Thursday, July 27, 2017

yearling, then a mama with two cubs


out in Yellowstone we looked for bear, hoped for bear,
and we saw a beautiful cinnamon black bear for several minutes
until it wandered away into the woods,

here in the Smokies we’ve hiked high and low,
and our hiking world has not touched the bears’ foraging world,
then Tuesday, midday, I spotted a yearling black bear down the road,
I saw legs through the trees
and figured it was probably a person,
yet I hoped for bear, and, as I got a better view, there he was!
lean and hungry, glossy fur and keen eyes,
I followed him around the neighborhood,

snapping pictures with abandon,
being careful to be quiet and relatively still,
though once I did not retreat enough as he came towards me,
and he gave me a warning snuffle and step forward,
a yapping dog finally got him to lope into another neighborhood,

hours pass, and I look out the utility room window—a mother bear with two cubs!
I snap picture after picture of the beautiful lean cubs,
who snuffle in the ivy and jump up into a tree
when mama snorts a caution at them,

I love the shots I got of a cub standing up,
checking out the world, 
sometimes pawing with its front legs onto mama,
a neighbor’s dog starts to bark,
so mama hustles them all away,

across the creek, using logs as ramps to help,

they meander away,
and I want to shout with celebration
of seeing “yanu” so close,
the bears the Cherokee remember as kin
who chose the forest way over the human.

by Henry H. Walker
July 25, ’17

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

the freshness of the world out West

East Is Not West

this July we found a way to savor
over two weeks out West,
mostly in Wyoming but touching high Montana for a few days,
my skin loved it out there
where the sweat that heat pulls from my skin
would actually evaporate and cool me,
back East in the Smokies
the air is too crowded with moisture already,
and a bandana is a necessity for me to deal
with the salty water that flows off my forehead,
even so, it saturates the bandana and drips, and drips,

out West there is a brash freshness to the mountains,
an assertion, a clarity,
an in-your-face shouting of the geology:
the making of mountains, valleys, 
and thermal stories on the land,

now that we’re back East,
the sharpness of line becomes rounded,
the world softer, friendlier,
more distant from its creation,

the waters murmur instead of shout,
the animals harder-to-find within obscuring forest,

I love to come home,
I also savor my time in the newness of the world.

by Henry H. Walker
July 22, ’17

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

in Bill's sculpting hands

The Cherokee

I seek the Cherokee,
they who knew the woods and mountains of the Smokies
as if each were a part of the other,
I can start to hear them in the names that persist:
Cataloochee, Oconaluftee,
I can reach for them in the names
that are obscured by the juvenile naming
that honors white men who knew not
the mountain as a “thou” but as an “it,”

I embrace my favorite mountain
and work to see it as a great green frog,
huddled against the main range,
Walisiyi rather then LeConte,
named for a man who may not have even see it,

Duni'skwalgun'i, the whites called the Chimneys,
and the Cherokee knew as the antlers on a great deer,
their stories of up here full of wildness,

I chance into finding a Cherokee artist,
living at the edge of the reservation,
high up on a mountain
with the current heart of the tribe within a bowl 
below where he lives on the rim,

William Crowe makes me 7 masks out of buckeye,
one for each of the original clans:
Wolf, Deer, Bird, Paint, Long Hair, Wild Potato, and Blue,

I cannot even open them to my world for weeks,
until I feel I have the time and space to focus on them,
to consider what they can tell me of the Cherokee world,

I also have a flute Bill made
I would not even sound
until I felt ready enough to begin to appreciate it,

James Mooney loved the Cherokee
and recorded in words all that he could of their world,
and even he, with mountains of words,
only names the trees he can,
the forest never quite in view,

somehow I want to hold and learn from what the Cherokee knew,
to grasp at what was as basic to them as breath,

time can be a wind that tears us away from the roots,
I look back and grab to hold what swirls away,
I feel for The People,
they who have lost so much of who they were,
I seek the shadows of the old ones,
and from the shadows, learn what I can of what they knew,

in the creating of Bill’s sculpting hands,
the Cherokee still live.

by Henry H. Walker

July 20, ’17

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

evolution vs devolution

two roads diverge in the Web

evolution is at war with devolution in the Internet:
so many answers to so many questions just a click away,
crowd-sourcing where the brilliance of the aggregate
finds the amorphous middle
where neither sycophant nor cynic rules,
Trip Advisor helps us know where to eat, sleep,
people share tips from where they’ve hiked,
Wikipedia works to hold and improve answers we need,
Uber organizes rides with collective power and efficiency,
our son answers questions online, specifically for programmers,
just because he can and wants to help,
cooperation leads us forward, together,
even in finding the best way through traffic
by crowd-sourcing others' current experiences,

the same Internet also allows the worst within us
to find support for our hate in others’ posts,
no fact-checking and correction by the aggregate,
but rather the wisdom of the mob, the bully, the lesser,
the fever of paranoia that once yelled from a street corner
now amplified and insinuated into vulnerable readers,
who spread contagion and not healing,
with a click of the mouse,

two roads diverge in the Web,
and woe be unto us
if we continue to take the darker.

by Henry H. Walker
July 16, ’17

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

the wild just outside

just outside our assurance

the day ends warm and should swiftly lose the heat of the day,
we open up the guest house to cool while we sleep,

around midnight the quiet is punctuated with short ambiguous calls
as some large animal movies toward the house,
earlier in the week a big brown black bear
turned over the garbage can here,
a bull moose spent much of the day here yesterday,

between us and whatever animals move in the night,
only flimsy screen wire where things are open,
I get up and close the doors,
later, I get up again and partly close the windows by the bed,
by early in the morning I close the rest because it’s cold,

my psyche calls up dreams for me to deal with,
the world outside anchors me away from them
with fears of the wild, just past the assurance we’d like to feel.

by Henry H. Walker
July 15, ’17

Monday, July 17, 2017

royals revealed

Listen again to the Wind. . .

the Wind River Mountains are magnificent, 
as imposing and impressive as any 
of these western upthrusts of gray stone,
high enough to kiss the clouds,
to pull and hold the snow
even into summer if you’re high enough up,
these mountains are high enough 
to lift the eye and the spirit toward the heavens,

the Wind remember the great glaciation
in their sharp peaks, sculpted valleys,
in the moraines that hold their lakes and our roads,

yet the Wind River Mountains seem to hide, 
unlike the Tetons who fault straight up from the valley
and enable house and airport and road
to crowd against them and to feel their power
the Wind are surrounded by foothills,
a great ring of moraines left there
from the time of ice and the great sculpting,
they block our view as if they’re aides protecting the royals,

today we drive 15 miles up one of those aides,
hike near 2 miles through gorgeous forest
of pine, fir, spruce, and aspen,
with cheery little streams we have to cross,
paralleled by scrub willow and bespeckled
with yellow, and with paintbrush and columbine,
this bear habitat makes us talk and sing
to let any that might be around know we’re coming,

we get to where the cliff drops off miles into the valley,
we hold hands to experience the opening together,
and the Wind reveal themselves with such energy
they take our breath away,

the next day we drive near 20 miles up along the Green River
to where it flows out of its lakes,
above the lakes the Wind reveal themselves without hiding
by putting forth two from their range, proud and singular,
as if they thrust up from the shore of the lake
and shout “We are here!”

how wonderful that we can be here with them.

by Henry H. Walker
July 13, ’17

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Mt Washburn

Sheep and Coyote Way Up Mt. Washburn

the sturdy tower at the top looks like it’s close,
our aging bodies beg to differ,
as they toil miles up the ever-climbing trail,
flowers grace the rail, as do patches of snow,
a boon to parents whose kids feel their magic:
a few snowballs, of course, are thrown,

at the top we are told mountain sheep
graze just over a rise below the tower,
we take the gentle trail around the ridge,
and there about a dozen sheep eat and consider,
each new person worth an alert focus,
eyes intent and bodies ready to bolt,
some seem to pose at the edge of the rise,
blue sky and distant snow-capped mountains their backdrop,

as we meander away
another shape, gray and substantial,
comes over the rise and parallels my course,
it’s a beautiful, full-pelted coyote,
who must have checked out the sheep for a straggler,
coyotes are always wishful in their thinking,
he moves with determination, almost a trot,

and heads down the mountain, including over a patch of snow,
I get a picture of him and his tracks in the white,

our bodies made it, and we are tired,
our souls made it, and they are renewed and energized.

by Henry H. Walker
July 10, ’17

Saturday, July 15, 2017

spontaneity vs predictability

of mountain goats and alpine flowers

back when humans were hunters and gatherers,
before we settled down into predictability,
I wonder if it was hard to find us,

we hope to see wolf and grizzly bear this trip,
our roads and schedules and hopes
only might have points of intersection
with how their moments flow,
with how hunger and wind and impulse
move them this way, or that,

a wolf pack used to center itself
where Soda Butte Creek flows into the Lamar River,
no longer, so we seek their cousins elsewhere,
we have chanced upon bear and moose at times,
but those encounters are close to random,

today we drive to a favorite spot,
about 11,000 feet up, 
a place of loose rock and alpine flowers,
where even in July, great banks of snow still abound,
here we have seen a Rocky Mountain goat, or two, in the past,
no sign of the goats there today,
though the flowers and vistas are spectacular,

we drive a few miles further
along this high treeless plateau,
hoping for goats but savoring the flowers,
just as I’m starting to argue for turning around,
my wife notices white shapes to the left of the road ahead,
a herd of 13 goats!
adults, bedraggled looking as their winter coats slough off,
3 kids all perfect and smooth,
quick to react, and to follow a mother,
3-4 juveniles, maybe last year’s kids,
they don’t seem to do well in the pecking order,
as an adult would move into where they were browsing,
they’d jump away to find another spot,
flowers and grasses worth congregating there to enjoy,

people would stop, snap a few pictures, and move on,
some vehicles do not even slow,
for they must have schedules and errands
that do not include the serendipity of the goats,

in contrast, we feel as if we have won a lottery,
and we don’t leave till the goats, in their collectivity,
decide to meander away, 
toward the sleep slopes below the meadow, 
a meadow jeweled with yellow mountain avens
and other succulent mouthfuls for their stomachs and our eyes,

the meadows, the flowers, the rocks,
the distant snowy mountains, the abrupt valley below,
and these incredible animals fill our souls with a glory
that draws us to be here whenever the way can open,

today, the way is extraordinary.

by Henry H. Walker
July 9, ’17

Friday, July 14, 2017

the universe has its own plans

a wish list, and the universe

the otters did not show at Trout Lake for us today,

we did see some roe on a log
where they must have consumed a cutthroat trout recently,
we saw some scat, with a decidedly fishy smell,
but the trout were minimal
and the otters did not find us today,
so it must not be a good time to teach their young to fish, 
four years ago we lucked into a female teaching four young,
and her mate resting on a log with her sister,

we had better luck down the valley
and up along the Yellowstone River,
high above it, there where the river has cut through huge volcanic deposits,
of ash, mudflow conglomerates, and basaltic cliffs,

there, high on a slope I would feel precarious, deadly,
we found a female bighorn sheep scampering down a steep slope

to another ewe who sat there resting, in repose,
as if she were queen here,

a third ewe came toward them through the flowered meadow
where they must often feed,
she merrily munched as she moved to the cliff,

I photographed her there
and as she descended to join her sisters,

yesterday I snapped a picture of a mountain goat,
high up the slopes of a distant snow-dabbled mountain,
it just a speck of moving white,

Mountain Goat is at center of picture,
 the white dot to left and below two patches of snow,
one right above the other.

no matter how much we want to see animals,
our wild, large, mammal cousins,
they have their own life,
we can work to learn enough of them
to hope we can increase our chance of encounters,

maybe wolves tomorrow?
we always hope of bear,

for sure we will find ourselves
where mountain valley, and stream are glorious,
where flower and bison are ubiquitous,
where any moment is of wonder,
if can but open ourselves
to the randomness of a gift,
to consider our wish list as suggestions
that the universe doesn’t check before it is.

by Henry H. Walker
July 7, ’17

the bear, the bison, the elk

intersecting animals’ worlds

about two miles below Dunraven Pass,
where the steep slope of Mt. Washburn
gives an anxious edge to the road,
a beautiful black bear,
as brown as a grizzly,
browses on the leaves and flowers
meadows below us and before him,
he cares nothing for us
and seems to deny we exist
I hold him with my lens, my heart,
and my camera’s digitized memory as long as I can,
he calmly strides off into he trees,

even earlier in the morning
beautiful bull bison and calves
hug the road’s edge in the Lamar Valley
and allow me and my camera incredible shots just out the window,

some pronghorn antelope also forage near to the road and us,

later two female elk ignore 
the warnings and restrictive signs at a geothermal area
and meander across the basin,
nibbling on what appeals to them
and instinctively knowing where not to go,

even though no wolves revealed themselves to us today,
we hear of their howling an hour earlier,
it is comforting to know there is still room
for animals to have their own world,
to hope that we can co-exist.

by Henry H. Walker
July 7, ’17