Friday, December 25, 2009

ordering the houses

houses in order

it feels good to get the physical house in order:
clean the corners,
sort the piles
fix what needs fixing,
get your own house in order,

it feels good to get the psychic house in order:
check and clean its corners,
order and process the internal lists,
unplug the processors and then reboot it all
so that glitches can resolve themselves,

for me I need to leave my physical house
and lose myself in God’s woods,
to reconnect with all that is most not me
all that that I feel somehow is that
which is also really who I am.

by Henry Walker
December 22, ‘09

Thursday, December 24, 2009

noticing the change of the seasons

Winter Solstice ’09

as the Sun’s year winds down
a storm flies north over us
full of moisture from the Gulf,
cold air from the Pole
pulls a great snow out of it,

before, all that needs doing at school and home
has also broken upon me in a snow of tasks,
and later a flurry of actions,

it’s often easy in modern America
to find a way to let nature’s cycles be peripheral,
we light away the night,
cool away summer,
heat away winter,
and not even quite notice how short the days are getting,
I do contend, though, that our moods know what’s going on,
for grey days somber us like a filter that hides away
any brightness in the mood,

the last day of Fall
I drive my fully-loaded 19 year-old van
across a whitened landscape, though roads are clear,
as I leave the Piedmont and climb up to the mountain plateau
the bright Sun stays behind
and brooding clouds greet me and hold all across the mountains,
my usual interstate way across these mountains still is blocked
by a landslide months ago when rock & earth reacted to another storm,
as I race north I feel the weight of the foot and a half of snow
beside the road, near half a foot still on the trees,
I thank the engineers who designed and built this interstate
and the workers who have cleared it
as I crest the Appalachian ridge at 3800 feet in elevation
and scurry down and across the great valley of the Tennessee,
the snow disappearing till it reappears around our cabin
huddled at the base of Mt. LeConte,
a few inches on the ground and a light dusting still on the trees,
subtle, accenting the lines of leaf & branch
rather than overwhelming distinctions the way snow measured deep does,

stars and a crescent moon come out to mark the night,
early morning, even before the grey of daylight starts to softly return
I venture down to the creek for my morning soul time,
the white of the snow the first to shape the world around me
and slowy other shapes unveil themselves,
the full creek falling fast,

it’s now almost 9:00 a.m. and the Sun still hasn’t crested
the mountains to the south and east,
though the tops of the trees on the ridge across the way see it,

late morning I set off on an adventure to discover
what will reveal itself in the snowy valley today,

I aim my steps up the valley toward the Sun,

who has been hiding behind the clouds
and chooses this day, of all days, to reappear,
on this, its lowest day of the year,
the mountains before me rise up to make the Sun seem even lower,
I snap picture after picture of tree and creek
decked out in white with the bright eye of the Sun
the jewel at the top of photo after photo,

as I make my way two miles up the valley
the snow deepens from several inches to 5 then to 7,

and I go cross-country where my tracks are the first of my species in days,
though story after story hints of itself in other tracks:
deer, wild turkey, rabbit, probably a coyote,

lower bushes and trees who keep their leaves,
mostly rhododendron and hemlock, one laurel I notice,
bow deep under the weight of the snow
and in their supplicance hold me to a slower way around them,

a tall hemlock, draped with snow, so looks as a Christmas tree,
that I take its picture with the bright sun as the star at its top,

this is the valley I most explore and know,
this Spring,
this Summer,
this Fall
I have wandered these woods
and found flower and view and bear,
now these same woods seem as if at intermission,
the snow speaks of the truth of Winter’s phase of holding, of stasis,
the stream speaks of the truth of the phase of flowing, of change,
the Sun speaks of the truth that he calls the dance
and we do well to follow that lead,

as the day diminishes toward dusk
I find my way to where I can watch the last light today
highlight the whitened mountain at the head of my valley,

tomorrow the days will start to slowly lengthen,
three times the Moon will fill, and it will be Spring,
for now, though, it is time to feel the Winter and celebrate light.

by Henry Walker
December 21, ‘09

a followup to my gifts

may the mandala turn

when the effort of leading with my heart has been long and hard,
it helps me to find time and space
to recognize the wounds and the losses,
to release the tears,
those tears that so much in life demands some kind of payment for,

while it is true that there is much joy
in celebrating how well the glass fills,
we also need the grounding of feeling true to each way
the glass empties, diminishes, when we lose,

we are on the wheel of the mandala,
whether we know it or not,
and we need to let ourselves turn, turn, turn,
the heart literally and metaphorically a muscle that must be used to be healthy,
and when we give in to the exercise of feeling each loss
we ready ourselves to be able to turn
and to feel the joy fully
when there is gain again.

by Henry Walker
December 21, ‘09

Friday, December 18, 2009

Annie's sister-in-law

as the year winds down, there is loss, not only of sunlight, but relationships, health, mood--this is a poem in tribute to CFS dance teacher Annie's close family member, a person assaulted by serious health issues

Kathy Godleski Dwyer

I sit down
and release my own agendas till later,
I start to make the little leaps into understanding
by asking about the facts: names, places, connections,
I look deep into Annie’s eyes
and listen deep to her with my heart, and my head,

and I start to see her,
the third sister, brother Tom’s wife,
Kathy Godleski Dwyer,
she who holds the families together--
the hub of the larger Dwyer connections,
the hub of her family of origin,
the hub of her nuclear family as it grows:
with two daughters, 4 granddaughters, 1 grandson,
nothing more important to her than time with
husband, daughters, grandchildren,
ah, those special first months and years!
yet all the connections are special to her:
no one better at remembering birthdays, favorite foods,
getting you the right gift at the right time,
the one who calls you, the one whom you call,
a Christmas party every year, everyone welcome and treasured,
the family reunion every summer,
the one who holds all the history, who knows all the anecdotes,
the homemaker who seems to be made for turning house into home,
I hear of 9 houses Kathy has transformed into home,
redoing kitchen and yard, finding the right paint,
all the ways to nest so that Tom can come home,
so that her kids can grow up in the home
she feels should be everyone’s birthright,
no wonder her children live so close, stay so close,
wherever her relations move and live
they feel the pull to return to where Kathy calls home,

her connection to her parents-in-law powerful enough
that her mother-in-law considered her as daughter
and that her father-in-law opened-up enough
to describe her as “almost like family,”

the Southerner in me is intrigued by her honest realness
that realness that we here in the South can too easily forget--
as she tells it like it is, letting out the reaction
while still holding true to the connection,
a sharp wit, no pretense, no hidden agenda,
able to laugh heartily at herself,

a deep wisdom as she is close to her own heart and thus to others,

as I see her fuller and fuller,
I see the creator, the gardener who plants, grows, savors,
she who quilts and crochets, to create and then to give away,
she who knows how to make a home,
she who knows how to dress well,
she who knows how to live well and fully,

and, through it all, Kathy and Tom have both been lucky
to have found each other so early
and to have devoted themselves to each other so fully,

I have learned that anyone who has been close to Kathy has been blessed,
and those of us who have not are lesser for that absence.

by Henry Walker
December 16, ‘09

it's the heart. . .

what is my gift?

what is my gift?
the light that is most mine to give,
that gift that can shine
while I use the tools I have within my kit?
my gift is my heart,
the caring within me
that wells up and overflows out of me,

that which powers me to see what I see in my photography,
the twinkle of the eye as the wonder within a person
gives me a flash of itself,
the angle, the moment, the possibility
that lets a waterfall, a sunset, a flower, a mountain
reveal its own heart,
and the possible becomes actual,

it is the caring that powers my teaching
so that I can touch a wholeness who can self-organize
if given space, foundation, encouragement, release,
while it needs so much to resist all
that pulls down at its reaching and that rewards the base,

for now words are my familiar, my agents,
the sous chefs who help me fathom the depths, encompass the breadth,
reach up and back to the source,

how relatively easy it is to know the “how” of action,
it’s the heart that gives the “why,” the “where,” the “when,”
and then the “how” knows what to do--

and there’s a picture, a learner,
and sometimes a poem.

by Henry Walker
December 14, ‘09

Thursday, December 10, 2009

life is the dance

Friends School & Dance

Life As The Dance

a dance performance,
rather performance after performance,
in company with projected words and pictures,
with overarching audio of opinion & song & direction,
a whole with every part a whole in itself,

the vision of each student choreographer suffuses dancer and stage,
within the larger gentle vision of the teacher director,
we in the audience are touched in ways we recognize
and in ways we know but do not know how we know,
in the dance space itself is alive with movement and stasis,

the physical expresses design with body & shape--
shifts to the call of will and entrances each viewer
with how well limitations of shape and gravity
can be the frame within which art can lead us deep, high, & far,

I am daunted when I think of the years
that have been bent to this moment,
the hour upon hour of conditioning, experimentation,
implementation of will upon soul & body,
all the rehearsals so that the spirit and the physical in dance
embody truths that can speak to the heart
in a language more primal, evocative, ascendant
than the languages most of use so readily,
all with precision to detail and presentation
so that nothing distracts us from the fullness of belief,

every moment we have on this Earth is a gift
and we can easily forget how fleeting the moments we are given,

past and future always meet in the present
and with dance we can feel the triumph
of making even the fleeting moments transcendent,
or maybe even particularly so,

in the finale of the dance tonight
the musicians move toward center stage,

pull the dancers and are pulled themselves
into deeper and deeper connection,
and as the movement of the dancers crescendoes
their singing brings us even further along,

in only a few days this manifestation of the dance
will have its last performance,
how expressive these moments are
of how we should live our lives,
how we should create and soar
with every moment we are given.

by Henry H. Walker
December 7, ’09

Sunday, December 6, 2009

what of the future?

Lost & Not Knowing It

the dark doubter who scatters any blocks
who seek to build upon the other,
add different angles together and the base broadens,
a foundation becomes wide enough to hold our reaching-up,

fundamentalism, of any stripe, reduces thought and complexity
across the country and across the world,
I hope for better:
for knowledge to undo ignorance,
for love to undermine hate,
for empathy to open us all into a soul flexibility
that can deny the stasis of an adolescent rigidity
with my group being THE group,
my God the only God,

fear and denial of the stranger,

it is wonderful to have a belief,
a group that works for you,
how arrogant and blasphemous, however, to assume
and to act on that assumption that all others are wrong,

too many I know, and know of,
seem unable to grow and stretch
beyond the know-it-allness of Fox & Falwell,

I despair for our species
whose strength has been intelligence and adaptability,
our country finding one with many,
and now we cannot act unless the answer is “no” and exclusion,
our grandchildren’s grandchildren may pay a high price
for our following those who have lost their way,
and, like a lost person in the woods,
run faster and surer believing that’s the way.

by Henry H. Walker
November 26, ’09

off into nature

Ways to be with the world

the world can be too much with me
when I do not spend enough time within the natural world,
it can get a bit much:
family & work, the logistics of answering all the callings,
from chores to vocation,

I do love to give myself fully
to that dance within which the world & I share the lead,

for weeks now I’ve felt a pull
to disengage from the leading,
to stroll & sit & muse
upon whatever gift the universe will reveal and casually open before me,

along the Blue Ridge Parkway 15 turkeys stop me in the road,

we find a clear view of a red rose sun
who sets behind the main ridge of the Smokies,

just inside the national park
the first elk I’ve ever seen in the East
graze in the dusking light--

one great bull & 9 cows & calves,

in the early evening I find my way outside and down to the creek,
full of itself from recent rains,
Cassiopeia & a quarter moon reveal themselves above
through the newly-bare branches,

I feel expectant--
sure that there are gifts that will open
whenever I take the care to notice,
each gift is not just for me
yet I can feel it to be for me
if I but open myself to revelation,

nature untamed reveals gift after gift
and helps me open myself to grow larger,
and, after recreating,
I can hope my vision and my energy
will be up for the challenge of the dance again,

for now I hear better the underlying rhythms & melodies.

by Henry Walker
November 25, ’09

Thursday, November 19, 2009

worth it?

the benefit-cost analysis

what is there new to say?
when I take time from the doing
to thinking about the doing,
part of me is like an old Rolladex
which I spin and there I find list after list
on which I update what to do, what to write,
and then if I’ve written of it,
I need to figure if there are still subsets, tangents,
different takes on the same original
worth the venture of focus and words,

I hope that, with the breaths I’m still allowed,
that I can, in any way,
pay back any of the cost
my life debits from the whole,
that’s part of why I write,
that whole with which life must negotiate,
the world that is before us, is here now,
and will be just fine when we no longer
subtract our individuality from the possibilities
inherent in the moment,

how can we tell who should use
what is only possibility and then it is spent?

how easy, and maybe how right,
it is to judge a choice, a reality worthless than the other,
for when we spend resources, possibilities, every moment
we judge one to be worth more than the other,
every child, everyone of us, every choice is a bet with the future
that the benefit is worth the cost.

by Henry Walker
November 14, ‘09

Friday, November 6, 2009

the stress tests we call work

a few words about the effort of teaching and ?

the going gets tougher . . .

when the going gets tougher,
and moving forward is no longer just a stroll in a gentled park,
we each face a stress test
to see if our systems are up to the challenge:

will we lose our will and give up
on finding a way?

will we have enough reserves
to throw again and again at the wall
until a way opens?

will we have enough flexibility
as tiredness stiffens our mood,
anger easily switches on,
and we can rage at the walls that seem all around us?

we’re over two months into the school year
and now our conditioning has to prove itself,

like in running, many can sprint in September,
it’s October and November, the long distance running,
that pushes the lungs and tests the heart,

teacher and student alike feel that pressure
and can add more of that pressure to the other,

every day, every class, every moment is a test,

may we all find the wherewithal to give our best,
and may that best be enough.

by Henry Walker
November 3, ‘09

Sunday, October 25, 2009

see, feel, pass on the light . . .

Our colleague, Jim Henderson, lost his mother last Friday, after a long slipping away. Here is what I wrote to him, of him, in honor of him:

a long greying

today, as the sun sets, it reveals itself
with bright beams who find the slowly turning trees around us,
the world all on the verge of sharpness and contrast,
so unlike the grey wash that has been this drizzly day,

some days slip gently away from us
when shades of grey slip softly into each other
and it only slowly dusks on us
that day has become night,

I have lost a parent in such a long greying
and done my best to tend the fire of herself
so increasingly banked and hidden from me,
I had to hold my memories of midday and afternoon
and throw my love into the obscuring dark
in echo of that earlier gleam,
in search of the coals that I know must still smolder,

so much of the source of my light
that I shine as brightly as I can?
my mother--
who slipped,
and slipped,
and slipped away,
I feel Jim’s pain
and I honor the beams of his light
that he cast after his mother, his father,
and toward so many of us time after time,

may we each see, feel, and pass on the light,
and when our own light fades away
we should feel comfort in imagining the lights of others
who still flare brightly.

by Henry Walker
October 24, ‘09

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"choose your own adventure"

we gamble, fork after fork

life itself is a “choose your own adventure”,
every step onward with a fork and a choosing,

so much is a throw of the die,
though we like to pretend it’s all rational,
that we’re in charge,
instead of the reality that,
as hard as we work to see,
we are still blind as to what numbers will come up,
where the ball will actually rest,
before it whirls and circles again,

every day we put down the wager of our life,
we choose,
and we choose,
and we choose,
and what actually happens to us
only maybe has any direct connection to what we will.

by Henry Walker
October 19, ‘09


the plane as chrysalis

plane travel does not make one appreciate process,

the transformation in the journey from start to destination?
wonderful in result and wrenching in the process,
confining before expanding,
from the cattle-like herding in the terminal,
through the penned-in confinement of the plane’s cabin,
and the rigid regimentation of disembarking,

such process should help us appreciate the effort
that transforms caterpillar to butterfly,
that almost divine disquiet at the heart
of a new thought, a new creation,

I see a plane fly overhead
and I enjoy imagining the product
passengers will savor at the end,

I don’t want to make an empathic leap
into thinking about being in the cabin itself,
into the effort of the process.

by Henry Walker
October 16, ‘09

Thursday, October 15, 2009

our bear cousins visit

a family reunion, October in the mountains

a week into October
and summer counter-attacks with a legion of warm air,
armed to the full with water from the Gulf,
night finishes in roars of wind which wave the trees
and flash moonlight on forest floor as if a spotlight searches,

the slightest effort and I’m hot
and my sweat just sits there,
rain swallows mountain and valley
and the streams raise their voices in appreciation of the reinforcements,
a great waterfall shouts!

gathering clouds part a bit and the sun lightens the mood,

meanwhile, winter has sent enough scouts
that the weaker leaves are turning yellow,
particularly the rhododendron,
yet I also notice ironwood and poplar finding the gold within them,

still, the forest’s uniform is mostly green,
nut, berry, & seed carry dispatches to future forests,
dispatches that bear, squirrel, chipmunk, and turkey intercept
whenever they can,

as we busy ourselves with food and washing,
a neighborhood friend comes over to report bears in the neighborhood:
I shush my students,
bark quick orders to them to follow, in the quiet,
and we find a mother bear and two beautiful cubs:

big and glossy, sleekly strong,

two brothers so playful they stand and dance and box with each other,
they roll on the ground and nip,
they play at dominance
and snack on berries like teenagers on chips,
mom mostly keeps to herself and eating,

her power ready on the instant to protect her charges
so we hold ourselves respectful,
we follow and watch them for most of an hour,
our cameras snap, snapping in mostly vain attempts
to capture a touch of the wonder of the moment,

each of my middle schoolers with eyes a-blaze, almost quivery,
words wanting to tumble from their mouths,
treated to a late day visit from our cousins
so like us as we see them play
and so unlike us in where and how we spend much of our days--

we humans need such family reunions.

by Henry Walker
October 9, ‘09

Sunday, October 4, 2009

what captures a granddaughter?

word, thought, and self--our grandchildren,
a poem

I can often see the trueness of a person in their eyes,
as the self inside marshals itself
and reaches out to know what’s out there,
to connect to the other,
to laugh,
to be real and revealing for an unguarded moment,
and then shutters and filters interpose,
much of the time who we truly are stays within
and only subsets interface with the observer outside,

I have two granddaughters
who each, I swear, is amazing in mind & heart & personality,
for I think I know that true self inside each of them
despite how difficult the leap of knowing can be,
much of the leap is intuitive, of faith and art,
with the younger words don’t yet accompany the self out,
with the older words pour forth and can be an obscuring blizzard,

the one-year-old expresses herself beautifully in eye and sound,
though it’s hard to know which words in which relationship
can capture one almost pre-verbal,
she who understands that she wants
and probably what she wants,
but has not the specificity of sound to thought we call words
so that she can voice order exactly what she wants and knows,
more and more she seems to understand words from us,
her ears and eyes sort out pattern
and she delights when she understands,
yet so much of who we are is the actor upon the world,
and for now she has sophisticated desires
and limited sounds to express them,
what intrigues me is whether thought is there
and words just translate it,
or how much words shape and define the thoughts,
inherent in Isabel is a wondrous self
whom we will know and she will know herself surer
as language and she share the shaping and revealing,

the four-year-old expresses herself beautifully in language and twinkle,
and more and more of who she will be, she is now--
inquisitive, sweet, imaginative, willful and open,
she acts upon the world with gusto
as she visualizes and implements complicated play scenarios
within which only she knows the rules,
and those of us in her world need to adapt
just as she has had to adapt to much herself,
with her, words are more and more sophisticated,
the precise tool for the specialized need,
the complexity of her development high enough
to give advantage so that the spotlight of her intellect
can look back into the concrete
and know it as actors fulfilling abstract scripts,
and sometimes the sheer volume and subtlety of her words
make it hard to see through the clutter to the self within,

we make ourselves in some combination of revelation,
pattern learned, and the ongoing synthesis of the two by a will,

just as in this poem
in which I felt and intuited a shape that needed to be born,
and, as I worked to get the shape right,
I chose words and structures
that gave specifics to the general,
definition to what needed to be,

I love to know another
and I love it when my granddaughters and we
learn to know the other and ourselves,

and, to parallel that creation,
here is a poem that found its form through words
cast to hold an idea
that only became real
as the process of writing both revealed and created it.

by Henry Walker
October 3, ‘09

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ken Burns is a visionary

if you aren't watching the national park series on PBS, start tonight!

a great American idea

a national park, what a revolutionary idea!
that a country can have a collective will!
that the interests of the people as a whole
can outweigh the desires of a person but a part,
the selfless over the selfish,
the lasting over the fleeting,
what nature births over what artifice makes,

each of us is not our “own master, total and absolute,”
except when we realize that who we are
contains both us and the other,
we then interweave with plant, animal, and rock,

and the spirit which infuses all,
who many of us call God,

when I wander where nature with original energy
lifts up my heart and gives me strength,
I realize again how much of who I am
depends on a waterfall, a bear, a flower,

who must still be there when I am not,
and even their just being there makes me more whole,

we diminish ourselves when we reduce our consciousness to selfish whim.

by Henry Walker
September 28, ‘09

the seasons turn

Autumnal Equinox ’09

the air, warm and as full of water as at high summer,
rolls shower after shower over us,
the clouds hang on and only release the Sun
for moments midday today,
just enough to let us see the Sol Pole’s shadow at noon,
standard time,
we gather around our marker of the seasons’ change
and chant loudly together of “day & night, half & half,”

and somehow the clouds part enough so that
the Sun shadows the pole onto the chiseled mark,

each year has two middles with day & night equal,
and noon is the middle of each day,
and we work today to notice that underlying truth,

yet what Sun & Earth dance can be but a frame
within which we live lives with their own dynamic
that can be at odds with
the stately, courtly turns of the heavens,

our school year has just begun and is full of energy & promise,
and the effort of getting inertia to work for us and not against us,

the trees are still mostly green and race
to make and store the most of this year that they can,
yellow, red, and gold just start to show themselves in the woods,
acorns drop like gunfire onto the metal of my woodpiles
and through the foliage in the woods,
my first chestnuts drop and the muscadine grapes finish,
their taste sweet & sour like the Equinox itself,
in the garden okra and tomato decide
to go gently into the night that comes,
the lettuce germinated and seems to pause
and even reverse in its growing
until the days & nights remember to cool,
the day lightens later and later
and the dark comes earlier and earlier,

I feel ready to shake myself awake
when the growing year decides to let itself finish
and to celebrate what it has accomplished
with a final harvest and a flaring of autumnal color,

I am ready to chill
and to then feel comfortable enough
to let the color of myself blaze brighter
than summer’s heat lets me.

by Henry Walker
September 24, ‘09

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

mono vs poly

Here is a letter I sent to the Raleigh News & Observer. Below it are more details as to my feelings about where we are now as a country:

To the Editor:

Steve Ford journeys from Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” to Gettysburg (Where we celebrate what we share, Sept. 13), a reminder that our country struggled then to define itself, and still does.
How monocultural or how diverse should we be? White bread or whole wheat? or rye? How exhilarated or how scared to be when a white man is no longer President?
Many of us contend that we reach further into greatness as a country when we open ourselves to diversity and become one from many, like a stew in which each ingredient both adds itself to the larger and yet remembers where it came from.
A civil war still rages in our country and each side wants to define who we are. Like Lincoln after Gettysburg, may we choose the greater and not the lesser, hope over fear, love over hate, the open heart over the closed mind.

Henry Walker
5701 Old Stony Way
Durham, NC 27705
(919) 489-6685

are we white bread, or whole wheat?

at the heart of who we are as a country
opposing impulses struggle with each other and to express themselves,
and in the knowing we choose
we shape and define who we are,

are we white bread or whole wheat? or maybe even rye?
one nation under one God
or one nation with many paths toward God,
or otherwise?

our past has been dominated by the white and the male,
and I understand the fear of losing a familiar father,
in Congress Assembled, and Dissembled,
one party cannot keep itself from trumpeting that fear,
their own countenances, demeanors, all WASPy and angry,

I want us as a country to hold on to the wisdom of the white and the male
and feel not diminished, but grander,
when we add the wisdom of all of our assets:
each gender, each race, ethnicity,
when we can value the quality of character
whatever the gender, the skin, the way they know their God,

how much more we can be as a country
when we use all of the gifts of all of us
and not just hearken back to a partial self,

the best in us knows we can do better than that,

may we win the struggle with our selves
and rise as a wholeness that will not be denied.

by Henry Walker
September 10, ’09

Thursday, August 20, 2009

new web site for my Alzheimer's book

Announcing a new web site! The book about Mother and Alzheimer's is on the web!

Check it out. You can read it online and download all or part of it for free.

Please pass on the site to any that might like it. The site will be referenced in the fall edition of The Caregiver, Newsletter of the Duke Family Support Program, going out all over the country. From there I hope it can go "viral" and be out there for many, many people.

Other sites you might like: (for information about our cabin and renting it) (Joan's web site with connections to her blogs)



Sunday, August 16, 2009

going with God

honoring the inner mountain man

right now I’m all by myself along the creek
at the edge of the national park,
my companions? a pen & my writing pad,
and the peaceful feeling the natural world wraps around you
as day slips away toward dusk,

I love connections with others--
making the connections,
servicing them,
caring about the body politic,
helping the body electric learn,
yet before the school year pulls me into its whirling wheels,
I need some time when I move across the mountains
with no obligations to another,
well, rather, acknowledging my connections to all that is not us,
but that which is before us, with us,
and that which will probably transcend us,

tomorrow I climb the great mountain above me
so that I can be open to how many companions and teachers I can have
when I seem to be alone,

as the new day has just begun
I near where I’ll park the car
and a bear is browsing where people have parked,
he turns from me, with a studied indifference,
as if he is an upperclassman and I a mere freshman,
nothing in his demeanor tells me that I matter,
I park and start toward the trail
and a family of wild turkeys fills the way before me,
mom and dad and a bevy of young
whom I saw two months ago
and who have doubled with summer’s plenty,
I sing to them of morning breaking
and that helps me be but a mild irritant to their foraging,

I push my body and spirit hard
and climb up & up, the air still, my sweat profuse,
rock and wood empty of my kind but for me,

as I come out of the wet rich cove onto the drier open ridge,
I startle 3 bear cubs who scamper up trees, with alarmed sounds,
and their mother alerts herself to see if she needs to deal with me,
I sing to them of morning breaking,
my pulse faster than with the turkeys,
the cubs scamper down and dissolve away into the heathy wood,

on the ridge the morning sun lifts my spirit,
though I do look behind me to make sure
the bears are off on another adventure,

I work my way steadily up the mountain,
appreciating each turn and even the occasional hiker,

when I crest the high ridge I celebrate the sunny divide,
the trail now almost level and flowers abound:
pink turtlehead and grass of parnassus force me to stop and savor them,

I get to the main top, leave two rocks at the summit,
a symbol of rising against gravity,
honoring my legs’ work the last few hours,

I say “hello” to friends at the lodge,
replenish my liquids, snack some,
and drop down the mountain,
stopping and stopping the first half mile

to photograph Indian pipe

and spruce-fir in the mist,

the way down mostly the effort to just get back to the start,
though I can feel the gestalt of the mountain’s shape
and the wit and work of the trail crew who built the way,

then, in the car at the bottom, I have to stop
for the bears I startled a third of the way up the mountain
are now climbing and playing at the mountain’s base,
up & down the sassafras trees they scamper like monkeys

and snack on berries I never knew even existed:
a round red berry morphing into an oval purple berry at its top,

the bears’ purple scat punctuated with red berries now makes sense,
a crowd of us can’t tear ourselves away,
though I finally do--

I have one more day here
and then I’ll answer the calling from the lowlands,
where calling and partner await,
and complete important parts of me.

by Henry Walker
August 13-14, ‘09

bears, and wolves, and . . .

I know bears

I know black bears
and I love black bears,
and, like people, I know there are levels upon levels
of who they are that are hidden from me,
and yet their essence burns through the obscuring mists,
and I do know them,

all things are connected,
all living things are even further connected,

I enjoy getting to know those most distant--
those fellow travelers who are of matter
yet lack spirit, consciousness,
that with which DNA binds all life,
and there are wondrous stories that rock, fire, water live,

I love all my cousins who share those original directions:
from algae and moss to flower and redwood,
from insect and salamander to mountain goat and river otter,

yet there is a special place in my heart for the wolf & the bear,

I have felt transformed when I’ve watched them be, and parent,
I have seen them model and let their young have some attitude
as each works on finding its own way within the common,

today as I bicycled through the cove,
I came upon bears grazing in black cherry trees,

mother and cub hard at work finding and eating

every possible cherry before them,

in a hundred photos I sought to capture

their hunger,
their focus,
their joy in climbing
and testing the limits of their own dexterity
and the strength of the branch,

each time I lingered longer than the other bikers and walkers:
watching, learning, savoring,
as I sought to find a way to let the essence of their selves
reveal itself to me and to my snapping, snapping camera.

by Henry Walker
August 12, ‘09