Closing the Gap

Stay in the distance, watch the light,
it is all you need; It is all I ever craved,
this meeting with light imbued forms,
spirit beings that visited me when young,
floating up the canyon, me standing
small, eagerly awaiting that reunion;

The Church would have called them
evil, figments of imagination,
not recognizing anything outside
their own proscribed reality, black books, old
white men directing men, women standing
ever on the outside looking in, told they are
crucial, a support system for the Patriarchs,
though heaven forbid this was disclosed
directly;

So women remained background images,
baking cookies, cross stitching pictures,
singing hymns, and I yearned
for any other life, free from this
indentured servitude in a nylon body
suit slit for necessary procreation,
bouncing baby after baby
on bruised knees, tender from all
that bowing and scraping;

Yes, if it was sin, I was all for it,
liberty to make my own mistakes,
free from castigation, worthy, I knew,
in the eyes of Creation, never believing
myself otherwise, and I made many
painful choices, yet here I sit, whole
in my own person, still questioning,
still wondering, day after day,
at the purpose of it all;

Will humanity survive, and if it does,
I can assure you, it will not be because
we all filed into neat lines, but rather
because we burst free from imagined
constraints to discover, as if for the
first time, the wonders awaiting us
each day we draw breath, seeds cast
everywhere by Earth herself, and us,
in open-eyed wonder, finally deciding
to tend them as if all life hinged
on their germination.

desert sunset, BJ

La Même Chose

When I gaze out over the field
and spot a herd of elk, which
upon closer inspection
is really only distant
sagebrush; when I, in a flash
lasting no longer than a
millisecond, see my own body
as a juniper tree, I no longer
question it;

We are all made of the same
elements derived from this earth,
and I can be forgiven if I confuse
a log for a prairie dog’s alert body,
facing toward the sun,
a Muslim bowing toward Mecca.

Contemplations under the juniper and piñons ~ bj

Filling the Void

Some things are not meant to be,
though I still save space for them,
not knowing divine timing
or even my own mind sometimes,
and what is this compulsion
to occupy perceptual emptiness,
is it simply creativity seeking
a natural outlet, the crashing surf
carving out caves on Mt. Desert’s
rugged shoreline or the smoothing
of lava rock at the base of Halawa’s
thundering waterfall?

I can wish, and in wishing
place my desires on the altar
of possibilities, then forget them
if I am wise, releasing attachment
to outcome, opening time’s parachute
upside-down, the beggar’s empty cup
yawning with space minus the desperation
of those truly in need of wish fulfillment;

Meanwhile the two empty chairs sitting
next to and caddy corner from mine
leave room for those yet to arrive, and even
they do not know, anymore than I, what seats
will be occupied when and where
in the near or distant future;

Imagine my surprise then when, one day
and least expected, the fulfillment
of those forgotten desires returns to gladden
or to haunt, depending (be careful
what you wish for); the unexpected visitor
materializes, and I am left to wonder
at which juncture I might have yearned
for such an encounter, prepared or not.

In Memory of the Still Living

There are confusing encounters
leaving one gasping for breath,
the mind grasping for understanding;
such is the nature of life and death,
the latter being more recent
in my world of experience;

I eschew addictions, just as they
are sought to resolve what seems
unfathomable to others, and I know
in this life I am meant to demonstrate
more understanding than my petulant
inner child might conjure;
still, it is the most natural direction
in which to gravitate these days,
the world being as unknowable now
as it was then,
and who am I to judge?

Thus when I see this precious one,
once strong and vital, now weak
and yellow and skeletal and all
this happening in the span of a year
in a life too short to be terminal,
feelings arise, and more and yet
more questions on the meaning
of existence;

This time last year, we were wrangling
with thorny bushes that had become
trees, both cursing, he more ardently,
as this was not his first rodeo
in these mountains, and yet there was
laughter, good humor, companionship
of then-strangers taking the measure
of the other’s character;

Loved ones gather now, and I feel
not at all out of place in this tiny trailer
amidst people of a culture I don’t need
to understand; the old man’s body
the main event in the living room,
surrounded by photos of the past,
and who could know fifty years ago
how fate would hold them now
in its thrall?

Two weeks ago, he seemed empty
of life, yet his spirit still felt strong;
today that spirit had its due;
jaundice had receded, and flesh
had mysteriously begun reassembling
on his bones, and once again I marvel
at the same sorts of questions
I have asked all my life,
how does the journey begin
to make sense in the face
of what we are dealt?

Travelogue II – Angels Everywhere

Angels have visited me in many forms in my life. I have felt their fiery presence from the unseen realms and have met them in the bodies of human beings. (If you’re curious, this is one of those encounters.)

In a previous post about my Pacific Northwest travels, I mentioned that I like it best when I’m lost. Driving around on inspiration leads me to the most unexpectedly astounding places and events. On this day after slate skies broke open to reveal the first rays of sunlight I had seen since arriving, I headed out with a bounce in my step. I hadn’t let the drizzle and grey skies get me down; had hiked the past few days despite the weather. Still, the sun was a welcome change, if only for its warmth.

This time I meandered and found myself at small wildlife preserve on the (Puget) Sound. Nobody was in the small parking lot, and when I got out of the car, I immediately spotted eagles soaring on the bluff behind me. It was nesting time, and these raptors were active seeking food for nestlings. Still, it was amazing to watch them soar. I walked down to the driftwood-strewn beach, marvelling at a snowcapped mountain range in the distance. I also noticed a brownish haze which I had also seen before leaving the house in the morning. I wondered if, like last year, there were forest fires in British Columbia and Montana. I quickly texted the friend I was housesitting for and she could only guess at the mountain range, as I had no idea what direction I was facing nor where I was. She didn’t know about the haze, thought it might be smog from Seattle, though we both thought that improbable.

Presently a car pulled into a nearby stall in the still-empty lot, and a woman and dog emerged. We made eye contact, the woman and I, and I asked her what mountain range we were looking at. The Cascades, as it turns out. And the haze? It’s the marine layer, she said, and filled me in as to what atmospheric conditions precipitate it. I loved her dog up a bit while we continued chatting about this and that, the way women sometimes do. Before we went our separate ways, she said, “Hold on, I have something for you in the car.” I could not imagine what it could be, as I waited a bit awkwardly. Then she turned back to me beaming, with something in her hand, “Here, this is meant for you. I painted it myself.”

Just when I dip into despair about the human race, my faith is restored by a simple act of kindness. And I must remember that, despite  seemingly endless human assaults on Mother Earth and her children, I must remember our potential. And nourish those seeds with as much energy as I can possibly muster. Thank you, sweet stranger. Thank you. With all of my heart.

Ebeys Landing, WA ~ bj

photo: bj

Here and Now

The concert grand stands indifferently
in a palatial room built to house it;
Hardly anyone spends time here,
admiring frescoes and French lace,
worn Italian club chairs gather
in around no one, empty opulence
marking privilege of the lost
and missing inhabitants;

Halfway around the world,
a bustling marketplace explodes
with the din and stench
of the streets, sweat mingling
with rotting vegetable matter
and the smell of human desperation;
gnarled hands of laborers place goods
in the manicured hands of tourists,
a toothless smile exchanging empty symbols
for a better life, benediction
of the Foreigner whose life is inconceivable
as a spaceship from Mars;

Who can fathom choices, freedom the elusive
butterfly in a garden which must be tended
by honest sweat and toil which,
in the opulence of the parlor, slips quietly
into shadow like the ghostly curtain remnants
hanging limply on patterned walls.

 

Kilkenny Castle, photo ~ bj

Huaka’i Pō

Sometimes known as death dealers, these little
people of old marched through our Moloka’i
living room one night, nearly thirty years ago;

My own father was visiting, as he rarely did,
forced into life in the moment after receiving
a prostate cancer diagnosis; hopped a flight
to the islands, Pearl Harbor reunion after the war,
had not visited since, not that one could call
wartime a vacation, but it is how so many
young men viewed Paradise, wretched paradox
that it was;

A longtime alcoholic, he thought he was having
delusional visions, waking up to footsteps,
opening groggy eyes to many small figures marching
through our tiny house; he did not cross them,
nor did he likely look any in the eye, both forbidden
or face the consequences; the gripping fear
of the unknown might have been this man’s
one dread, eschewing any type of spirituality,
having been abused by priests as a young orphan;

It is said in Hawaiian folklore that a person should
not live in a house where doors line up, and this
small house in Japanese camp from pineapple
plantation days bore out that history, evident
as we scrubbed obscenities off walls before painting,
as if somehow a surface renewal might soften
the harshness of its history;

We never saw them, Chris and I, though we might have
appreciated the vision; instead, the disbeliever
among us witnessed what many relegate to myth,
and dad went on to live many years afterward, cancer
in remission; it was a legacy of abuse he could not escape,
and died, some might say, of a broken heart.

Moloka’i footsteps

Reflections on Divisions

There is a divide growing in the US larger than the Grand Canyon.The Grand Canyon is a spectacular natural wonder, whereas events leading up to the scope of this divide have been anything but. 

Quite literally, Americans have been cleaved along lines of those for Democracy, equality for all; those who are ‘pros,’ pro choice in every way. We support each other in the enjoyment of freedom in all its forms; we help those less fortunate without exception and generally pay our due in the hope that all might have the chance to simply live. 

Then there are those who blindly follow charismatic leaders, despite often dehumanizing actions and efforts to maintain a certain social order, class and gender segregation, and the established dominion of white male supremacy. I have asked myself many times why women, in particular would support this sort of person, the sort who openly brags about ‘grabbing them by the pussy’ and diminishes women of intelligence, empathy and of course color. The sort of person who would rob them of choice and even their own children. (The fiasco at the Mexican border has become a wretched second Berlin Wall.) Just because it hasn’t happened to them does not mean it is not happening. 

In the end, I must conclude that fear is the culprit. Fear of change, of losing their privilege, of being in unfamiliar territory with those different from themselves. Somehow these dear folks have lulled themselves into greater and greater actual peril by simply not wanting to think for themselves. By simply not doing their due diligence when it comes to what they espouse. Many are Christian, yet fail miserably at the very principles Jesus taught. These principles are ridiculously simple, yet are made complex enough that people believe they need someone (usually male) to interpret ‘the word of God’ for them. Do they not realize that too often this goes according to selfish motives and whims needed to control congregants and fill coffers? When these sorts of masses give, god bless them, it is too often role driven. Secure in their place in society (or so they imagine/assume), they are convinced their actions are benevolent toward often-distant people they support through comparatively meager donations motivated by needed tax breaks. The recipients are likewise grouped under labels: poor and victim leap to mind, yet their actual lives and personal histories are as far removed as outer space. Thus it is easy to label these others as welfare cases, leeches sucking blood out of a society just trying to move its privileged forward. The givers have not broken bread with these desperate factions of societies; have not listened to their stories nor experienced any sort of cultural diversity, first hand. 

Always one to support divergent views, I have found myself so alienated from those hypnotized by the current government as to not have much of anything remaining in common. If we were to get together, what on earth would we talk about? And so I am left to will them my best intentions, and call it good. I have no desire to listen to rationalizations and justifications for their behavior, as there simply are none that can account for exclusions and suppressions of ‘undesirables’ in the eyes of these few. We have no time to indulge ignorance anymore. Global warming is real, this is not open to dispute, listen to science or go back to the cave of ignorance at your peril. The Sixth Extinction is upon us, and we are in the throes of a massive pandemic that is not going anywhere soon. To turn a blind eye to these sorts of wake-up calls is to negate our responsibility as human beings toward the Collective, our sisters and brothers as well as all sentient beings and the environment we depend upon for our very existence.

None of us chose color or gender, we were all and equally born into this life, albeit into very different circumstances. Life is short. We are tiny, less than microscopic specks in a universe filled with wonder. To hold any sort of self importance in a day when sharing and collaborating to figure out how humans might continue occupying space on this amazing spinning ball called earth is truly all we have time to do. And it will require all our creativity, all our heart in order to accomplish a badly needed shift away from established consumerist, exclusionary practices. Opening our eyes to the realities of the time is not only preferable anymore, it is imperative. Be the change you want to see. And if that change has only to do with you and yours, it may be time to rethink priorities. Bless you all.

In Two, A Not-Too-Distant Memory

I

Sounds like a woman screaming.

Then I snap back from my twilight reverie,
Coyote is on the move, or calling the brood
in for the night; there must be a den of them
across the vast fields and rushing stream,
seeking safety in the forest about the same time
every evening now. I realize this, being my
sixth eventide on the mountain.

II

The elk are stalking me, noticing traces
of my passage along their own pathways
through these fourteen acres;

I have likewise lowered strands of barbed
wire used to top acres of fence line
where I notice tufts of blonde fur, revealing
fence-vaulting preferences; having no
serious tools with me on this visit, my gloved
wire wrapping will have to do until we are able
to make more permanent adjustments
to allow them passage, once again;

Someone once sought to keep them out,
but elk have roamed these mountains
for as long as time; I say let them pass;
one day we shall meet, Elk and I,
and I will know more about this majestic
creature than ever before.

No Small Thing

The dance we do, two partners holding
a thin sheet of paper between them, no hands,
just bodies aware of that small bit of substance,
mute as snow, drifting not crashing
into the weight of it;

The dance we do locks eyes and hearts as one
small thing, defining us, still unique, this closeness;
The space of a thin sheet of paper we do not drop,
it does not shift about but holds its own potential
there in the dark or in the light; no writing, no
scribble, no pictures, no definable substance;

It is blank but visible always, this thin sheet
of paper, fragile as an icicle, smooth as the surface
tension of water, strong as the atom and equally
inseparable.