Of Cycles and Metaphors

The waters of birth released me, dolphin-like,
into a realm of wonder and delight, only to realize
I was swimming with sharks; they, friendly enough
when sated, aggressive and dangerous when needy
and I swam for my life, filling lungs and stomach
and for the sheer sensation of viscous water
stroking sleek skin and oh, I kept on moving,
for once out of water I would perish;

The oceans were vast and dark and deep, caverns
and voids, brilliant colors and textures and hooks;
barbs dangling through refracted rays of sunlight,
tiny concentric circlets framing slender drop lines
nearly invisible, a too-tidy meal wrapped sinuously
around each of them, appearing not quite right
this fast food, still I was hungry and sampled the fare
and the hook jerked and jabbed, piercing my flesh,
tearing off bits here and there; it was painful,
yet still I remained at liberty to continue my journey;

On an on I swam, for what else is a dolphin to do;
each day the waters remained the same, each day
they changed, some tinged with toxic debris,
at other times those brilliant hues of turquoise
and indigo were balm to a weary heart and now,
decades later, I discover tiny hooks embedded still.
As I carefully dislodge each barb, there is
searing pain mitigated by relief; I am free,
if scarred. I am free.

Ink Blot

Quill pressed to vellum
and the raven liquid bleeds
onto the page, seeping
into parchment as words impress
themselves on minds of those
who seek elucidation;

There is no turning back
save the alchemy of fire,
while a mere century later,
fingers snap plastic keys
as a chosen cypher spins
into centrifuges turning out
multiple languages simultaneously
in a virtual world where assurance
of retrieval is never warranted;

Still we tap away, searing mots
into memories like images
of aging film stars who can never erase
a thirty year-old face from the fantasies
of future generations.

image: Amanda Johnson

written in response to the prompt “quill:” https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/quill/



Independence Day Reflections, 2017

The best intentioned among us can become discouraged at the apparent hijacking of governments by corporations and special interests of the financially privileged. Yet if vigilant, one can witness changes being made at grass roots levels, mostly because people are beginning to collectively awaken to the harsh realities of global warming and endless warring, and it’s about time. Uniting as One People is the promise of this Aquarian Age, and we can go willingly or be dragged, kicking and screaming. I suspect we are witnessing a bit of both, and this will only intensify with this thousand-year spin cycle.

I am looking forward to more independent actions on the part of citizens who value peace and sustainability over war and destruction on this precious planet. While I don’t harbor any illusions that we can reverse much of the damage done, I rejoice in any efforts to unite in a non-aggressive way to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. My hope is that it helps more people recognize unity across borders; that we begin to collectively value all life as sacred and that we as human beings continue to dissolve the Great Walls that separate us, one from another.

This is the my intention as the US rings in yet another Independence Day tomorrow. In peace and with Aloha, Bela





Walking the Perimeters

But I don’t want to go among mad people, said Alice.
Oh, you can’t help that, said the cat. We’re all mad here.

~ Lewis Carroll

There are days and there are days. Today is one in which I awaken with the insight that all of us are mad. All. Some seem to revel in it; just look at the cartoon debacle in the US political arena any day of the week. Others appear to hold it together extremely well until something jolts us into our most vulnerable of places (the death of a loved one, a terminal illness). Even birth itself can inaugurate the unraveling. The cosmic egg is cracked. Brilliance emerges; the artist, the ballplayer, the botanist, the lama. The ecstasy, the suffering. Who wouldn’t go mad in the face of it?

What form, our pleasure? The madness of the composer, the scientist, the athlete, the saint? Are we hard wired to push boundaries, frontiers of justice, mercy, of knowledge or compassion? The fleeting forms of beauty or fame, of times in forest or studio, do we seek the expansive ocean or the surging tide of faces? Knowing the challenges one encounters in courting excellence, do we instead select the cloak of invisibility, of mute complicity, of service so selfless that we dare not ask another to share our burdens?

We do the best we can in managing life; enjoying it, even rejoicing. And the further we deplete that expressive bank account, the more surges forth to be revealed; the greater the challenge in ushering or stemming the flow, as dollop by gush it seeps from our pores onto the page, the canvas, into opulent anterooms or out onto the squalor of the streets. Drip, drip, dropping into the core of our humanity, dislodging the veils until we stand shivering and naked, the mime unmasked, the orphan turned out into the cold; is it possible, we wonder, to contain the truth of what lies revealed? Who are we, and to what purpose on this green and growing earth have humans been fashioned like gods and demons? Surely it is not simply to consume everything in sight, Pac-Man-like until, exhausted, we mulch back into soil from whence these formerly fecund bodies were contrived by a hand both delicate and careless, in turn?


We all die. Relics left behind for others,
once culturally defined, a slurry now
of overcooked vegetables in the melting pot
of what humanity has become;

For better, we are more homogenous,
conferring fewer reasons to hate
that which is and ever was kindred.
Knowing this, do we truly taste the apple
sweetness of experience, or drum up
further excuses to postpone joy?

At worst, we forget our ancestors,
those from whom we inherit genetically,
even behaviorally, perhaps to our peril;
for history, devoid of lessons learned,
proves a hollow saga sucked dry of juice;
a dessicated plum placed primly
alongside a backdrop of ripe peaches,
fruit of our potential

What traces will linger
in this adolescent nation whose excesses
are counterpart to senseless severity,
an artistic strangulation where
even the Rubenesque among us
yearn to be thin and dry as wraiths?

A society threatened by hips and thighs
is doomed to infertility of the imagination.



I’ve never understood where the salve to heal the trauma
of living as a mortal human exists, save in my own heart;
I cannot impel you to live by my own standards
yet notice eyes brimming with perpetual misery, reflect
back on my own need for it, the drive to feel alive, I suppose,
aching with yearning for the unnameable;

I know certain things it has taken a lifetime to unpack,
but my luggage and yours are fathoms apart
though destination is the same Unknown;
Souls are entwined, and for a moment I notice
you grasping at straws in the wind, searching
for meaning anywhere but inside that shell
and know not how to say it is existential, will ever be
at your shoulder, and if you let it gnaw and feed
on your flesh it will consume that and more, clinging
like nylon fresh from the dryer, second skin
that keeps snapping you awake, awake;

Illusion it is, gain distance, a pause, no-mind thinking,
vapid trail vanishing the moment it’s constructed;
and you wonder at the ruins at your feet, head hung
as if condemned by your own hand. We all come crashing
down sooner or later in someone else’s estimation,
none can live up to the expectations of others.

Instead dwell in forests of imagination, feel feathers
of birds in every hue, the light, bright beating hearts
that synchronize with your own as for that moment
you are lifted far above the world of woes and so stay,
remain there long enough for experience to imprint anew,
raising the bar of fear threatening to crush your chest,
you are not Sisyphus, you are shape shifter, alchemist,
magician and more. Awaken. Awaken.





Do you ever wish things were other than they are? I sometimes indulge in fantastical ruminating more than I’d like, and should know better. Some days are so fraught with challenges, I must force myself to look outside and acknowledge that the day is simply a day; a sun rises and sets, expanses of field go green and brown in their turn, the celestial-hued ocean bucks and rolls. Fish swim, birds fly.

If I suffer from the delusion that I can force outer circumstances to adapt to my whimsical notion of how they ought to be, it’s clearly a choice. Liberation from the pain of this false knowing is likewise self generated. All my education, age and experience have brought me back to the most facile of conclusions, Tomorrow is another day. (Have I really spent nearly sixty years developing my mental faculties in order to simply return to childhood platitudes?) Yet if my mind keeps gnawing at the same sapid bone, a nighttime’s slumber relaxes the jaw enough that I must at least let it drop for a spell. Upon awakening and the gods willing, I might forget where I left it long enough to garner a bit of perspective.

Thrill is more enviable than defeat, though it is surely the latter which has honed my character, granted me the reserves of strength with which I am presently endowed. Experience enough adversity and one gleans awareness that it will eventually be overcome. After a lifetime of people pleasing and other dubious adventures, I’m finally comfortable in my own skin. Now that there is consistency down to my bones, I can resonate back to myself like a finely struck cello. A realization fans out before me like a flashlight slicing its beam through the dark of a country evening; there is rhythm and purpose in these cycles of ups and downs. No matter what the locus on life’s timeline, there is point to counterpoint. The dots simply shift to other maps as I venture along.

I may not ever possess a conclusive answer to the meaning of life, but if there is a holy grail, I suspect it’s something most primary school kids understand: to have fun while learning; to take breaks on the playground; to carve one’s initials into the tree of life.DSCN2911.JPG – Version 2




Fanning the still air, back and forth, back and forth, alchemist palming the blue fire of potential; it stifles me, this heat, blood clearly not meant for boiling. Tools line up like minions awaiting my grasp; mute, dumb things without which this half-acre garden cannot flourish. Energy wasted on cooling set aside now, I force myself up, even this small effort launching the drip, drip, dripping brow, maddening saltwater torture.

The willingness has ever been present, body along for the ride, exuberant at times and exhausted in turns, tasking piles of brush by the snow-blanketed shoreline, together or alone, barely allowing time to swish water down, much less anything more substantial. Small dry kindling, old newspaper, curls of birch bark placed under a criss-cross of dead limbs, impatience growing in my young heart, desiring only to begin chucking larger boughs and trunks into the conflagration, anxious to clear the lakeside trail before hordes of biting flies settle in for the season.

Flames arch high, reaching into the interstices between hemlock and fir, bough tips igniting, sizzling spirals twisting black and orange into a palette of soft grey sky punctuated only by giant plumes of charcoal white smoke. Fires lit and tended, I have only to work steadily at reducing mountains of brush to cinders and ash. Trudging through greasy slush now, lugging five-gallon buckets of water from crystal clear waters, dousing again and again. Nothing left to chance in this sixty-five acre stretch of forest, and in thirty years, no wildfires have ever been ignited by my hand. Romancing the flame.

Focus is strength; focus can do a person in. This ability has brought me to this point, this task, mountain of macnut husk awaiting wheelbarrow, becoming wetter and heavier by the day, ceaseless rains unabating. There is rhythm in its patter and it lulls me into a semi-trance. I bask in the downpour’s cooling effect and accept I will be soaked through to the skin all day long. Scarf tied loosely now around my perspiring forehead, I walk out into arcs of rainbows and intermittent showers.



The woods where it all went down, all those years ago ...
image: the woods with lake behind them where it all went down, many years ago …



All my life I’ve struggled with the spoken word. Anytime I engage in conversation, I’ve got a litany of words streaming through my head, Matrix-like, and must sort through them in order to ensure what I’m about to say lends proper weight, meaning, gravitas. At the same time, I’m aware most people couldn’t care less. But I can’t alter who I am at whim. Meanwhile I cringe as others begin drifting away, looking furtively from side to side as though they want to be anywhere but inside of this suddenly far-too-complex interaction.

While making conversation might be easy for some, consider the bane of a thesaurus-like brain. If you really can’t or don’t want to stretch your imagination, simply consider the paradox that is the (American) English language. (This should  be easy for those of you for whom English is your second language.) Although I have passing knowledge of French and Spanish, I lack fluency, though I’d like to believe there are languages out there that make it easier to say what one means and thus to mean what one says. Spoken (American) English seems facile only if one does not seek to use it too creatively.

Take for instance the greeting, How are you? Really, and I’ve found this to be disappointingly true, most folks don’t want to know how I am. Instead they simply desire the briefest of intercourse, want mirrored back to them that all is well in their world. Thus I have discovered the proper answer is simply Great! or Fine! or Fabulous! Or if I haven’t the stomach for perfidy, I can always get away with a simple Okay. (Period. Or dot-dot-dot.) More than the most cursory reply seems to hold little interest, and I can’t bear dismissive looks anyway. The word pleasantries does not really fit and yet its meaning does: inconsequential banter, though I don’t find it pleasant in the least; do forgive my honesty. I find it banal and shallow.

Consider the word discriminate. I do not discriminate based on color, gender, sexual proclivity or religious viewpoint. But I do discriminate when it comes to the quality of my interactions. If I didn’t, I’d ramble on to a four year-old about my future plans for education or my mother’s bad knees. If I did not discriminate, I might find myself in a dangerous situation. Or I might choose eggs when I really wish I would have eaten the chicken instead, though this is purely metaphor, being vegetarian these days. All this before I open my mouth.

While I strive not to judge others knowing it is unfair, if I do not judge anything about them or about myself, if I fail to have opinions about human behavior or with regard to various life situations, I’d never be able to write. Anything. At all. It’s simply the way I’m wired.



I recall these cakes of dry earth, so tight they could barely admit the rains once they finally arrived; nearby trenches termed ‘washes,’ because that’s what happens to stormwater once it comes, as it does, unpredicted; without warning, thunderheads gathering on distant horizons, long-lost friends reconvening over variegated rosewood mountains, indigo distance, ink of twilight, luminous quarter moon, nothing but space this Mojave; gone, the Yuman and their language, all that’s left, vast and yawning, stretching lowland contemplating eternity;

Once was sea floor; then, we combed it for fossils now locked up by the Feds, regulated, and though I understand ‘why’ years later, greed and avarice, my girls need not have been admonished for plucking wonder from the ground to examine details, while in the distance, someone watching, lightning quick to the spot on which we stood, finger accusing, ‘You’re collecting!’ Threatened punishment, wide-eyed wonder, they’re just children, no harm looking, but they dropped them on that cracked ground, hot and aching, distant memories cannot banish; lost, the magic.