Monday, April 13, 2009

Smokies Spring Musings

an endangered spirit

we don’t like limits,
anything outside us
that makes us feel small and scared,

when I walked, with tentative step,
in the great redwood groves of northern California,
I felt dwarfed, lessened, put in my place,
for their scale of size and age
made me drop my eyes
and question
if I could even fit into a world
where they hold sway,

when we walked, with tentative step,
in the wilds of Wyoming where great grizzlies roam,

we had to realize that a quite possible mix of luck and mistakes
could easily leave us savaged and dead,
no wonder we have killed so many of the great predators
who could have enjoyed us as prey,

all this comes to me as we hike miles up a valley in the Smokies
into a small woods of Eastern old growth,
though a little insect is killing the great hemlocks here
the trees are still large and impressive,
yet to a scale that feels manageable,
I wish we had saved sections of the grandest old forest
where the great poplars rose in magnificent transcendent columns,
I feel sad that all we left were those at the edges, the corners,
the places that were too hard to get into easily,

we’ve tamed the world
and worked to break its spirit
so that it will serve us without its own conditions,

I think our own spirit can also break,
something inside of us can also be lost,
when we tame too much outside us,

the redwood, the grizzly, the tiger, the wolf--
we need them all, not just for them,
but equally for that in us
which must be free
or else we gain safety and comfort
and lose much of the best of why we are.

by Henry Walker
April 9, ‘09

creatures of the story

nature can often seem to be background noise
and we yakkety-yak to each other above it,
if we grow up in nature
we can find it easy to lose ourselves
in water & stone, in little animals that scurry,
in imagined worlds in dark crevices and airy perches,
the world speaks in its own languages
and we then can almost understand it,

if we don’t spend those first years listening
I wonder how much we can never hear,

in the best of circumstances
we still have to study and work
away from nature’s curves and dimensions
in buildings that worship flat surfaces and right angles,
where even nature is framed and planed
in rectangles of window and picture,

we still, though, are creatures of the story
and we can get back toward the first storyteller

when we discover the poems of wild flowers,

the stories of trees,
waterfalls, bears, and seasons,
the books that rock and water write together,
the serial told time and time again
as species after species works to be its fittest,
the conflicts,
the comedies and the tragedies,

we are creatures of the story
and how wonderful when we can slow ourselves,
open ourselves,
and start to understand
all the languages around us
when we immerse ourselves
in the stories of the natural world.

by Henry Walker
April 8, ‘09

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