Friday, December 30, 2011

becoming as coalescing

a coalescing

who we are, albeit in part,
is a coalescing of experience into a whole
of which we are formative, at least partially:
family, school, friends help make us who we are:
choices and possibilities narrow,
that which strives to be bound together,
through the consciousness of decision and self-awareness,
almost makes itself once a path is chosen,

becoming who one is is like writing a poem,
so much there already that further coalesces
as the better decision after decision is made.

by Henry H. Walker
December 26/8, ’11

creating a world

our grandchildren build

the sun colors the tree-trunked horizon
and slips up & up as I meditate in cold clear air,
before me, at the base of our maple tree,
a little village goes about its business,

the maple’s dropped twigs and branches first made into structures,
little brightly-clad figures added to populate the village,
a hickory nut half in a crack in the tree is an owl,
acorn caps are bowls for their parties,
ends of pine branches and broom sedge, trees,

for our grandchildren such a small world
can be conceived, created, and loved,
the creative magic in their hearts
ready to express itself in play,
in giving a smile, a drawing, a piece of self
to a parent, a grandparent, an uncle, an aunt,

we love to give them presents of time, & love, & thing,
and they love to get them,
it feels to me that they even more love to give them:
to connect, to build, to appreciate,
to create a smurf village,

and, even more, to create a world around them
as a microcosm of what they feel in their parents’ lives,

increasingly revealed to themselves and to us
are the gifts of who each is,

and who each is becoming.

by Henry H. Walker
December 28, ’11

Saturday, December 24, 2011

the reel of their lives

what a gift to have the course of my life
even touch the course of any animal wild enough to be wary of me,

how even more enlightening to know animals and trees
long enough, and in enough ways, for my experience
to move from isolated snapshots,
to pieces of the movie the bear and the turkey
reel with their time on the Earth,
the peregrine falcon for me is still isolated glimpses,
the black bear, though, I’ve known all my life:
raiding our garbage cans,
appropriating my food on the AT,
and bluff-charging me as I sought what he took,
bears have walked and wandered the same woods, at the same time, as I,
I’ve watched adult and cub find food high in cherry and oak trees,

I’ve watched them snuffle through fallen leaves
and root out yellowjacket nests,

I’ve watched an adult munch on solomon seal leaves
and a cub munch on jewel-weed,

I’ve watched them in the same valley long enough
to notice evidence of culture and learning pass down the generations,
so that here bears have learned to keep about their business
despite annoying humans near them,
humans they do not run from nor view as a source to hassle for food,

the turkeys are now common enough here for me
to watch them forage, and to see the upturned leaves where they’ve fed,
I’ve watched them fly over the creek, one after another, launching with a leap,
and I’ve watched them fly into high trees to roost
or just to get away from my presence,

there is a great old poplar at the head of a deep rich hollow
who was spared the axe that felled all its brothers and sisters,

a friend who grew up in this valley,
before the Park stopped the domesticating of the land, introduced us,
and every year or so I come back for a visit,
second growth buckeyes below are huge in their own way,
and April flowers sparkle the cove as if to honor a royal,
I love to visit his cousins in other valleys
and to watch next generation poplars reach straight and high
to claim the Sun and to reclaim the land,
when a great old tree succumbs to wind, insect, disease,
I mourn it as if I’ve lost a relative
who with passing tells me a last story,

I notice and understand what I can
and record the lives that open themselves a bit to me.

by Henry Walker
December 18, ’11

Winter Solstice ’11


the Winter Solstice approaches and branches are bare,
having given-in to declining light and freezes from the north,
this year’s leaves strewn all about as if to cover the earth
and warm the sleeping roots beneath,

my gaze fixes on my sour cherry tree
and I am struck by potential in its buds
to flower and fruit in the Spring,
such potential well-wrapped and months away from release,
I savor last year’s cherry jam for breakfast
and possibility fitfully sleeps in the sap,

I keep calling up Spring’s flowers past,
when the cocoa-brown of fallen leaf and patient earth
release what then was hidden
and will again withdraw when it is time,

now it’s the moss whose burgeoning vibrant green enjoys the Sun
as recent rain swells it and the creek,

the dead hemlock are decked with bracket fungi as if for Christmas,

evergreens remind us that what was will be again,

for now truth is bare and yet full of possibility,

as demands of work and home drop off into vacation,
inside me it’s as if wound-up spring after spring,
wound tight with effort and anxiousness,
feverishly spin thoughts and feelings this way and that,
like Christmas toys run amok,
as each claims a time from me to deal
with pain & fear & loss, & all the lists
which have not yet finished with me,

we celebrate light when it is dark,
bounty when pickings are least,
and letting-go when we know how much we will soon need
to grab back hold again,
for who we are cannot sleep through Winter.

December 18, ’11

Winter Solstice & Mood

the dark holds sway,
the light hides behind land to the south,
and behind clouds many days
as grey heavily mixes with the black,

December winds the year down
and its natural mood broods,
so what do we do?
we splurge with lights & food & gifts
as if to deny the rightness of giving-in
to the darkness in any way,
so within ourselves a conflict starks itself
and we deny harshness and its time so much
our joy can shallow out instead of deepen,

the fast needs a time now to share with the feast,
the tear to be along with the laugh,
the journey in to balance the journey out.

December 21, ’11

Winter Solstice Morning

the Caribbean honors the change of season
and sends us wave after wave of warm wet air,
mistying the mountains with courses of cloud and fog,
soon after science tells us the sun stops its retreat south,
I meditate in the dark woods,
and, above me, the Big Dipper eases out of the hazy air
and points to the north star,
as if to guide the sun to return,
all around me the trunks of bare trees are black fingers
pointing up into a grey sky, black and brooding,
then blocking the stars anew,

other shapes and colors slowly return,
and we pack up and head back home,
on the way enough light and view reveal themselves to awe us
as we see bright bare trees and earth, the canvas upon which
spring, then summer, then fall
will each have their own turn to give us wonder,

now is the time for the palette to be cleansed.

by Henry Walker
December 22, ’11

Thursday, December 8, 2011

beyond the stasis

Of The Dance


--a lower schooler before me, intent upon the dancers before him,

--a grandmother, all aglow with superlatives,
her grandson only one focus of her transcendent appreciation,

--the applause bursts from the middle schoolers
when surprise, virtuosity, grace, humor touches them,

--each photo I flash holds each moment I can
before gravity and the creativity arc move on,

a senior, closer and closer to the moving up and on of college,
still follows the pull of remembering and knowing her earlier self,
each step after step before still follows her
to where and who she is now,
so she speaks to middle school assembled
of her love for performing for them,
a favorite performance,
for she is in their eyes
and she treasures her memories of being those eyes
and early on deciding such a path could be hers, too,

I love each moment before me
as each dance speaks a language
that exists before words,
words that cannot even hope to the power
to translate the language of dance fully,

something happens in dance that can hold
the youngest, the oldest, and all in-between,
in the movement that life pulls from the stasis
that is first & last but that should not be all.

by Henry H. Walker
December 7, ’11

Sunday, December 4, 2011

random gifts?


the creek is charged
and the water charges down it,
some beech nearby still hold some of their leaves
as if to keep company awhile
with rhododendron & hemlock & holly,
which, though slowed by the cold, will make it through the winter
to capture and hold the sun in themselves,
thousands of poplar seeds are like sharp white petals
scattered among the chocolate brown
of sycamore, oak, and poplar leaves
spread over the dark and mossy earth,

fall’s exuberance of color is gone
and the extravagance
with which
Christmas answers the Solstice
is not here,
I had hoped, as I usually do, for bears to still be about,
despite the year’s last supper being over
and despite the cold which freezes what water it can in the night,

today I hike hard up Road Prong
to a waterfall by the trail which centers me,
I expect the aerobics of that exercise, and I get it,
and I expect the beauty of the water falling and receiving,

I also find gifts I did not anticipate:
tracks of raccoon and coyote in the snow on the log footbridge

and frozen in the sand above the falls,

and, when I stop to notice, evanescent art
as leaves are edged with white frost
and adjacent moss holds a frosting of snow,

yesterday, I hoped for elk and found them,
though more fully expressed in their essence
than I could have hoped-for,
yesterday, I also planned a hard hike in the same valley
to admire again old growth trees I hadn’t visited for decades,
my will then thwarted by a log footbridge
tilted and glazed with a slippery sheen of ice,
another footbridge, I find out later, washed-out
a mile up the fork of the stream,

a few hours later, I hike hard on the other side of the Smokies
to another grove of old growth wood,
and the great poplar I’ve loved to visit within it seems dead,
all its bark off in the side below me on the trail,
and there, where I hike today,
the universe gifts me with a plague of dead hemlocks,

life narrows possibilities, denies some,
and still randomly offers gifts of kindness
for which we can thank our lucky stars
if we have the openness and wit
to notice the gifts before us.

by Henry Walker
December 2, ’11