Wednesday, April 28, 2010

kids in nature

our partner in the dance

nature can be the ballroom within which we dance,
the background music we can notice or not,
or, if we can learn how to further ourselves along,
nature can be our partner in the dance,
and we can share the leading and know when to switch,

I love to bring kids to the mountains,
get them out on trails,
get them quiet enough inside
to open
to hear, to see, to feel
the stories within rock & water,
flower & snail,
animal print & human wall,

I love to watch them at the creek
when impulse, connection, and opportunity lead them into play,
there is a pattern to the process they can follow:
they come from the boxes that hold us much of the time,
the right angles of our buildings,
the trap of all our stuff,
the cars and planes within which to cocoon on the way
to where the boxes are so much larger, with more doors out,
in their default position, there’s frantic activity
of snapping cellphones, digital screens,
the seduction of electronic and brain games, of cards and boards,
and they find the deep reassurance of not being alone,
and together filling toward the full,
then there can be a desperate boredom,
the spells reverse, and, if we’re lucky,
at that point creativity finds itself
to dance with the impulses
within a greening world full of older, tried-and-true spells,
the call of our oldest home which we need to revisit
to remember who we were so we can know who we are,
our feet still in nature while imagination lets us soar,

then the boxes call us back
till we are ready to find the way out again.

by Henry Walker
April 24, ’10

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

of snow & flower

a new flower revolution

just a month ago
when I hiked up the valleys of the Smokies
only the evergreens, a few birds, and I
showed the world we were awake,
the snow heaped deeper and deeper upon the world
as I trudged higher and higher,
all a-marvel at crystalline transformations,
the snow subtle and blurring of the lines,
of the terrain below and the branches above,
adventurous mammals and birds hinted of themselves in tracks in the snow,

now the “on” button is pushed, “pause” released,
and the show is cranking up into high gear,
closer to the earth the race is in earnest,
while the high branches above are more cautious,
for they’ve already won the advantage of first at the light,

we search out patches of violets and anemones,

yellow trillium and the more social white,

wild phacelia,


and bishop’s cap,
beds of feathery, plucky squirrel-corn and Dutchman’s breeches,

and a favorite, up where a dropping stream
laughs and considers down its little cove,
treasures of ginger, lush light-green leaves

above an exquisite maroon flower,
tripartite in pointed petal
with a round cup to draw one in
so that we too are pulled to hide with it
at the base where stem meets ground,

my camera and I hold all we can
of sun & stream & carpets of flower,
and in some pictures I seek to hold both
the white trillium by the trail

and the snow-dusted high slopes at the top of the mountain,
the flowers’ color echoes the snow above, and before,

high up the coves is
where we find enough flowers that they seem to shout in their exuberance,
where the soil is rich and wet
and left alone enough
so that the old growth forest remembers itself
in the ancient feel of big trees
among whose sheltering roots
that most ephemeral has its moments of glory,

we seek a favorite flower of ours, blood root,
which, like us, can foray far enough
to get to the fall line where piedmont drops to coastal plain,
we find it in leaf, its flowers transformed to seed,
so we range higher and higher on the mountain
and find no trace of it,
and we wonder how much it cannot climb high into the mountain,
a flower book confirms that blood root can’t handle
the weather of the top half of the mountains around here,

on high dry ridges
where the opening views can lift my eyes up, up, and away,

I also look down to the lowest of flowers,
trailing arbutus a subtle exuberance
of white and rose blossoms flat against the ground,

teaberry hugs that ground as if to also hide from the cold
and still hold small red berries
that delight the eye and the nose,

how wondrous that we have within us
the drive to wonder at it all,
to hold within us the trillium and the snow,
the blossoms below and the peaks outward bound,

we are such stuff as the eternal and the ephemeral,
and our souls need to hold it all,
so that when we act, we are grounded, and we can also fly.

by Henry Walker
April 10, ’10

writing & me

paths to the page

I sit with a blank page before me,
not because I already feel something full-blown within my head,
ready to leap out and stand full upon the page,
though that does happen when a feeling, an insight, grabs me,
already birthed within my consciousness,
more often I sit to write, and wait a few minutes,
while thought after thought shows me a hint of where I might go,
many paths lead from the page and back to it,
and I have to choose which is the truer
as to where I need to go
as to what I need to hold and build with my words,

it’s spring vacation now
and I think to write of how much I need to matter,
of the socialness of teaching
and of how much I need to renew the right energy
to hold to the goal
and to be flexible as to the ways,
of the socialness of parenting and grandparenting
when the joy in the heart can’t keep the tiredness from the eyes,
I think about college basketball:
how much it meant two days ago
for my team to win the national championship,
to watch the game with wife and son
and to buy the celebratory t-shirts next day
and to bask in the glow of print and tv coverage,
and, while I’m writing all this down by a boisterous stream,

a warm breeze and bugs gust upon me,
I look up into the leafing trees

who race to grab and use the brilliant sun
who shouts of the coming summer,
and each leaf has to decide if it’s worth the risk to go for it now,
even though winter murmurs it might still revisit,

tomorrow we will push ourselves physically
and psychically open ourselves to the wonder
of this year’s revolution of the flowers.

by Henry Walker
April 7, ’10

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

dawning realizations

Rachel, and Patterns

a first can be obvious:
a smile,
a meeting of the eye,
a word,
a step,
yet each “first” can only break through
when enough experience adds up,
and the processor within processes it all enough,
and well enough,
for a new thought to jell,
and the processor within to choose to know it
and to choose to act upon the new knowledge,

our 5 year old granddaughter is full of questions about pattern,
about how much examples she already knows are true
beyond the immediate worlds she knows firsthand,

yesterday it was surgery--why’s, how, the taste of the anesthetic, the feel,
all about an assault on the body integrity: how long will the scar last?

a dawning realization that this too shall pass,
mortality as the patterns breaks, or is fulfilled,

so much of who we are as a species
is built upon that realization that that which is won’t always be,
and there’s sorrow, and joy, within that truth,
perhaps mortality is god’s gift
as we feel as an individual with limited time
so we must make most of the hours,
she’s opening that gift
and that within is great and scary,

I celebrate every breakthrough into realization, understanding,
and dawning wisdom that each of us can make,
and Rachel’s mind and soul stretch wide to hold that which is true.

by Henry Walker
April 3, ’10

a budding two year old

Izzy. . . unh-hunh!

so quick
to the eye-to-the-eye,
to the smile,
to the word,
to repeating the word,
whether we get it or not,

she understands far more that she hears
than she can find the sounds to let us understand
the detail of what she knows, wants, feels,
like the caricature of an American in a foreign land
who can’t speak the language,
she increases her volume, repeats the sounds,
and gets stymied for awhile if what is in our head
doesn’t match what’s in hers,

I can’t tell if her mind needs more words
to allow thought to increase in complexity,
or if the complexity is there and just bides its time
until it can train the messengers to get it to us,
or maybe it’s somewhere in between
where she has to reduce a request first to getting our attention,
then to an imperative noun or verb
which carries within it the potential
of the clause, the phrase, the modifiers,

in the last year she has learned of many choices that exist around her,
and how much she gets to choose,
and then again how much she doesn’t,
and language is the means to act upon those choices,

now when she is pleased with how close we are
to getting what she means,
she gives us an adorable “unh-hunh”,
and we melt,
for the relationship we build with each other
is vital to the best of who we are,
and her words smile with the bond.

by Henry Walker
April 5, ’10