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

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.