Monday, June 30, 2014

the path to a high waterall

reaching toward the first people

every year I like to hike up the old trail
that Native Americans must have used 
since the ice went home to the north,

I love the way it partners with the swiftly falling stream,
making a path that feet can follow
near the bedrock drops that cascade steep and white,
I like to feel for the making of the path,
and for the sureness of the relationship 
of the makers with the way of the land
and the grace and beauty possible in the passage,

we hike to a special waterfall
whose high beauty draws us,

just as it must have drawn the first people. 

by Henry H. Walker
June 27, ’14

Sunday, June 29, 2014

following the call?

the clock ticks

now that 70 years of age feels to be in my striking distance,
I do wonder how long I will keep hearing the call to be a teacher,
and, hearing that call, still feel right in being able to answer
by being surely there for my students,
each of whom deserves to be able to let inherent brightness shine forth,

as I catalogue my psyche, I still feel ready for the challenge,

physically, today my wife and I pull ourselves two miles up a mountain,
climb quickly, and sometimes steeply, to high ridges,
near halfway up Mount LeConte,
laurel, rhododendron, and galax show themselves to us,
though the peregrine falcon, who regularly nest nearby,
do not show themselves,
what we see of this misty mountain morning touches us,

the fact that our bodies, and our spirits, 
continue to allow us such a hike 
touches us even more strongly,

the effort of job and body still feels within my power,
I love to hear the call and to be able to follow it,
though I cannot deny the clock ticks.

by Henry H. Walker
June 26, ’14

what will last?

the golden glow of memory

memories hover over and around spots I’ve known well,
fragments of feelings can be like
a golden glow that still encircles
where I fished for crawdads,
where I built dams of sand 
so that my boats could have a friendly home,
in my life the creek has changed:
trees and banks go away
and the channels subtly shift,

I cannot really feel the change
that geology and evolution use 
to shape tomorrow from today,
at best I get hints of small changes
that I can start to image over eons,

here in the Smokies I can swat a pesky fly with ease,
whereas back where people are abundant
natural selection has worked wariness into the fly,

our decisions, and the law, for now allow the cabin 
my parents made to serve as portal into nature,
and my mother’s dream still lives, though she is gone,

what do we build with our lives that will last at all?
how much golden glow of memory can we leave behind?

by Henry H. Walker
June 25, ’14

Friday, June 27, 2014

the open portal

woodpeckers out the window!

yesterday wild turkeys pulled the lens of my caring into focus,

today it’s two magnificent pileated woodpeckers
whose world and ours intersect for a time,
as they choose to do their thing
at the base of a sycamore tree
fifteen feet from the window of the cabin,
this large portal within which we can touch the forest outside,

I had stood up and tied an old trunk to the sycamore,
a trunk holed-out by woodpeckers years before,
the old hole intrigues these new birds,
somewhat like checking out a possible home,

I snap picture after picture of them
as heads swivel and peck,

their beaks touch as if sharing a treat,
and they interact as if a pair,

for years pileated woodpeckers to me
have been a loud call in the distance
and a quick flash of flight, always away from me,

I still contend that we humans need 
to ground ourselves in the world without us,
for only then is there firmness to where we stand,

if there is clarity to the lens we use as we look out,
there is more likely to be clarity and sureness as we look within. 

by Henry H. Walker
June 24, ’14

like a painting


today has stillness all over it,
the creek low enough it whispers rather than shouts,
it’s all like a painting, carefully-composed,
a hundred or so cloud white rhododendron blossoms
artfully scattered over the rich green mossy rock before me,

as dry thunder crescendoes again and again overhead,
a gaggle of wild turkeys loudly calls out,
two males strut, their fully-fanned tails and gobbly calls
addressed to wandering peckish females,

my black t-shirt and slow motions let me attend the courting,
and snap picture after picture to hold what I can
of the courtly strut amidst the gaggles’s browsing,

rain never breaks upon us
and stillness mostly rules the forest for now.

by Henry H. Walker
June 23, ’14

Sunday, June 22, 2014

the sun pauses

Summer Solstice ’14

these days the garden cries out for water!
the tomatoes, okra, squash, and beans
want to release themselves into growth,

my native pumpkins are particularly enthusiastic 
to leaf and vine with gusto
as the hot sun beats down on them,

the days are as long as they’ll get,
the sun as intense and demanding 
as it can be at this latitude,

the sun slows on the horizon, stops,
and will slowly rise further and further to the south
during summer and through fall
as days slowly return their extra time to the night,
today the air is so moist at dawn
that water drops from clear skies,

mosquitoes and ticks pester me
and leave itchy bumps on the front line of my skin,
deer flies also hunger for my blood
and I smash half a dozen against my head and neck
on our aerobic walk this morning,

late afternoon the air is dead and still
and won’t accept the sweat from my brow,
the hazy clouds above barely move,

our blueberries celebrate the Solstice by starting to ripen,

so do the kiwi,

our passion flower reaches to the sky 
after being beaten back to the ground 
by last winter’s polar vortex,

we hurriedly get ready 
to follow the setting sun west to the Smokies tomorrow.

by Henry H. Walker
June 21, ’14

Saturday, June 21, 2014

the challenge of administration

Tetris As Metaphor

to be an administrator must be like playing Tetris,
with unique shape after shape before you
and your job to work to fit them all together,
no matter how disparate each is,

each of us has strengths and weaknesses all tumbled together,
little like any ideal job description,
let alone our contrariness that can resist
the seamless whole the game wants from the player,

so much of leadership must be improvised on the spot,
and I can be in awe each time the way forward comes together.

Image courtesy of Google Images
by Henry H. Walker
June 20, ’14

the wonder within

how extraordinary 

everyone is far more complex,
and, far more impressive, I’d argue,
than we can know,
however full our understanding seems to be
of each whom we can think we know,

I think of all the twists and turns in my own past,
all the effort, the mistakes, the successes,
the bushwhacking of path after path
through woods sometimes pleasant, 
sometimes seemingly trackless,

even when I think all went well,
sureness seldom hits me in the face,

a sureness of others’ efforts, and of their successes,
is a goal of mine, and I work at it,
but, at best, I only get fragments of glimpses
of the powerful story another lives,

my subconscious two nights ago
eldered me again and again with details
of the life of my wife’s sister, 
whom we recently lost:
her Kentucky roots,
her romantic enthusiasm for the artist,
her complete dedication to her children,
both those of birth and those in the classroom,
I hear student after student remember
how she saw them,
how she cared for them,
how she helped them tap the wonder within,
and I also call up the pixie in her,
the mischievous twinkle she could live,
her enthusiasm for revelation from the mystic,
from the avant-garde, of Blake and Picasso,
plus her clear-headed enthusiastic research
into how an ancestor worked to make the Bible
accessible to the plowman, just as much as to the priest,
a joy in the books and camaraderie of Oxford,

a secret to our becoming better is to become larger,
and sympathy morphing into empathy is the key,
empathy the way to recognize the truth of others’ lives,
and we can thus become larger and better
by more fully understanding--
whether from feeling others’ sorrows, or joys,
or imagining the extraordinary effort 
given to being and to becoming 
at the heart of every life,
there is a wonder within and we need to find it.

by Henry H. Walker
June 19, ’14

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

and then the world changes

snapshots, and change

we love to take group pictures,
a snapshot of who we are at one time,

and then the world changes,
and he who is next to us is no longer there to laugh,
and she who smiled in the rightness of her joy is gone,

I love photography
for I can imagine a moment can last,
yet people die, flowers fade away into seed,

the present dissolves into the indeterminacy
of a future we did not expect,

I like to live for the moment,
I like to prepare for the future,
and I need to look at a picture and remember the loss
that works to hollow out our assurance,
the loss we need to still feel
while we fill moments anew
with who is still there for the picture
and to treasure those who are new to the group.

by Henry H. Walker
June 17, ’14

Sunday, June 15, 2014

hardware and software


as a father, I am in awe of the mother
and of her primal drive to bring forth and nurture the child
who needs her help to thrive,

as a father, I love the child, too,
yet nature seems to allow me
to walk away from the decades work
of helping the child to raise itself,

those who argue for the selfish gene
imagine that passing on genetics
is the be-all, the end-all,

as a father, I beg to disagree,
for life is more than existence:
evolution needs more than the body,
it needs the soul,
and both parents can choose and intend to the best,

I love for my children to exist,
and, even more, I love to have helped them thrive,

the finest qualities of one’s nature
are just as much the stuff of evolution as the gene,
the software as the hardware.

by Henry H. Walker
May 15, ’14

Thursday, June 12, 2014

tossed to and fro

feelings and the storm

as a sultry June afternoon moves on,
deep dark clouds billow out of the south
and the light darkens so deeply, so quickly,
that fireflies use the opportunity to shine,
lightning flashes, thunder breaks upon us,
and rain torrents down,

how like our inner world
when a hard truth shakes us,
and we can feel undone,

yet it is only by giving in to being shaken by the storm
that we can be washed by tears, despair, and anger,
and then find the sun come back out,

today the sky knows us,
and we can learn from the release 
of being tossed to and fro
with the power of how we feel.

by Henry H. Walker
June 11, ’14

Sunday, June 8, 2014

why teach?

how universal it is to be special

why am I still drawn to teaching?

I know the frustration that visits the learner
as each path forward seems to be blocked
and, even when the path is a good one,
doubts beat upon his and her self-assurance,

I know the frustration of being the teacher
and not having the sureness that a path I see
is actually right for the student,
I feel like the GPS artificial intelligence
who tells the student they’re not on the right path
and hurriedly comes up with what might work
with the choices the driver is making,

yet I also sense the wholeness within the self and behind the eyes,
the primal drive toward rightness that just needs help
to pull itself forward into being,

a teacher can see that basic rightness
that a student can’t just readily feel,
each step forward can feel daunted by gauntlets of self-doubt,
and I stay teaching so that I can cheer every progress 
through all that works to deny how universal it is to be special.

by Henry H. Walker
June 6, ’14

Saturday, June 7, 2014

3 advisees, on to high school


in heart, in sport, in academics,
in the fullness with which she cares,
with which she acts,
with family,
with friends,
with the burden of fulfilling the promise
of the great gifts within her.


the examined life, a purity in the seeking
of who he is, of who others are,
of how to find the path forward into excellence--
in the emotional,
in the social,
in the dramatic, 
in the spiritual,
to be Julian is to excel,
and to enjoy it.


as good a heart as anyone has,
despite the self-doubt that seeks to hide it,
a gifted athlete through and through,
the clarity of sport drives him to excel,
every time he can believe in himself,
world, watch out!

by Henry H. Walker
May 28, ’14

Friday, June 6, 2014

the fog death builds

the presence of an absence

to get to some mountains
you must pass through large foothills,
foothills that block you from the reason that pulls you forward,

that’s what it’s like now with the loss of dear Ann,
I’m not quite all there to realize, with full attention,
that she is lost to us,

arrangements, the dutiful logistics of 
catch us up in them,
and it’s right, 
and good, 
and necessary
to fill the front of our consciousness
with all that needs doing,

as I move past the frenzy, and the avoidance,
before me I see glimpses of what is there,

and yet the reality of the loss 
is more accurately the presence of an absence,
she’s not there to touch with hug or word any more,
and she’s only there to reach back to us in memory’s misty touches
where the glory of the light within her life
still slips through the fog
that death slowly and surely builds between us and her.

by Henry H. Walker
June 5, ’14

Monday, June 2, 2014

her presence still ripples


the stars are who they are
and they don’t change,
at least in any way that reveals itself to us,
the  year varies light and dark,
all in a pattern set in stone,

in our lives, though, change flits in and out
like mosquitoes finding opportunity,

there’s joy in a birth, in a birthday, in development and milestone,
there’s sorrow in a death, in a loss, in goodbyes,

death feels empty, an absence, a closure,
yet I also feel, like my father,
that we can still live, at least for a time,
while people remember us
and honor who we were by their choices into the future,

as I cry for my and the world’s loss of my wife’s sister, Ann,
I also feel her presence still ripple
through family and friends and former students,
each of us better for being part of her life,
and better able to reach for the divine
that seeks to be remembered and reborn with each life.

by Henry H. Walker
June 1, ’14