Saturday, July 1, 2017

what change can bring

clarity, high on a hill

Hill in pictures is at bottom left in picture. Mt. LeConte is above.
Gatlinburg, TN, is just downhill from picture.

Joan and I look at each other,
hold hands,
and take the last steps together
up to the ridge line,
the view sweeps open before our feet,

Top of Hill, a mile above Gatlinburg

we did it again!
hiked hard, and up,
muscles and conditioning still good enough
for a challenging aerobic hour,

Henry and Joan Walker at Top of Hill

the hardest part today
a mere tens of yards up an old wash,
filled with an obstacle course
of rock-hard rhododendron branches, all in a tangle,
challenging our flexibility and the toughness of our skin,
it seemed as if the blood within wants to find a way out,

as soon as the slope to our left gentles enough
so that we can imagine scrambling up it,

Top of Hill.  Note how ferociously the fire burned on the top.

it is as if we go through a door
and enter the fire-cleared clarity of a new world,
near all the horizontal branches burned-up
and the vertical trunks sorely diminished from who they were,

View of Mt. LeConte from top of hill

now the challenge to our bodies is the vertical again:
the need to pull ourselves up, and up,
each seeming top of the rise
followed by another, then another,
the ground dry without leaf or twig,
just baked soil and cracked rock,
bush and tree reduced to sharp stumps of who they were,
yet each seems to have a plan to come back:
hope shoots from the base of each,
loving the newly-available sun,
and maybe using newly-available nutrients to rise anew,

New growth sprouts.

Sprouts from base of burned laurel.


Sassafras Sprouts

even now, in this first summer after the Great Fire,
pine trees have sprouted,

Pine Seedlings at top of hill

much of what drew us here
is the absence of the green profusion
our forests here in the east
build between us and the view,
now we're here, on this prominent hill,

Top of Hill, looking toward Mt. LeConte

Mt. LeConte from top of hill, looking south

a hill our family has named Walker Knob in our self-centeredness,
a hill an earlier inhabitant of the area called Chestnut Hill,
for the great trees that hovered up here above their apple orchard,
I know the name of the family, Eslinger, who lived by Grassy Branch below,
and farmed wherever the way could open,
along the wash a bit of a sled road climbed to the heights
that somehow were used to release food from the farm,

a generation ago I climbed up here
and could see little besides the wooded world
that sought to swallow me,
now the view is open
and Mt. LeConte magnificent before us,

for years I have wanted to be up here again, and now I am,

the Great Fire took away much that was wonderful,
it also released much that is compelling,

I like to luxuriate in what I’ve known,

I strive to open myself and savor what change can bring.

Animal prints at top of hill.  Coyote?

by Henry H. Walker
June 27, ’17

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