Resurrection

He has lost her, or thinks he has,
forever from this realm; sadness knowing
no bounds, as it would, given over five decades
of devotion and dedication; hardly knowing
life without her in it;

I remind him, a gardener, hiker, animal lover,
father, much beloved grand and great-grandsire,
caretaker of this precious earth, that if nothing else,
nature demonstrates endurance, resurrection,
perpetuity; yet the questions linger, what if, how
would we, how do any of us move on with half
of our limbs and hearts missing, absent, lost;

The mirror held to us daily, our best self, the truest
of reflections; what now to do with a voice meant
to spark truth; who is there to hold us quite
like a lover, who has witnessed the dark spaces
in our soul and loved us still, without reservation?

How does advice fall on ears that will never again
attune to the melody of that familiar, how again to taste
the smell of that One’s touch, the subtleties of a glance
meant only for us, the sole recipient, repository
of shared hopes, dreams and visions;

And time does heal, and we might go on; still
the wise and earnest hopes of others for our future
land hollow in the ear and gut, one’s own demise
seeming preferable to echoes of ghosts of our own
making, and breaking time in time, damnable time
now the enemy, adversary, cruel master
of feckless fate;

Yet there it is, a look, a gesture, the shine in eyes
of the deer, delicate swish of a raven’s wing,
padding feet of beloved dogs, the bright, blooming
desert in springtime renewing itself beyond memory,
unlooked-for comfort on the long drive into town
while tears begin once again to flow, then cease
upon discovering duality’s illusion while we struggle
still for the breath that has failed us;

And we rise, rise like a dolphin from the depths,
rise like the phoenix from dull grayness of ashes,
arching into the sun’s first rays, open vessel spouting,
reflexively aspiring life into lungs weary
from submersion, even as we dare to smile and greet
another sun-washed day.

Lewis and Clark Caverns, MT Fire in the sky, Upolu Airport Road, North Kohala

Garden in the dying light, Dayton, WA
Setting sun, Kohala Mountain Road

Makapala sunset

I have tried here to depict through photographs what it must feel like to experience the death of a dearly beloved and then to begin emerging from deep grief. I cannot say I’ve done it justice; only that I have made the attempt.
(All photos ©Bela Johnson)

Little Dove

Anxiety for me is not a teeth-chattering,
nerve-rattling affair, rather the tendency
of an untended mind to flutter toward
the familiar always a heartbeat away
from cool, grounded sanity;

When you return at day’s end, I step
into your world for a moment of comic
relief, little blue dove riding thermals
of your mastered stride, little girl trailing
behind daddy and his toolbox, eager
to discover how things work;

Feeling the weight of chisels soothes
ruffled feathers, caressing copper, steel,
the oiled wooden handles which,
in your perfect patient hands, creates
both the smooth carved boxes holding
treasures as well as the home
in which we live, life-sized canvas
for my own design.

collaborative design: Chris and Bela Johnson with artist Deb Thompson
cremation urn made from reclaimed island hardwood – C.Johnson
designed and created by Chris and Bela Johnson
designed and built by Chris Johnson

Casting Shadows

What do we do when the words won’t come,
when we stand, stock-still, mouths agape,
dazzled by beauty and wonder and awe,
minds taking snapshots as if we might
capture a moment in time, whatever that is,
perception being everything;

What happens to us when we become unmoored,
tethers fraying, lone boat rocking, gasping
for breath, biting back deductions, holding
reservations, staving off fears of flying
away, over and out, yearning once again
for connection;

How then to manage without language
to provide signposts, a barometer of how
we connect, soul to soul, dot by dot
along an imaginary line drawn cleanly
through this maze of illusions;

When will we arrive at knowing more fully,
if ever, reasons we were drawn into this vortex
called relationship, whether mother or lover,
friend or companion, like spokes on a wheel
turning onto spiral paths to infinity,
diminutive footprints scoring that well-trod
alleyway to nowhere and everything.

all images ©Bela Johnson

Little Dog Update

You may have read about it here.

Amazing news.

After Chris has taken food to little dog every morning and evening for months now, he discovered this note yesterday. We don’t know who the writer is referring to; another person had been leaving a bowl of water from time to time, and likely a little food as well. In the end, the result is the same.

Little dog has a new forever home! Her efforts to defy capture must have meant that something inside of her little feral body told her to persist. She somehow must have known her special person was on the way. And we could not be happier to have contributed to the quality of this creature’s life. Yay.

Stray

Why did we have to spot her?
By all accounts the gods know
we have done our best, taking
on one too many before, now
knowing our limits and that
of our yard and sanity;

Yet there she was, and we felt
before seeing, noticed slight
movement and heard a low
warning growl, coal black eyes
and fur to match in the inky
light of evening;

It had been raining, furiously
pouring down, thunder and lightning
and fear may have driven her
to hide under that massive machine,
its labors stilled until better weather,
and it might have driven her straight
into salvation for all we know;

So we fed her, not once but many
times, yet on that first, even
as voracious jaws began working,
she paused to look up and straight
into my eyes and I swear she gave
thanks;

Today she came out for the first time
to expose tiny dark shoulders caved
in surrender, great patches of missing
hair, eyes still imploring, won’t you,
can you please, I will be yours forever
and it breaks our hearts over
and over again that we cannot.

photo credit: Chris Johnson

I’d Rather Be Bitten

It’s a scurrilous affair to be the target of an assault upon our humanity. Judgments, condemnation and criticisms all aim to reduce our opinions of ourselves, and are often successful in altering how others view us as well. We may well learn best through adversity, but none of us likes feeling attacked. It perpetuates suffering on both sides of the defenseless/defensive coin, especially when it’s of the insidious variety. That’s how the term backstabbing doubtless came into being, this feeling of being assaulted from behind where we can’t view the perceived enemy. And it’s a coward’s way out, this character assassination. It may temporarily grant the accuser a sense of superiority, but of one thing we can be certain; if we observe another engaging in this practice, it’s only a matter of time before they place us squarely in their sights.

I grew up with some fairly critical people, and would venture to say that years of habituation brought this trait out in me. I was an extremely sensitive child in a chaotic environment, and did not receive much guidance in handling the world with equanimity. And though I did garner some fundamental truths which would later prove beneficial, the chasm between what was practiced and what was preached was too vast for my child’s mind to bridge. Only later with age, experience and my own inevitable mistakes in parenting was I able to put the past into greater perspective. It’s still a process at midlife, so I suspect some lessons are deeper than mere conditioning.

As a teenager, I bolstered my fragile sense of self by finding fault with someone I thought better looking than I was, smarter, more talented or popular. Even if I shared these thoughts with no one else, a sense of smugness enveloped me like the proverbial warm fuzzy blanket. Eventually though, and it wasn’t too long in coming, that wrap felt suffocating. To something more decent inside of me, it just felt wrong. Hacking others down did not fill me up, nor did it give me any genuine or lasting sense of self worth. In fact it lent nothing of these attributes, it only carved a hole in my soul.

It has taken many years to rout the poison of criticism from my core. Like standing before a polished mirror, the presence of truth reflects back anything unlike itself. In this space, I am able to experience an up-swelling of compassion for the child that was me and for all the confused children in the world, trying as best they can to survive and thrive in adverse circumstances. Thus my ruminations extend to the child that lives within every adult, and it is easy to experience forgiveness and unconditional love, both for myself as well as for our deeply flawed yet simply human race.

 

Her World on a String

I once knew a woman who kept her world on the shortest leash imaginable. This overstuffed orb consisted of all she felt she could control and nothing she could not. It must have been mind bending trying to keep all the plates spinning in the air, for if one crashed to the ground, it would be over. All or nothing. And nothing scared the bejeezus out of her.

On the flip side, nothing is what I strive for; nobody wrangling for attention around my ankles anymore, no mental mice racing on the cerebral hamster wheel, little obstructing my view, no plans most days. I seek nothing like a teen intent upon a scavenger hunt but instead of discovering an old leather shoe or a vinyl record hidden in the crotch of a lichen-encrusted oak tree, I discover solace, blessed quiet, welcome respite from nervous natterings over nothing. Instead of din, I crave a steaming beverage and good companionship. If I cannot sit with a kindred soul with whom I can empathically discuss world events, philosophical leanings and the beauty of what last surprised us in nature, I’d rather be still.

The longer I live, the more I crave quality in daily interactions. The wordlessness of dogs is preferable to that of gossip; the serenity of sitting across the room from my beloved intent on reading grants the mind ease in a world fraught with tumult and chaos. A lack of dissonance soothes the cilia of ears overwrought with the thrum of existence. The overworked fist of my heart craves slack time, a free-flowing whoosh of blood through capillaries like and unlike the fast-forward aerials of headlights on busy freeways. It’s why I live as I do, in the naked blackness of star-struck oblivion; in the endless blue where sky meets sea.

The tintinnabulation of a city’s bustle and hum, metal against glass, hammers on asphalt grant me little rest. At the end of the day my mind cannot cease its grasping, try though I might to engender calm. I don’t wonder at the plague of urban insomnia, for it was not all that long ago our ancestors matched movements with spade hitting soil, watching sun coming up over frosty fields spiked with the husks of dying crops. Before that we roamed seeking food and shelter, a surplus of idle time not likely contemplated, much less craved. Technology has brought, among other things, a promise of release. Machines doing what used to gobble up time have now become our obsession in and of themselves. In the place of honoring silence, we fill every nook and cranny with sound and sight and substance. We fashion a world that then needs orchestrating in its complexity. Ancient genes thrill to the hunt, and we rise to the challenge. To simplify seems unthinkable. The body breaks under the pressure but we drive on, ignoring subtle cues.

I knew my friend was tired. You could see it in her drawn expression, the dullness that veiled the light in her eyes. Some of us are doers and some of us of necessity must simply be. And in holding the balance necessary to a world steeped in paradox, I left her to meet the Beyond with an unspoken whisper of gratitude just inside my lips; for the path I have chosen. For the choices I remain free to make.