Friday, December 28, 2012

a new grandchild!

Maxwell Thorin Walker,

born Dec. 27, ’12
8 lbs 1 oz, 20.5 in. long

Maxwell Thorin Walker
 slips out into the world
as a beautiful baby full of potential,
surrounded by tendrils of love
from parents, grandparents, family of all kinds, friends,

there’s a newness about him,
a sense of a being whose time has come,
after all that it has taken
for the world to ready itself for him,

Max’s first morning has him in his mother’s arms,
his father solicitous in his care as he hovers nearby,
ready to celebrate and help each moment,

as we visit on the phone with father, and then with mother,
Max sounds himself to us with melodious coos,
12 hours old, at least to the air,
he already feels the comforting blanket
 of mother and father love,
and just starts to let us know that he is,
and who he is begins to coalesce
as a new wonder upon the world.

by Henry H. Walker
December 28, ’12

Monday, December 24, 2012

light against the dark

Winter Solstice ’12

morning breaks with a flurry of things to do,
presents to wrap, cooking to move forward,
this and that to get ready for one thing and the other,

outside, as the day begins to come upon itself,
yesterday’s drizzly clouds, drowsy with a mildness to the air,
have flown away and wind blusters the trees,

as the Sun slowly rises above my neighbors’ house,
squirrels scamper in the high trees

as if to be first to welcome and celebrate the Sun,
they leap from branch to branch and scamper after each other,

the birds flit here and there on their own morning chores,

the wind serenades us on our deep pure chimes,

it’s the last half day of school before Winter Break,
the kids all a-buzz with candy and gifting,
with connecting and with saying goodby for now,

we mark noon of the Solstice out by our Sol Pole
with energetic chants of 
“Winter Solstice, Winter Solstice,
Light is little, dark is mostest. . .”
and the clouds break enough to let Sun shadow Pole,

afternoon opens a space big enough for a movie,
and we adventure with Bilbo and the dwarves,

wind gust after gust braces us with cold,
and the last light of the darkest day
peaches the horizon’s clouds
and then releases them back to grey,

a quarter Moon is high in the sky,

though this is to be a night for darkness to rule,

as dusk deepens the day toward dark,
no squirrels or birds seems to still be out,

the advice from the day?
“time to hunker down,”

so instead, bread making, candy making,
and a country ham call to me,

and Christmas lights resist the calling dark.

by Henry H. Walker
December 21, ’12

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I am Peter and I am Wendy

Peter Pan Calls To Us

Peter Pan calls to us:
adventure, magic, flying--
as in our dreams we loose ourselves to whim,
the past but fuel to the present
so that we are so in the now
we forget what was and to reach for what will be,

I know and love the Peter in me
who glories as hero in a story,
in the twirl, tragedy, and triumph
life allows us each moment
if we can but grab it,
that Peter who also forgets the other
who dies to him, whether in body or metaphor,
as one moment moves into another,

I also know and love the Wendy in me,
who can live the moment and in the moment still take care,
who can let time last as memory
and give flesh to the future,

as humans we split ourselves into male and female
and we gain power in the insight of one or the other,
how much better if we continue and enlarge
and work to hold each truth within a whole we can know,

I am Peter and I am Wendy,
and James Barrie knows me in his story,

tonight, an ensemble, gifted with insight and skill,
and wisdom in the scripting,
creates a vehicle in which we all can fly,
and in which we also can realize that time passes,
that we should joy in worlds opening for the young,
and that we also should remember the past within us
that still flies off to Neverland,
even while we bear our maturity as well as we can.

by Henry H. Walker
December 22, ’12

Saturday, December 22, 2012

how to express the caring?

to reach to another

bad things happen
and we demean God when we assume
particular death and disasters are pieces of God’s will,
rather than randomness from other wills and from chance,

similarly, if we say “I’m sorry . . .”
it feels to me like we are assuming 
some responsibility for what happened
and regretting our role in it,
when we have done something wrong, that’s appropriate,
when something bad has happened, and it’s not our fault,
saying “sorry” feels a bit off to me,
after a death it can feel like
we then need the other 
to appreciate and absolve us,

I search for what to say to connect with the other,
I want to acknowledge and sympathize
with the body blows to soul the other feels,
those others close enough to me
that I can let how much I care express itself,

I can get only part of the way to empathy
so maybe what I can say is
“I feel for you for how much you are carrying. . .”
and in that way I honor how powerfully another feels,
how much today can no longer be yesterday,

Spanish teachers I know tell me that in Spanish it’s easier,
that in Spanish there’s differentiation in how to express the caring.

by Henry H. Walker
December 8, ’12

Friday, December 14, 2012

the rightness of who one can be

of dance and life

growing up is an effort
no matter how good the parenting, 
or the school, 
or the friends,
the way up and forward
demands cusp of choice after choice,
and thus it’s all an adventure,

as I sit here watching dance after dance
wash through my eyes and over my heart,
I see self after self I have known,
full of the best of who they are,
and sure of their release 
of vision and virtuosity on the stage,
and those I do not know from before 
I seem to know now,

from the beginning the power of a child undoes me
as each makes the way forward,
inherent with joy and persistent through troubles,
I can see a wholeness wrench forward,

after middle school I am more spectator than guide,
in this high school dance concert, overseen by seniors,
I am deeply moved by how well
these young people have proved to themselves and to us,
how possible, and even likely, growing up well can be,

in the stasis, in the movement,
in the vision and in the execution,
what breaks upon the audience
is the sureness of the rightness
of who each is growing up to be.

by Henry H. Walker
December 12, ’12

Thursday, December 13, 2012

still in my heart, and in how I live my life

remembering Mother   

7 years ago, about 7 hours before now,
my mother took her last breath
and then didn’t take another,
she just slipped away
after near a decade of the long forgetting of Alzheimer’s,

that decade like a long dusk into night
as slowly, oh-so-slowly, shapes and particulars
dissolve back into a dark, welcoming womb,

I tell stories about her,
cook the angel biscuits almost her trademark,
make the summer transparency applesauce
she Foley food milled every summer like her mother,
my wife regularly bakes the Southern Chocolate Sheet Cake Mother favored,

we maintain her dream of the cabin-on-the-creek
as gateway to nature wild 

for family and for whoever can find their way
 to the porch above the stream,
to the embrace of the rooms,
to kitchen and table she once filled with goodness,

when I take care of my children, my grandchildren, my students,
Mother is still with me,
every day since her passing I’ve missed her,
even when I haven’t realized it,
every day she’s still in my heart and in how I live my life,

thank you, Mother, for how fully you were your best.

by Henry H. Walker
December 7, ’12

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

and I will follow if I can. . .

pulled to the Smokies    

the Smokies call to me
and I follow the bugle of their call
along interstate, to a paved two-lane road, to a gravel way,

the journey itself simple enough
that I listen to science podcasts
to keep my mind engaged,
as I near my target valley for an adventure,
I hear of the great extinctions in North America 11,000 years ago
when many large mammals,
which had thrived in the time of ice, died away:
the mammoths, saber-toothed cats, great sloths, even camels;

two hypotheses for what wiped them away?
climate change and the efficiency of newly-arrived human hunters,
or maybe some combination of the two,
even closer to my adventure, I hear of the shock
that visual documentation gives to the current melting of the ice,
and the upheaval of predictability as change roars at us,

then the moment so engages me that I shut off the podcast,
and lose myself in the elk before me,

they who we hunted away, then reintroduced,
here where humans are not excessive as a factor,
though we help in keeping the trees from suppressing the grass,
here, just by the road, graze two bull elk and three females,
their tagged collars remind me that they’re only a few steps
back into the eco-system’s wholeness,

size does matter:
it’s easier to appreciate the greatness of the elk
with their huge eyes and great antlers
than the small furtive mammals like those even the dinosaurs knew,
I appreciate the dinosaurs’ descendants here, too,
the wild turkeys, who find what they need, and prosper,

as I hike the trail to where some old-growth trees still thrive,
I work to notice and appreciate
whatever gifts of whatever size today offers me,
what stops me most are huge tulip poplar trees
whose spirit pulls me high and deep,

on the way out I pause at a great stone wall,

carefully crafted out of only the rocks themselves,
and I salute the vision, the art, of the makers,
those humans before, who fit the land,
and let the best of themselves express a piece of greatness,

I want to contain multitudes,
and I hope multitudes want to contain me.

by Henry H. Walker
December 5, ’12

beware the bulldozer whim

beware our whims   

we remake the world for our convenience,

and I do love a great highway
with hills bulldozed down and valleys filled,

and I do love pavement and bridges,

and malls and cities can enable much of what we want,

yet today I again savor an old sled road, now a trail,
that found the way the earth most easily allows,
I slip up the hollow and along the ridges
with gentle gain and loss, a marriage of way and land,


they who made this way must have loved the land
and caressed it with the sinuous snake of a sled road,
as if together person and land dance,

often we can reduce plant, animal, and land
to but things we shape, or discard, at our whim,

the bulldozer is a mighty tool,
we should beware the power we can feel
when we forget to limit our whims.

by Henry H. Walker
December 5, ’12

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

choose the strands


I feel shorn,

I escape my responsibilities, for a time,
and retreat with myself,
strand after strand seems to pull away from me
and erase themselves from my “to do” list,

I find myself at my most basic
as a body hard hiking a trail,
as a spirit who reattaches strand after strand
to trees and rocks and streams,
and today to great elk who rebuild their connections
in a remote valley in the Smokies,

it’s like what can happen when you close your eyes,
and forget for awhile,
then there’s a freshness when you remember again
it can be even more like turning off a computer,
it can then reboot
and remember how to be itself again,

days later I feel myself reorganizing the weeks ahead
for I feel enough freshness and energy again
to imagine fulfilling the possibilities that call
to who I can be with the right effort.

by Henry H. Walker
December 7, ’12

Monday, December 10, 2012

camera & pen work

the emergent & me

sometimes my camera moves to hold what emerges from the clutter,

sometimes my pen moves to hold the emergence with words,

and sometimes one is moved by the other
to together work to hold a precious piece of the moment,

together they get closer to what I’ve seen with my heart,
yet being closer shouts to me even louder
how inadequate anything I can do is
compared to what works to reveal itself.

by Henry H. Walker
December 5, ’12

ghostly lichens

 hemlocks transfigure

like water filling up a basin,
dead hemlocks fill the lower hollows:

great gaunt skeletons all draped with ghost green lichen,
as if in some dark parody of Christmas trees--
the warmth of Spanish moss transfigured into spectre,

the hemlocks are passing
and the loss is strewn across the forest.

by Henry H. Walker
December 5, ’12

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

wrapped up in community

the community of CFS   

Carolina Friends is a school,
an institution,
a business,
all wrapped around a community,
a community that only comes to be
if logistics are right,
if parents and staff choose the institution
so that resources can come together
and student meet teacher,

from the fertile affirmations and connections
a community comes into being
within the womb of the institution,

when I first saw this school
I was struck by the smiles near everywhere,

and throughout my decades here
I have witnessed staff and student alike
flare into the sureness of their selves,

students and staff move on,
and I work to ready myself
for the rightness of that change,
every leaving feels like it leaves me lesser,
even when it can feel as a bird leaving the nest to fly,
I am still selfish, though,
and I will miss each piece of the past gone
that allows for the growth of each new future.

by Henry H. Walker
December 1, ’12