Wednesday, May 31, 2017

our inattention, and the results

the burner turned too high

I feel for the forest on this mountain:
the burner beneath the atmosphere
is turned up too high, our fault,
and the predictable patterns we have known
wrench away into devastating drought and rains,
into winds that roar too fast for the trees,

last fall these woods were drier
than at any time in my 69 years of memory,
some kids arsoned a small fire

Courtesy Google Images

and hurricane level winds spread it,
blowtorched it across valleys and ridges,
a red whirlwind of destruction

Courtesy Google Images

scouring the ground of leaves and twigs
and down trunks that masked earth and rock beneath,
the wind knocking down tree after tree older than me,

since the Great Fire, 
wind storms have revisited these woods,
again and again,
and more great trees have toppled over,
in the last month another great beech came down
across the path above the cabin,
from the same storm that knocked out power
to more than 10,000 in this county,
a power pole snapped in two by the cabin,

now many twigs and branches cover the scarred earth,
the small plants that thrived last year
have come back out and should enjoy
how much more sun and nutrients are now available,

the forest changes, adapts, yet I feel for it,
for how drastic and tumultuous the changes come,

too many are blind to the burner turned too high.

Courtesy Stanton Sweeney

by Henry H. Walker
May 25, ‘17

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

what will the world open for us?

windows into itself

the sun came out,
the world fresh,
the cove bright and shiny,
though surrounded by broody darknesses
hovering on the mountains,

we leave the cars
and start down the trail toward the falls,

the light dims, darkens,
as the broodiness comes at us,
we make good time on the broad trail,
though roots and rocks make me wary,
first a few drops fall through the canopy
as if yesterday’s drizzle is returning,
then a light rain,
then a heavier rain,
I put my camera gear into plastic bags
and start off down the trail again
until thunder scares me,
we’ve got to turn around,
how can I get that message
to those 5-10 minutes in front?
fortunately, they too realized Abram’s Falls must wait,
and we hoofed it back to the cars,
all sodden and chilled,

at one point so much rain falls on me
it went through and around my hat, over my bandana,
and into my eyes,
I would blink to clear them
with my blinking like a too challenged windshield wiper,
we retreated into the cars,
returning to our sheltering cabin,

earlier, just before the cove,
we saw a young bear and savored its freedom,

no other bears showed themselves to us today,
we have little control over what window into itself
the world will open, or close.

by Henry H. Walker

May 24, ‘17

a wall before silence

resisting silence

“something there is that doesn’t love a wall,”
wrote Robert Frost,

silence seems like something there is 
that doesn’t love it, too,
something that resists it,
resists openness to what can come from without,
or, in the stillness, from within,
if we are passive, receptive, not in control,
maybe even bored,

it is much easier to lose ourselves
in the doing, in devices, in the social,
for then we can deny we’re alone,

I require an hour of silence before supper
on my mountain trip with middle schoolers,
and for some students that challenge is hard,
as hard as hiking a mountain can be for others,

something there is that doesn’t love silence,
I contend that something else also needs it.

by Henry H. Walker

May 25, ‘17

Monday, May 29, 2017

up on Big Creek

three ways converge, diverge

the brown water churns 
as it exits the hydroelectric plant,
as if it shakes itself awake,
the river dammed miles upstream,
the water piped miles through the mountain
to whirl the turbines so that our devices can dance,
the river’s old channel still and pastoral to the left,
an untamed Big Creek comes in on the right:
clear and cold, I see a trout brave to climb at a falls,
three water ways converse down a valley
and diverge back up it,

we choose to follow the wild stream,
a few miles up its valley
we enter into a softly green temperate rain forest,
all lush with leaf
and dancing with monarch butterflies
over frothing white rapids and emerald green stillnesses,

inside I churn like the water
and dance around like the butterflies,

there’s nothing temperate about my inner forest.

by Henry H. Walker

May 22 ‘17

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mt. LeConte in the rain

closed in

our big hike,

over 10 miles up and down a great mountain,
a challenge to the body, to the will,
I’d hoped for clear views, maybe for peregrine falcon,
instead clouds lowered and distances shrank,

no falcons appeared,
the sky drizzled, 
dripped and drizzled again,
our shoes and clothes and spirits soggy,

those spirits hoped to open and to enlarge,
instead the weather closed us in on ourselves

and on nearby rock and plant and flower,

maybe our spirits did open, did enlarge,
but our bodies were glad to finish
and to get dry again.

by Henry H. Walker

May 23, ‘17

Saturday, May 27, 2017

an illusion of simplicity

beneath our smiles

no one ever really knows
what battles others are fighting
beneath the beauty of their smiles,

I sometimes fear we don’t even know
just what battles we ourselves are fighting,

we all contain multitudes,
and it’s an illusion of simplicity
our faces can offer to the world.

by Henry H. Walker

May 23, ‘17

Saturday, May 13, 2017

an enlarging sense of who we are

the strangers, and us

a play, The Strangers, exists,
throbs with question and insight,
a challenge to the author?
create a dramatic vehicle
to illumine how the heart of a Quaker
can touch the world and help it to be better,
the kids, the actors, hard at work
to be true to their inherent differences,
to be true to finding commonality in self, in desires,
in an enlarging sense of what can be,
in who we can be,

after the show, the actors onstage, all in a line,
challenge the audience for questions, comments,

a father notes the message of revolutionizing change
coming from the kids, before the adults,
and a kid responds that that’s the way it can happen,
laughing that that message fits a Friends school,
another asks if anything is lost when a part joins a whole,
and an actor asserts that some will be lost
but that more will be gained,
that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,
and that the parts are still themselves at their truest self.

by Henry H. Walker

May 12, ‘17

Friday, May 12, 2017

windows through which light can release itself

Arts Eve, May ‘17

toward the end of the school year,
I often start quoting Yeats in The Second Coming:
cusp after cusp appears
with the choice seemingly weighted toward dissolution,
the better qualities of our nature seemingly in retreat,

a wonderful antidote to such darkening
offers itself to us at CFS Middle School tonight:
Arts Eve, a celebration of the light within,
for which we have found windows that help it 
release and present itself, and the world brightens—

dance and video as a class explore and share
the power of fear to hold us back
and the power of bravery to move us forward
into the strength that the best within us wants to share,

the chorus stands tall and sure and positive
and releases the enchantment of song after song, 
both in the whole collective voice,
and in the virtuosity of two or three voices together,

then into the gallery space where individual visual artists
released and shared what their souls and fingers could produce,

supported by music and refreshments and social camaraderie,

the better qualities of our nature shine brightly tonight,
let us remember to choose, as best we can,
the brighter side of the cusp.

by Henry H. Walker

May 11, ‘17

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

the ocean and the subconscious

bits of shell crinkle

the ocean—

for so many, so primal,
for me? not so much,
for me, that visceral engagement
that draws to the mother,
to the most basic and impressive,
all of that to me is abstract, intellectual,

I can cry at the drop of a moment,
I can be shaken by the mundane,
but the mundane that I feel a connection to,
a connection with,

the mountains, to me, feel like coming home,
the ocean, to me, feels like visiting a place
that is more a stranger,
a stranger I’d love to know well,
but that is not quite yet close to me,

here I feel as my consciousness,
all settled in itself and able to deny
the currents below that I can’t even see,
the ocean like my subconscious,
all full of story and truth
I need to let rise into my understanding,

as we walk along the beach,
we savor watching the pelicans fly along the water
till they spot a meal and dive, 
a white splash where one hits and eats,

bits of shell underfoot crinkle as we walk along the shoreline

and hint of communities below the surface
who thrive and only release their shells when they are no longer viable,
rather like the dreams that surface at night
and hint of the worlds below the surety of my conscious self.

by Henry H. Walker

May 6, ‘17

Monday, May 8, 2017

I see faces

to precipitate coherence into words

my mind disdains ambiguity
and leaps to recognize a shape,
to flesh out what shouldn’t just be pieces
and make them be a whole,
a form that makes sense to me,

I like how often I see faces
in the lines of branches or mossy rocks, even in clouds,
something within me craves to create coherence,
to make sense of what I see,
to find recognizable pattern in what’s out there,

similarly my mind runs a processor 
just below the surface of my consciousness
with some kind of recognition software,
it correlates, coalesces, compounds, creates,
as I use my mind to notice
and to seek to understand what is,

when the conditions are right, when I’m ready,
I access that software
and work to find the thoughts that hint at coherence
and then to find the words
that precipitate coherence onto the page,

then the scientist in me
compares the words to what is actually there, 
to see if I’ve rendered true.

by Henry H. Walker

May 6, ‘17

we trash the air

extreme weather

we humans like to project ourselves onto the world,
and then see ourselves in what’s out there,
we anthropomorphize and see a storm as rage,

here at the North Carolina beach today,
the wind is out of control, ferocious,
whipping leaves and sand into cowering submission,
forcing the birds into self-saving shortcuts in the air,
as each has to bend its will to fit the will of the wind,
the wind froths the waves white,
the ocean not yet welcoming, 
rather, it seems angry,

such wind has also recently wreaked havoc on the mountains,
broken trees as if they were but matchsticks
held by an impatient capricious self,

maybe we should see ourselves in nature’s increasing unpredictability,
for we dump our excess carbon dioxide willy-nilly into the air,
and many do not even wonder if the world will react,

it seems it does, and it reacts like a human,
mad to receive such an unwanted gift,
prodded and provoked, nature responds with extreme weather,

maybe we need to consider nature as an equal, not as a servant,
and anthropomorphize into understanding that we transgress,
and a price must be paid.

by Henry H. Walker

May 5, ‘17

Friday, May 5, 2017

on the same mission

To Share the Rising

like a parent
I cross my fingers and hope
that the next adults in my kids’ lives
will love my kids like I do,
will see them at least as well as I see them,
will take care to both challenge and support them,
every transition into the new? a leap of faith . . .

the C.F.S. Upper School play I saw tonight
captured me into its magic,
the students I know and the students who are new to me
all found this production of “The Little Shop of Horrors”
to be a vehicle within which each could shine,
individual strengths nurtured and tailored
to fit into a collective whole
which told a story well—
song and movement and self honed to a sharp edge
so that they cut into the humdrum complacency
within which we can slumber our days,
here a story that seems formulaic early on
so that we want the boy and the girl to get each other,
the Oliver like protagonist to find himself whole and successful,
instead the story rewards a carnivorous plant,
as it consumes the protagonists, 
and later, it seems, the whole world,

I don’t feel a metaphysical message from the musical,
yet I do feel a metaphysical message from the Upper School,
that they have our backs,
that the kids we passed on to them
are well taken care of,

I hug the director, Catey Christiansen,
and murmur to her the highest compliment
the surrogate parents in me can deliver:
that she sees the kids, knows the kids,
releases the best in the kids,
and takes the care with them they need
to keep moving forward,
despite all that can work to hold them back,

at the best, we can have colleagues
that are true to the same mission we live,

thank you, Catey,
for loving the kids so well.

by Henry H. Walker

May 4, ‘17

Monday, May 1, 2017

lush and exuberant

late May in the piedmont

late April drifts toward May:
the air balmy, the sky clear,
the inches of rain that fell earlier in the week
have helped to lush garden, bushes, trees,
into a soft green exuberance:

potato vines up near 3 feet,
sugar snap peas about 5 feet and flowering,

the first tomatoes reach to near two feet and flowers,

the lettuce fulling and delicious,

summer squash are just now up,
and I’m waiting for okra and half-runner beans,
though I think the active fungus in the soil ate the beans.
the first pumpkin seeds are sprouted,

I sit outside and watch the bluebird house
where I know there are 4 eggs, I checked, 
the parents flit nearby
and last evening the female darted in and seemed to stay,

the male just landed on a garden pole with a bug in its beak,
my sitting here, 25 feet away, seemed to have spooked him a bit,

the female made it in, and out,
before the male could quit dithering, and take the chance.

by Henry H. Walker

April 28, ‘17