Parenthetical

Sitting still always an option, gazing
at mellow reflections, morning light
on old fir flooring burnished
by the feet of generations;
yet compelled, ever coaxed
out of doors and into an emerald
wonderland punctuated by floral
scents and hues, exuberant birdsong,
busy-ness of others dulled down
into static distance;

Staying with never the issue,
languishing in quiet unfamiliarity,
pausing beyond what is known
to drink in nature’s bounty, forest
or field, oceans or rivers streaming
along with time, alternatively
stretching and restricting, lungs
of creation drawing in sky,
expelling molten earth now
onto seashore rent by surf,
cooling waters receiving,
transforming, amending,
yet perpetually flowing.

Old Growth

The wind through the firs sounds
like the distant thundering South Pacific
from our island home, yet similarities end
there, ruddy nose running from unaccustomed
chill and fingers reluctant to part
from pockets;

It has been years since I rooted feet
in forest soil, younger and more absorbed
with survival, and it seems I never perceived
sensations so acutely, my skeleton awakened
as discrete and frail in companionship
with these massive giants, finger bones clad
insufficiently in thin shrouds of flesh,
tapping on keys as I attempt to record
a tangle of sensations since arriving
on this northwest spit of land;

Old growth firs harbor a resilience witnessed
in few places, save the redwood forests
of northern California, sudden winds damage
delicate saplings yet they continue growing
apace if not more determined into curvy
arboreal titans that dwarf mere human
presence; only massive metal contraptions
conceived by the minds of men can conquer
them lacking, as men do, unknown frontiers
yet to vanquish;

Ordered chaos is strewn everywhere,
detritus piled up, living jumble of oversized
matchsticks awaiting one careless spark; yet
when fires once regularly swept through
these forests (lightning-scarred trunks bearing
witness), the strongest survived and soil
was enriched, carbon craved by undergrowth, layer
upon layer assuring futures for generations
mirroring the content of life on the surface
of a planet defined by science but experienced
as a living poetry only nature can inscribe.

A Day for The Earth

There are snapshots in time, places where
one feels the eyes scratching over the surface
of some offensive scene, cymbals clashing
inappropriately during a tender interlude,
spell dissolved in the cacophony, never
to return again free of that memory;

Then there are backdrops nature paints
without premeditation, figures juxtaposed
against a canvas that can only contribute
to the light in one’s own eyes, the numinous
shining through, and I know in the center
of my bones that we must preserve this place,
its atmosphere beyond measure or means
by which we could precisely calibrate
how our human impact has contributed
to its degradation;

All we have is now, no time for regret,
rather embrace what we can do from
this moment into moments mounding,
overlapping, mindfully repeating
like a prayer to infinity.

All photos ©2019 Bela Johnson

Coast

When the silver spool of dawn unravels
in languorous wisps, as clouds unfurl low
and wide in the overhead sky, my gaze sweeps
broadly and what I behold is the artist’s palette
come to life, a masterpiece with every dawning
and dusky day while the earth spins slowly
on her axis, oceans holding fast to the anchor
of gravity, fathoms of depth containing secrets
they intend to keep for eternity, horizon bending
at the ends, not level as many presume;

Soon a stark light prevails, flattens out,
shadows vanish as too-bright colors define
this segment of day, creatures move or retreat
as befits patterns held by generations of their kind,
minutes tick somewhere in cities and towns,
bells toll, hands of giant timepieces click into place
ticking time with the pace of that frantic life,
while elsewhere the sleek white neck of a swan
settles into its downy shoulders to paddle serenely
around the cool mossy waters of a still,
reflective pond.

Photos ©Bela Johnson

Loving the World

My Instagram post this morning quoted Mary Oliver, “My work is loving the world.”

Despite what the day brings, and sometimes it seems overwhelming, could there be anything more meaningful? When the floor slips out from under my feet and I fall like Alice down the rabbit hole, I can be certain I will eventually land on solid ground. And it is this ground of my existence I trust.

Enjoy these sunrise photos I took of Pololu Valley. Aloha. Be well.

The Teaching

THE TEACHING

Schooled to the rigors of religion, if I took nothing else away
from those origins it was faith; faith that a child’s prayers
would be answered by forces unseen, and I took root
in that faith like fieldstone, anchoring my small body in cracks
and crevasses formed by flooding time, a snake secreting low
and tight, protection sought in the shade of midday,
giving nothing away, not a breath, shutting out the discord
of voices, dissonant sounds that soothed the ears of others
with that tinge of the familiar;

Sitting in newly-mown grass, breathing in the herbaceous bouquet,
eyes attuned to breaks in the pattern, movement underneath,
always underneath, what moved in shadow most fascinated,
pill-bugs rolling tight when threatened, millipedes threading
through miniature thickets, grasshoppers navigating the tangle,
smell of damp pungent earth drawing eyes and nose closer,
seeking level with a world unto itself, and I never ceased cringing
while watching careless feet stomping thoughtlessly upon
unseen realms, Jack and the Giant, gentry and the dispossessed,
disparity a background hum in the grace of my limited freedom;

Trudging up arid mountain trails or down into gushing streambeds
suited best, the mentholated air of eucalyptus mixing with the dank odor
of leaf mulch swirling in eddies and under boulders, fishing wet mats
out with my hands to bury my nose in that humid bouquet while the rest
of the world disappeared into a collage of confusion to which many
accustom themselves while a rupture grows like an aneurysm in the center
of the soul until that longing bursts forth like a swimmer breaking surface,
a yearning to gulp oxygen like life itself, that corporeal kinship
with the earth, a silent whisper, Return.
Return to me, and be whole.

images ©Bela Johnson 2019

Glimpse

Shards of light splinter azure skies piercing grey
and white veils hung over days we have grown
accustomed to, days drowned in deluges of drenching
rain once sent to nourish, now stripping shrubs
and flowers of nutrients washed deep asunder;

One tree standing stark and brittle, cut
down in last week’s pruning while others thrive,
throwing verdant foliage out as springtime winds
casually whirl them down to boggy soil, carpeted
now with thick mulch meant to soak up excess
in anticipation of summer heat yet to come,
as it will, eventually;

Changing climate brings to mind old plantation
days, hard labor cutting cane, hacking through
jungle-thick mountain forests, knee-deep in mud,
to construct miles of irrigation ditches, flumes
and sluiceways now used recreationally, history
fading for all but a few lingering elders
whose scattered memories find their niche
in the rolling wheel of apocryphal time.

All photos ©Bela Johnson