My love for the land, whether thick wood
or freshwater, has never left my awareness,
ever seeking shelter in the bosom
of Creation, Gaia Mother, by whatever
name she may be known;
And as I return to this rugged terrain
of my birth, I am reminded that grace
is ever offered in the pauses
and the stillness of rivers and forest,
of mirrored lakes and skies where hawk
and heron eke out survival amidst
the frenzy of human existence,
and they see us, too, their razor eyes
yet trained on survival;
Still there is no tightness in shoulder
or heartbeat, gliding freely as wind
through my own crumpled hair, cruising
on lilting thermals, heedless of danger
and their own death stalking,
and I wonder at human folly,
the mistrust of our bodies, flesh
our own indomitable link to the endless
cycle of existence, mind eluding
this blessed reality in favor of fantasy,
the movie reel oblivious to the story, itself
impressed upon the film to last as long
as it will;
Rivers stand the test of time without need
to impress anyone, lest they be dammed up
at the hands of man; nourishing waters
without which we would lose not only
beauty, but the very fount of life, itself.
The river runs, swollen in spring
from a source high up in crevasses
of snags jutting skyward of tree line,
cracks perpetually harboring snowpack,
bald crags carved by weather and the
bare relentless blaze of a
Churning down gullies and sluices,
bounding over boulders and rocks
wrapped in tangles of gnarled giants,
arboreal elders rooted in gneiss
from ages past, feeding from that
pure crystalline source;
There is no stopping the flow
until inserted concrete bulwarks
cause it to fan out, curtain-like,
sparking jewels from midday shards
of refracted light, dancing through
branches and dying in the froth
of churning surge, foaming,
ever rambling, to the inlets
of the sea.
Photos taken while traveling over Stevens Pass, Washington State. ©Bela Johnson, 2018
How can it be in this land of plenitude,
our fellows spilling out now
into city streets, smearing pristine glare
of glossy retail windows
with the crime of their insanity?
I walk and talk with open heart,
not from a place where vacant stares
meet hollow eyes;
hear his story, however true,
offer a meal he declines,
proud he is employed, no longer able
to dig holes, he says,
since someone crushed the back
of his skull with a rock.
Live long enough and it all seems plausible,
as we stroll along, talking unselfconsciously
in a throng of iPhone-toting trust fund youth,
oblivious to the suffering their lack of empathy
stamps securely on a world they inherit.
We are so willing to click in and go for the ride.
Neurons firing and off we jettison
into yet another collective illusion
while the god of Abraham, bless his heart,
calls it good.
It’s all good.
The miracle of bodies in time and space.
Damn the consequences as,
iPhone in hand and television cranked,
we stride out blinking, blind as moles,
into fractured rays of the sun’s early light,
ignorant of it having risen
in the utter stillness of earth’s rotation
around a fiery halo.
Pondering my daughter’s latest post about her service in Nepal as an acupuncture physician, I am suddenly struck by our shared proclivity to leave comfort of the familiar and strike out, only to become a guest in someone else’s home, community, country. A young woman at thirty, there is a world to explore and she is discovering her place in service to it.
My own reflections at sixty-one reveal that life has been a constellation of significant choices: that of casting myself as far across the country as possible at eighteen in order to live in what felt as foreign a place as I could imagine. Moving from a city in Southern California to the woods and waters of Maine, I spent thirty-two years growing into myself while raising two daughters. Somewhere in the midst of it, we broke camp and set out for a tiny Hawaiian island, spending a couple of years there before relocating to the high desert of New Mexico. Returning again to Maine a year later for the duration of my girls’ education, I then embarked on another adventure, this time to the Big Island of Hawaii. In between there was traveling; snapshots of other places, other times.
I’d be lying if I said there was any grand plan. There wasn’t.
This young traveling progeny and I share a love of freedom of what is wild, of fresh air and clean waters; we are people who love to cook wholesome food grown as close to the ground as possible. Appreciating the richness of cultures beyond our own, we are keenly interested in what is important to others; what lies beyond the brush of a passing shoulder, what concerns another holds in their fathomless eyes.
There is something profoundly symbolic about choosing to live beyond one’s comfort zone, a sharpening of the senses in experiencing what is outside one’s own language, routine and story. To go where nobody knows my past and where the future is uncertain makes the metaphor clear: we are but guests here on Mother Earth. As a guest, I remember my manners and help where I can with a humble and grateful heart. Like any courteous guest, I never take my position in the household for granted. I help prepare; clean up after myself.
In the way of all guests, I have come to respect the small and large miracles revealed to my unsuspecting delight. An open heart invites upswells of love and appreciation. Like plumbing any good well, supplies of kindness and understanding quite easily reveal themselves in limitless abundance. There is, and forever will be plenty to share.
The glass is full, half-empty now,
you know we all complain
I copped a bye and grabbed the ring,
to sum up this refrain.
Or so I thought; came back with tears,
of deepest gratitude;
just down the road I sought relief
in midst of plenitude.
Will longing end, the journey cease?
With utter certainty;
the mind turns on and flips and spins
shades of insanity.
To find within what lies afield
has been the human quest;
while hearth and home, familiar bed,
is where I take my rest.