Friday, July 31, 2015

be open to revelation

I read an opinion column in the NY Times.  The guy's thesis was that Rupert Murdoch is making money on Go Set a Watchman, so therefore it's tainted by that association.  Here's my reaction to that attack on the book.

Harper Lee and Eldering

I sorrow when small minds smug themselves into arrogance,
for I believe in a Quaker sense of eldering,
that each of us should be on a journey
to open ourselves to the revelation of God,
the sense that we can grow and become larger
only if we are open to truths that can shake us
and help us move, however painfully, toward the Light,

Harper Lee was gifted with ability and will when young,
and crafted a novel, Go Set a Watchman,
that was so personal and raw in her pain
that it is universal if we allow it to be,

just as impressive, in the twilight of her life,
she is still true to herself and her vision,
she releases the book for us,
and some deny the message and the messengers,

for somehow we have established a culture
within which criticism gives one cachet
to seem worth listening to,
even when there’s little behind the curtain. 

by Henry H. Walker
July 26, ’15

Thursday, July 30, 2015

connections, and their loss

building worth?

I want to make connections,
to build communities--
within the family,
within my school, whether with students or teachers,
with my neighborhood,
where we are so different
it’s hard to imagine we can agree
even on what to do with our common road,
yet we do--

and I work hard at every coming together
within every community I work to help build,

yet each night I often realize
that no amount of good works justifies my days,
and my soul needs work 
so that I can know and live with my demons,

I fear,
I fear being inadequate to the task,
I fear not being there for another,

as I age I fear death,
at least on one sure level that when I’m gone
I will no longer be there for others,

and I hate to let the other down. 

by Henry H. Walker

July 26, ’15

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

of comfort, of wildness

bears and boundaries

our cabin cradles against the part of the creek
that falls with some energy:
enough to power a tub mill
when the people living here
had no fossil fuels to do the work
of turning hard kernels of corn into meal,

as I sit by the creek and meditate,
open-eyed and stilling,
a movement in the flat upstream catches my eye,
a bear ambles across the creek,
a regular crossing place for bear and turkey,
and then, like a word you can’t quite call up,
moves through the woods just up the valley from houses and yards,

our world, and his, buffered a bit by his choice, and by ours,
bears move at the boundary, as night becomes day,
and day becomes night,
and here when the wild and the domestic intersect,

I found two paw prints down the creek from the house
of where a bear last night crossed the stream at the Ford,
the sand a clumsy form yet I still plaster of paris the traces,

I love comfort while I indulge my love for the wild,
the bear loves the wild and still is drawn to the comfort
of an easy snack from a human’s inattention. 

another bear and cub, same principle

by Henry H. Walker
July 24, ’15

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Harper Lee excels, again

Go Set a Watchman

Harper Lee opens up her wounds and bleeds onto the page,
and, somehow, her brilliance tells a story
that transforms her pain into revelation
that speaks to the deepest of who I am,
a son and a Southerner,
a Southerner, both loving and hating the culture
that wants to define me,
appreciative of my roots
and flummoxed by the blight they bring with them,

when we, the poor, the farmers, came to this land,
we hoped to become more than we had been,
yet we didn’t have fossil fuels and machines
to multiply the effect of our work,
and we didn’t afford to pay for labor to do the same,
so we made a pact with the Devil
and imagined dark slaves from a dark continent
could work to enable us to be lords and ladies,

a perverse vision of the Middle Ages reached toward modernity,

Harper Lee is born into the next day,
after iron, lead, death, and Reconstruction
had hoped to rescue us from our nightmare,

her father, when she is Scout morphing into Jean Louise,
is a gentleman who treats all with care and dignity,
and is as perfect in To Kill a Mockingbird
as all of us would wish to be,
who the saint in our super-ego imagines we can be,
Gregory Peck, who played him in the movie,
considered Atticus Finch closest to who Peck wished to be,
yet we have to grow up, 
grow past the dehumanizing that perfection demands,

in Go Set a Watchman Scout’s father reveals his clay feet,
and she, and we, and I, have to deal with it,
we have to get it, that we exiles from Eden
must labor, and suffer, and have limits crush down on us,

both my wife and I had Southern fathers
who would do anything for anyone they came to know,
and both of our fathers felt shackles on their souls
from what they thought they knew of race,

that of God in us needs to manifest
and seek to lead us back to the wholeness
which our nightmares have helped us lose.  

by Henry H. Walker
July 20, ’15
image courtesy of Google Images

Monday, July 20, 2015

a hidden world

Hollow Rock and Me

here in the Piedmont we can forget streams—
unless we have to cross them,
where we live, cities and houses coalesce our attention,
and a whole world can snake away from us
down a treed valley rarely visited by people,

I enter that world near a bridge,
and I take my life in my hands, and in my feet,
as I travel but a 100 yards along a busy highway
with car after car whizzing by,
each driver intent on his rush hour world,

I slip into the woods and then head up the creek,
spider web after spider web reach for me 
and tangle in hair and clothes,

early on an old stone dam hints of an earlier dream
that willed itself to be,
upstream remnants of an even earlier fish channeling
that helped feed native peoples,
on the other side of the creek old sandstone cliffs
remember long ago currents who hollowed their rock,

the stream here long sluggish pools with near flat ground to the side,

till rocks and rapids start to appear
as the Fall Line rears itself up,
wild iris first appear, a hint of the mountains far upstream,
a kingfisher appears as if he needs the rising land to make him rise,

hidden truths can be easily accessible
if only the will appears to find them.

by Henry H. Walker
July 16, ‘15

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

we are curious creatures

Pluto and Us

we are curious creatures
with the potential to see puzzles all around us
and to use questions as keys to riddle open these gifts,

we come to consciousness ignorant of what’s around us
and ignorant of language as a tool to find out,
as we learn to differentiate what’s before us
we can learn to see insects and acorns as treasures,
our grandson at that stage now,

curiosity is inherent in who we are
and drives us as scientists,
we can value revealed truth
even when it’s unexpected,
maybe particularly when it’s unexpected,
school, culture, hard knocks can dull our sharpness
and we can lose the drive to question:
to ask “why?” “how?” “what?” “when?”

these days too much of us can be myopic, narcissistic,
instead I celebrate the part of us that near a decade ago
sent the New Horizons spacecraft to visit Pluto,
the last planet in our solar system
to get such a questioning visit from us,
from a spacecraft traveling a million miles a day,
right now the signals from our cameras fly toward us,
taking 4.5 hours at light speed 
to cross a large gulf of 3 billion miles,

why should we care about Pluto?
why? because the primate primal in us
used that quizzical stance
to learn to start becoming more 
than cogs in evolution’s machine,
why? because the part of us worth our salt 
loves to learn we’re ignorant
because then we can learn,
why? because the two year old in us,
fascinated by a bug, now has potential tools 
to reach questions across the universe,

knowing about Pluto puts no food on the table,
however knowing about Pluto enlarges us
to know the universe, and thus ourselves, better,

we are curious creatures
and forget to ask questions at the peril of who we are 
if we are to be at our best.

by Henry H. Walker
July 14, ’15
Planet Earth
note: I use “planet” to name Pluto the way planetologists do, 
not “dwarf planet” the way the International Astronomical Union decreed.  

Czech the story.
image courtesy of Google Images

Thursday, July 9, 2015

the tomatoes don't care


daily experience doesn’t notice a detail
within the truth underlying the marriage of Sun and Earth:
the great solar oven just touches its furthest from us today,
our orbit not a perfect circle but an ellipse,
the Sun today not 93 millions miles away but 94.5,
millions of miles further away than in January,

such knowledge wonderingly abstract and interesting,

far closer and more personal is how hot and sunny it still is,
how well the garden and small orchard take what is given
and, as long as moisture finds it way to roots, they produce,

inside, we need air conditioning and fans to keep us comfortable
and away from annoying mosquitoes, deer flies, and other insects,

blueberry bushes still produce, 

kiwi, muscadine, and native pumpkin fruit set, 

potatoes are ready to be dug,

okra, cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes ready to be picked,

second planting of tomatoes coming right along,

Kentucky Wonder pole beans take off,

the Sun is high enough now
that trees block our solar panels some 
and cut down power production
to under 400 kwh a month,

it’s high summer and the mountains call to me,
for now I need to be here in the piedmont at home
to both rest and work,
and to learn new concepts
far beyond any practical need for them.

by Henry H. Walker
July 6, ‘15

Saturday, July 4, 2015

the bears are on a health food kick

bears eat a lot of salad

I think bears are on a health food kick in the spring,

all of June they’re somewhere 
other than the lower forests 
where we humans concentrate,
I can’t even find their scat on the trails
all over the gentle-sloped valleys,
today we find some fresh scat
right where the mountain steepens,
and when I poke and prod and examine it,
it looks like horse manure, all vegetable matter,
with maybe a few seeds in it,
like a diet worthy of a rabbit,

maybe bears have made a virtue out of a necessity,
they eat, and eat, their salad,
and next month they will have the dessert
of blackberries and cherries that ripen then,

then, just before the fasting of winter when they sleep
and burn their fat to power their dreams,
they will gorge on nuts and acorns,
to bulk up with carbs and protein,
and any fat they can finagle,

Bear Print, above Two Mile Branch Trail

now, for the bears, seems to be a time of greens,
of vitamins and minerals and fiber,
before the next courses are ready.

by Henry H. Walker
June 29, ‘15

Friday, July 3, 2015

of arrogance and of beauty

two roads get me there

two kernels of poems speak to me:

the first, of anger that humans can dare
to put a ferris wheel and a hotel
in front of the view of the uplift of a great mountain,

the second, of appreciation for how perfectly
nature knows us in what it seems to casually offer
to any of us that take time and effort to notice,

I first write of the latter,
for the positive establishes a foundation,
and the negative, while important, can seduce us away
into the self-indulgence of indignation.

by Henry H. Walker
June 28, ‘15

rhododendron blossoms everywhere

gratuitous acts of beauty

gratuitous acts of beauty whelp everywhere in nature
if we but put ourselves in place for them
and then if we have the eye to notice,

time passing drops blossoms from rose bay rhododendron
on variegated forest floor

 and on pale lichen-splotched, moss gentled rocks,
as if petals strewn by celebrants at a wedding:
soft-white, 5 petaled mountain stars 
with a hole in the middle to draw the eye in,
and, on the way, to notice a trademark patch of green,

blossom after blossom drop 
and some drift with the current down streams
who already pull tired hearts toward rejuvenation,
and, with the blossoms adoring them, grace us even more,

a patch of liverworts grabs my attention,
an ancient synthesis of fungus and algae:
light-green flat fingers of purpose
that I often don’t notice,

I need to be there in nature,
and then I need to notice such gratuitous acts of beauty.

by Henry H. Walker
June 28, ‘15

Park Vista arrogance

priorities from money

as I drive up to the Smokies
I come around a corner
and there is a great circle of ferris wheel
between me and Mt. LeConte,
the fourth tallest peak east of the Rockies,

they could put it here, so they did,
as if the view were nothing compared to the thrill of the ride,
I mean nothing compared to the money in the owners’ pockets,

the same with the Park Vista,
arrogantly built on a hill between Gatlinburg and Mt. LeConte,
the city ordinance against such breaking in line, waived,
money under the table trumps the view
that used to grace the town,

The offending hotel
Mt. LeConte, Park Vista is on far left

we can feel we’re fine
and never quite realize what’s been stolen from us.

by Henry H. Walker
June 28, ‘15