Monday, July 22, 2013

to become worth the spirit

the spirit works to rise

I again glimpse a revealing,
a powerful hint of what actually might be true,
like a nudge from an oracle
whose message is tentative and ambiguous
only if I don’t trust the life within the seed of my heart,

I meet a six-year-old
and I see God’s next attempt to get it right and full:
a joy in life, an openness to learn,
a strength of foundation
and a sureness to act upon what feels right to her,

deep at the heart of life
is a drive to pass on the gift to the future,
so many potential births of seed and egg
so that what has been learned can be remembered
as the young become the present and create the future,

with most of creation chance seems to rule process,
with we humans I feel God has the hope
that we can do better than chance,
that we can become worth the spirit that rises within us,

that’s why I’m a teacher,
for within each student,
I can see that spirit work to rise,
back to where it belongs.

by Henry H. Walker
July 17, ’13

a spark behind the eyes

the fire of discovery

I do not teach,
except in small doses,
as the way allows,
at my best
I enable learning
and I facilitate learning,

Gutenberg invented the printing press
and teachers as oral oracles were supplanted by the page,
now, with the internet, answers are easy:
it’s the questions, and the caring,
that come hard,

a learner can be turned-off to learning,
or paused, or short-circuited,

when a person is turned-on,
when there’s a spark behind the eyes
that can catch into the fire of discovery,
then the learner can learn,
and the teacher can help to tame the fire
so that it will service the actor in the acting,
to fuel the engine that can create the right questions
and search to find good answers,
answers that will hold for awhile
while the quest continues,
the quest to be the best one can be.

by Henry H. Walker
July 14, ’13

Monday, July 15, 2013

a summer solstice apple?

a spectacular applesauce

“summer transparency,” my mother called ‘em,
“June apple,” I’ve also heard,

late in June and early in July
some trees finish their fruit early--
a light clean green over tender flesh,
so touchy it won’t ship,

so we go to the orchard
and buy them fresh from the trees,

we cut them up, discarding a bit of each end,
and slowly simmer them with a little water,
stirring and stirring for hours,

when the last chunks dissolve into the darkening green slurry,
it’s time for the “Foley Food Press,” as Mother called it,
"Foley Food Mill" is how it's marketed now,

turning and turning that magical contraption
which reduces a half-bushel into a couple of gallons of sauced apples,
maybe only two cups of skin and seed to discard,
flavorful as can be but so tart

it’s as if the tree spent so much energy on flavor
it could not invest any sugar in its fruit,
the apples a product of spring 
that is harvested before summer adds its gifts,

we add far more sugar than seems right,

tasting and tasting, and arguing, till we get what tastes right,
and we are left with an applesauce that is spectacularly delicious.

by Henry H. Walker
July 10, ’13

Sunday, July 14, 2013

we cook and cook

the gathering of the clan

we leave the West
where water is bountiful
only because the summer remembers 
winter’s gift of snow,
out where the air is so dry
that sweat works to cool,
and my nose hates the parching,

we come up to the Smokies
through the rain and with the rain,
and these woods remember themselves as rainforest:
all green and lush, with fungus happily everywhere,
the streams exuberantly full,
and they stay loud and rushing white for days,

usually, when I first get up here,
I have accumulated pressures within
that have to empty into poems, into photos,
this trip, instead, I cook and cook,
so that we can remember summer’s bounty
in applesauce and all the fixings 
for our social event of the year,
the gathering of our eclectic clan 
for the hike up Mt. LeConte,
and in a bit over two weeks 
our children, spouses, and grandchildren
will start to wend their way up here 
so that what has been, and will be, asunder,
is whole again for a time.

by Henry H. Walker
July 10, ’13

Saturday, July 13, 2013

plants versus animals


a white puff of cottonwood seed
drifts into my open hand:
the air all a-flurry with them,
each full of purpose
but oh-so-random in the winds of their journey,

animals have more freedom to act on their will than plants do,
and we work on understanding animals enough
so that we might be where the elk walks and the eagle flies, 
where wolves and grizzly and moose find paths
that might come close to ours,

even if who we hope for isn’t there,
time spent in nature is always good for the soul.

by Henry H. Walker
June 30, ’13

water roars in the present

a canyon of the Tetons

our purpose today is a last big hike on this West trip:
to climb out of the comfortable valley
to the hanging lip of Death Canyon,
where the mild flowing stream
escapes the gentle slope of the high alpine valley
to roar white and magnificent,
as cataracts of cascades create with what the contorted stone allows,

that pre-Cambrian rock all rough and ruggedly grey,
all infused with mica and igneous intrusions,

which reaches high despite gravity’s pull and pull,
this rock lives in the past and lives with the weight of memory,
while water lives in the present
and becomes whatever the moment demands,
and here it seems to fall with joy,

the moose we hear about in the high valley
don’t show themselves for us,
while flower after flower do reveal a ubiquitous perfection,

what most deeply moves us
is the water roaring white within the upthrust
of the sharp framing walls of this glorious Teton canyon.

by Henry H. Walker
June 28, ’13

Friday, July 12, 2013

of vacation, of work

returning to school

a week of opening doors to the wonders inherent in
the Tetons, the Big Horn Basin and Mountains,
the Beartooth, Yellowstone,

a week of writing chunks of what 
I feel the days have revealed to me:
of a heron, an eagle, elk, bear, moose,

of petroglyphs and Native Americans,

of peak and flower

 and snow-melt
racing and roaring back to the sea,

of pushing body and spirit to do to hike,
to find the photos that can hold a bit 
of how exquisite the moment is,

I feel far enough into the vacation
that I am clear enough inside
to remember my students
and how I feel the structures of our school work
and how they are not all there yet,

in a week I’ll be back home, God willing,
and it’s exciting what can come with each new dawn here,
and each new dawn back home.

by Henry H. Walker
June 24, ’13

Thursday, July 11, 2013

open to be moved

be still

“Be still, and know that I am God,”
reveals the Word in Psalm 46,

we humans like our own words
that can tumble out of us
and fill any empty spaces within the moment,

like food, we need words,
words can help us to understand, to connect,
but also, as with food, we need to know when to stop,
such as when we should truly listen in conversation
and open ourselves to be changed by another’s story,

when we allow ourselves to still,
we open ourselves to be changed for the better,
as the best within and without can find its way
to the front of who we understand ourselves to be,

to be still is not just to be silent,
but rather to be profoundly open to be moved.

by Henry H. Walker
June 22, ’13

ready to notice, and appreciate


the mountain sheep weren’t there on the hike up,

on the way back, a ewe and her lamb 
seemed to wait for us below the trail, 
at the top of a steep slope
on which the ewe nibbled grass 
and the lamb tried out sage,
enough protection for the mother 
so that she came close to us,
and I snapped photo after photo
to capture a bit of these animals, 
wild and true to themselves,

I hoped for wolves on the drive over,
and no wolves appeared, no moose,
 no grizzly except in the far distance,

I thought again of how important it is 
to not expect too much, too narrowly,
yet it’s also important to have 
a plethora of expectations, hopes,
so that when something is revealed,
we are ready to notice, 
and then to appreciate it.

by Henry H. Walker
June 23, ’13

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

grace touches us


this morning grace touches us at Trout Lake,
grace as a mother otter and her 3 pups,
all sleek and tumbling around each other
like dark chocolate puppies playing,
a dead fir tree, just at the edge of the lake in the water,
and just above its surface,
serves as playground and school,
mother and pups so intertwined at times it is hard to see
where one stops and another starts,


in and out of the water the mother sleekly slips,
all muscle and curve and intensity of mothering,
a deep throaty call from her 
to nudge the young to correctness,
they who play and nip at each other,
and who each wants mother’s favor,
their calls more high-pitched and less sure,

she deftly slips into and out of the water
as there are no bones in her back,

she hauls out a tail-section of a cutthroat trout
and attacks it with her sharp teeth,
challenging the pups to get in touch with the inner carnivore,

only one of the young gets it for now,

we love to watch her lead them across the lake,
her at the piercing heat of a “V” wake,
the pups just behind,

graces touches us
and the otters are a way she works today.

by Henry H. Walker
June 26, ’13

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

a jauntiness of spirit


“There’s something there--down in the stream!”

“It’s a wolf!”

we stop the car and tumble out,
I fumble with the camera,
already fitted with the long lens
and set for a fast shutter,

I snap picture after picture 
as the jaunty black wolf makes her way upstream,

splashing through Soda Butte Creek,
stopping for a quick drink,
a grey wolf follows for a time

and then lies down to relax in the sage,
more and more people stop,
intense with anticipation,
mesmerized by a wolf just lying there,

we’ve lucked upon wolves,
so completely wild that we are as nothing to them,
though, to us, they are vital,
like parks and wilderness,
for all that is not ours helps us know
that we are not all there is
and that we are better 
when we don’t remake all the world in our own image,
that which is wild we can hold in our heart 
and let it feed our spirit,
it can be like remembering to subordinate ourselves to God,

minutes later, up the valley, 
a magnificent young grizzly grubs on the grassy hile near the road,
we gawk and photograph,

later in the day a young male mountain goat
forages and gambols high on the cliffs above the road,

it is hard to hold even a bit of the power of the wild
shared with us today by wolf, ear, and goat,

out spirit joys with their spirit,
as we together remember the eternal.

by Henry H. Walker
June 25, ’13

Monday, July 8, 2013

authenticity to heavens and to the spirit

Summer Solstice ’13

Edison gave us light
to stretch our days,
to ease our seeing,
and we lost the darkness
that made us adjust the rhythms of our days
to the cycles that Sun and Earth create,

next to fall were the seasons of vegetables and fruits--
there’s something vaguely disquieting about strawberries in January,
and while the health of our bodies can love yearlong bounty,
what does it do to our spirit to be divorced
from patterns of expectation and denial
that millions of years of our past 
have set as the rules of the game?

Sun and Earth and Moon continue the precise movements
of their dance with each other, whether we notice or not,

native peoples noticed and seemed to be able to find the eternal
in the predictable dependable choreography of the heavens,
a well-known petroglyph site, Legend Rock, calls to us
to be there for dawn of the Summer Solstice,
with its elaborate unnerving figures carefully pecked into the cliff,
the whole flattened half-hoop of the cliff face 
open to the east for the Sun throughout the year
and it points directly at the dawning Sun this day, 
the draw all open to see the snowy Big Horn Mountains to the northeast
where Medicine Wheel still marks what Sun and stars do
at important times for ceremony,
when our rental car sleekly moves us through the pre-dawn hour,
thick strands and banks of pewter grey clouds curtain us from the lightening sky,
fields of sage along the road echo them with a hint of green added to their demeanor,
all the world is softly clear but not sharply delivered to the eye,

quickly the Sun flames the clouds with a sharp distinction of bright color,
and, before I’m ready, clears the sharp mountains to the east,

the thin crescent Moon of the petroglyphed cliff reaches straight to the rising Sun,

the sunrise reaches again and again for my camera,
I look back at the petroglyphs to see 
if the first light of summer’s day shines upon any figure in any particular way,
and I mainly notice shadow upon my favorite disturbing figures
of a smaller humanoid inside a larger and the larger holding a third by the neck,

I consider how desert varnish, almost mahogany in look,
was pecked out to create figure after figure,
buffed out into a light brown from the revealed underlying stone,
the pecking that shows us the soul of the rock
as shaped by what the artist saw could be revealed,
subtraction of the varnish allows shape to be revealed in its absence
rather like a thought that gives purpose to the random,
rather like life that holds order against change,
rather like the spirit that can infuse us when we let it,


 we reach to understand the what, the why, and the wherefore
of the skilled artists who came to this dry tough place
with the sky so open for the heart to soar,

Cottonwood Creek flows enough nearby for me to hear it,
so water and game could be found here,

a jackrabbit I spook agrees,
we leave a little closer to understanding the questions
that native artist sought to answer or maybe just to ask more clearly,

evening finds us high in the Big Horn Mountains at Medicine Wheel, 
as Anglos call it,
though native peoples call it “Where the Eagle Lands. . .”
where the heavens touch the Earth,
near 10,000 feet above sea level,
and perched at the edge of the flat of a huge valley,
Legend Rock off in the far distance,

here, like with the days of the lunar month,
28 spokes radiate out from a central rock cairn:
the lines reach to the horizon to call up
Sun and star to appear at the right time
so that the makers’ lives can know how to synchronize,
or at least that’s a good educated guess,

we make our way out the long ridge,
steep drop-offs of loose scree with colonizing evergreen trees  below,
sage, purple pasqueflower,

 and miniature sub-alpine flowers
jewel the sides of the trail,

at the “wheel” a native man and woman walk the circle 
clockwise in silence and in prayer,
he stops and kneels in silence at each spoke of the wheel,

all of us are led to watch the Sun sink toward the horizon,
within the encompassing prism of the white rock wheel,
I stand at the east edge of the circle,

with a spoke pointing straight out through the central cairn to the setting Sun,
my eyes close and I meditate with my Ute prayer, entreating Earth to teach me,
the two natives stand there, too,
and I cannot keep tears from dropping down my cheek
at the power of place, time, and authenticity to the heavens and the spirit.

by Henry Walker
June 21, ’13

Sunday, July 7, 2013

the gift of a day

clarity with the morning

first light calls songbirds to chirp and tweet and warble,
they’re almost frantic in their flight
as if they’re late and rushing to be somewhere,

an occasional heron or raptor 
purposefully makes its way to another somewhere,

today we aim to push ourselves a bit,
so we drive to the other side of the range
and pull ourselves up a high valley--
lush with ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and Engleman spruce,
here flowers wild themselves everywhere
as if every turn in the trail is a new garden:
great swaths of golden yellow from arrow-leaved balsam root,
masses of precise purple larkspur join them on the dry slopes,

while bluebells crowd the dropping creek,

flower after flower call to our eyes and my camera,

how wonderful it is
that our bodies still rise to the challenge to respond
to what our souls call to us
to know, to love, to appreciate,

and how wondrous it is that the universe has gifted me
with a partner that completes me at the heart,
and helps me rise to where the present can gift me with such a day.

by Henry H. Walker
June 19, ’13

Friday, July 5, 2013

a haze on the lens

I feel dulled. . .

I feel dulled,
the sheer effort of a school year
and then getting out here to Wyoming
hazes the lens through which
the outside tries to touch me: 
the towering snowy rocks of the Tetons
contrast against the flat green lushness of the Snake River valley,

a heron displays for us with casual power,
3 elk meander downslope and across field,

and I know I should be mightily moved,
but I’m not all here yet:
the keen edge of my cutting through 
to what is real enough to shake me, 
that edge is dulled,

the white of a waxing Moon overhead
is mirrored in head and tail of an eagle flying by,

yet I am drawn more to the white of the sheets 
which call me to sleep.

by Henry H. Walker
June 17, ’13