Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer Solstice on the Appalachian ridge

The Jump Off and the Solstice

grey wisps of racing cloud swift over the high ridges,
the sun's shafts lighten dark-green forest,
on the top ridge fir trees are silhouetted and backlit
against the rising sun who fights for the day,

as the sun climbs to its highest in the north,
we pull ourselves high, too, along the Appalachian ridge
and over Mt. Kephart, named for a great champion of the wild Smokies,

our bodies still allow us the effort we love to make,
today we want to mark the Solstice high up, like the sun,

at the Jump Off, the mountain has flaked away steeply:

a thousand foot drop opens below us
where the untrailed watershed within our view
would make Horace Kephart proud
of the vision come late to decision-makers,
the sharply-stressed mountains here at the edge of the thrust,
remember in their very bones great continental plates,
slowly, inexorably, crushing together
and rumpling, buckling, their very selves,
taking the siltstone, cold pressed into rock in an old ocean
and forcing the strata toward the vertical,

off to the west mountains gentle toward the lower, the rounder,
with the valley friendly to the material life we humans need,
here, high on the mountain, midday on the Solstice,
the levels upon levels before us are friendly
to the spiritual life we humans also need. 

by Henry H. Walker
June 21, ’15

Sunday, June 28, 2015

know the past and imagine the futures

life’s backstories

geology can fill in the backstory
while the page on which we live
can easily lie to us of constancy,
we don’t live long enough to readily see
how a stream carves a mountain or rounds a rock,
I want to see volcanoes for there change is obvious,

biology fills in the backstory of natural selection and evolution
that it is easy to deny when life can feel perfectly constant,

we need to live in the moment,
but we need to know the past
and to imagine the futures
so that we make the best decisions today
to allow our grandchildren’s grandchildren
to live and thrive in their present moments. 

by Henry H. Walker
June 23, ’15

Saturday, June 27, 2015

assertion of self

to break free into viability

I love my students,
I poke into my psyche and ask “why?”
and, when I do, I feel I but reciprocate,
for student after student gives me the gift
of letting me know who they are
with each venture into risk, effort, assertion,

how could one not love the vulnerable self
as it works to break free into viability?
it’s like how we are wired to love the newborn,
even those not of our species,

the world is full of tests,
only some of which are truly important,
each of us needs help believing in ourselves
and denying those voices that insinuate we are not worthy,

I minister to my students, maybe partly,
as a way to minister to the doubter within me, too. 

by Henry H. Walker
June 20, ’15

Friday, June 26, 2015

procrastination is not a virtue

do it yesterday

I love to get things done--
if a “thing” is due done tomorrow
I love to do it yesterday,
for me I like to earn the relaxation--
to hike to the top of a mountain and then enjoy the moments,
to work a day and, then at home, take the load off,

we come to the mountains, and, before I savor vacation,
I do the cooking we’ll need in six weeks:
the chicken for chicken salad, done,
the angel biscuits pan-ready to heat, done,
the two bushels of summer transparency apples,
given the 20 hours, or so, they need
to be transformed into applesauce, done,

for me the freezer can be where 
I defer gratification until it’s needed,

I need to be hungry and to have gotten things done
before I deserve a dessert.

by Henry H. Walker
June 22, ’15

I forgot my camera!

is my camera an excuse?

I notice the bright red tip of the bud
in a cluster of rosebay rhododendron,
and my photographer eye and finger imagines photos
in search of revelations of beauty and rightness,

and then I remember I forgot to bring my camera--
in the bustle and lists for this trip
it didn’t make it up with us,

I hope I won’t need the camera this trip
as an excuse to hold the moments dear.

by Henry H. Walker
June 20, ’15

Thursday, June 25, 2015

summer transparency applesauce

Making Summer Transparency Applesauce

Buy summer transparency apples at the orchard: they don't ship well.  We buy at Carver's Orchard, Cosby, TN.  Some orchards call them "June apples."  They are extremely tart, soft, and have little sugar.  Their flavor is unsurpassed.

Below is a half-bushel.

We wash them.

We quarter them.

We remove stems and stem ends.

Trimmings on left.  Quartered, then cut again, apples on right.

Add a cup of water or so to bottom of pot, plus 1/2 t. salt, per half bushel of apples.
Get it simmering.  Then cut down heat and stir often.  We usually have it too hot and have to remove it from heat and clean bottom of pot, which has scorched.  Once apples are turning mushy, it tends to stick less.

We cook the apples till no pieces are visible, and it's a darker green slurry.

We remove apples from pot and put the slurry through a Foley Food Mill.  Mother used to call it a Foley Food Press, but it's available online now as a "Mill."  Mother was always impressed that skins and seeds and all would be reduced to a very small quantity compared to the applesauce below.

Note how effective the Foley Food Mill is!

Then we add a LOT of sugar, always more than the conservative in us thinks is a good idea.
This time, we added 9 cups of sugar for a half bushel of apples.

Total quantity of applesauce, ready to be put in containers and most to go into the freezer.
Two and a quarter gallons!

by Henry H. Walker
June 25, '15

of chicken salad, angel biscuits, and applesauce

cooking for the company

just before the Solstice, we head up to the Smokies,
where the rosebay rhododendron carelessly 
create splendor along the creek.
the bee balm luxuriantly red 
where a chance opened for it,

we luck out at Carver’s Orchard
for the first summer transparency apples are “in,”
then in our car, then washed and quartered, 
stem ends removed, slowly boiled down,
Foley food mill pressed into sauce,
and sugar added with exuberance
to match and set up the unparalleled 
tartness and flavor of this queen of apples,

six weeks from now our big coalescence
for the overnight on Mt. LeConte happens,
so it’s time to make applesauce, 
boil chickens for salad,
make angel biscuits--all for the freezer,
and then for our company for the mountain,

a lone rhododendron blossom floats down the slow creek,
soft thunder hints that the oppressive humidity
might find its way to rain,

time to go check on the cooking. . .

by Henry H. Walker
June 19, ’15

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

emotions and humidity


emotions, to me, are like excessive summer humidity,
so much pent-up and not expressed except as a heaviness,
give it something to coalesce around
and rain, like tears, can storm from the sky. 

by Henry H. Walker
June 18, ’15

a challenge to the garden

drought heat and the garden

the school year mostly finished up a week ago
and the last days have been for the garden,
fighting future weeds with newspaper and leaves
and the high 90s drought heat with hose and soaking,
the squash and cucumber all a-flower
yet I worry for their fruit
if the rains don’t come while we’re gone,
like this year’s potatoes, whose yield plummeted in the dry,

the first tomatoes are close to full yield,
the Kentucky Wonder pole beans are just up and raring to go,
but all the garden can only thrive for a few days
without God or me adding water to the baking. 

by Henry H. Walker
June 20, ’15

Sunday, June 21, 2015

I honor the father


every child is precious
and the rearing of that child
deserves the finest of instinct, decision, care,

I am in awe of the mother
within whom the life begins
and who regularly allows the best to be possible,
there should be awe when watching
a young mother swaddle the child with love,

I can be in awe of the father
for whom the rearing is more of choice
and the way forward seemingly more pathless,

the father who sees the child,
who knows the child,
who is there for the child,
can help the way open clear
for the precious within the child
to break free of the shells that can hold him and her back,

at the heart of it all, the child makes his and her own way,

now, though, I honor the father,
whose love and effort can support the child
in becoming the best possible person
inherent within what choice and circumstance allow.

My sons, you are great fathers!
Thank you for who you are.

by Henry H. Walker
June 14, ‘15

Thursday, June 11, 2015

to see the light within

to see a student, truly

a child becomes a student
and a teacher takes responsibility
for the learning that should happen,
at best, in partnership with the learner,

each student, to learn,
needs to be “seen,” to be known,
to be real to another and cared for,
then there can be power in the effort to be right,

at the end of the school year we have a quality check,
as students, as parents, see themselves and their children
and feel whether we as a school were good for them
in “seeing” them and meeting them where they needed to be met,

I regularly see students and I can be near dazzled
by the brilliance of the light inherent within them
that can joyfully shine forth.

by Henry H. Walker
June 9, ‘15

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

sun and leaf

the first tomatoes!

the sun climbs higher and higher in the sky
and the forest pulls out all stops
to spread green below it 
in worship of the solar power
that drives all leaves,

in the garden, two weeks before Summer Solstice,
I add water to help the leaves double and redouble themselves
to make their own versions of hay while the sun shines:

buttercrunch lettuce still graces us and resists bolting,

potatoes are near fullness in the ground,

blue and black berries approach their color and sugar,

sugar snap peas are crisp and sweet,

the kiwi fruit are small and swelling on the vine,

squash and cucumber, okra and bean, race to be ready,

and the first cherry tomatoes, both red and yellow, just now ripen,

while grape and chestnut are in flower,

pumpkin race to be ready to flower,

while all our garden, vines, and trees matter to us,
the tomato is the real queen, started by seed inside in mid-winter,
and now ready to celebrate summer with unmatched flavor.

by Henry H. Walker
June 8, ‘15

Friday, June 5, 2015

4 advisees move on to high school


a challenge comes,
and we are tested,
and how we respond gives us a chance 
to prove ourselves,

Daniel finds challenges 
each and every day
and he meets each head-on
with a mind so sharp it cuts,
with a heart so full it overflows,
with a soul so good
that entropy has no chance against him.

by Henry H. Walker
June 4, ‘15


a smile that can melt you
even when you know 
there could be mischief behind it,
a heart that cares for all,
a mind that learns quickly and deeply,
an athlete who bonds with each team
and loves to run into excellence,
may he always leap for his best
like he does for a frisbee.

by Henry H. Walker
June 4, ‘15


within the bud the flower waits,
and then releases into bloom,
in his digital story he describes a younger age
when voices inside held him back,
and then throughout middle school
he learned to deny those negative voices,
this year
the student,
the athlete,
the friend,
has given himself fully into bloom,
and, now, the bloom of his self is wonderful!

by Henry H. Walker
June 4, ‘15


a perfectionist who gives her all 
to her classes,
to her friends,
to her dance,
to her acting,
to herself,
Oliver last year,
a "peacock" leader in a play this year,
no one gives herself more fully to life than Mia.

by Henry H. Walker
June 4, ‘15