually drenched soil,
the year having seen its share
of extremes;

Days roll forward into time
stretching out, downward
dog-pose kissing expanses of sand
the tide has soaked then abandoned,
shell-bones scattered amidst
neckless strands of kelp.

Photos taken on my recent trip to Whidbey Island, WA. All photos ©Bela Johnson