Saturday, August 26, 2017

the dance of Earth, Sun, and Moon

a Grand Eclipse

the dance of Earth with Sun
has long pulled me into its stately whirls,
Equinox and Solstice time to wake up
to bow and move with the First Movers,
whose relationship with each other
shapes how life moves upon the Earth,

a grand eclipse is coming,
when the Moon will cover the Sun,
well enough, long enough, for a band of darkness
to sweep along our country from Oregon to South Carolina,
it feels all abstract to me, exciting but distant,

we come to the Smokies,
huddled right near to where totality will pass,
to find our way to an even better seat for the show:
a daunting challenge, given the variables
of who will care, who will act on that care,
whose acting might make our moves stumble, miss the beats,
let alone what the weather might do to obscure it all,

all somehow opens for us,
including the road over the mountain,
along which a spectacular sunrise greets us,
we find a beautiful meadow where we can snack,
take a quick nap,
ready ourselves for totality to come at us,
to shiver the world into a foreboding change, 
a darkening that doesn’t seem quite right,
my wife feels the psychic glitch in her stomach,

our welding glasses paper and awkward and thin,
but safe enough to let us deny most of our normal world
so we can handle the intense radiation
of the nuclear furnace we call Sun,

my poor cameras can only allow a bright blur to come at them,
our solar glasses only let in a small percentage of what comes art them,
though it is enough for us to realize
that which is cosmic and significant,

we slip into totality, as the orb of the Sun is gone
for a large part of a minute,
out of many of us, a shout, an exclamation of awe,
for me, I tear with the power so transiently revealed
and then slipping into memory, as the day returns to itself.

by Henry H. Walker

August 21, ‘17

Friday, August 25, 2017

to run free, and sure

of the Smokies, Wyoming, Iceland, and teaching

what a summer!

in the Smokies
I have explored what fire and wind can do to the woods—
closing trails and yet even opening a vista
on the top of a hill up above our cabin,
watching plants return from roots and seared branch,
I have pursued flowers, a sunset, a sunrise,
and bears have visited me as if to pose for my photos,

in Wyoming
moose, mountain sheep, wild goats,
elk, a coyote, and even a cinnamon bear
came close enough to our world
for me to photograph and appreciate them,
petroglyphs told me their stories,
though, like in dance, I could not quite get the words,
one piece of petrified wood whispered to me from a stream,
it whispered of a world so long ago
that it knew the dinosaurs,

in Iceland
the Earth has opened herself up enough
for the rocks to have clear, fresh memories of creation,
for water to fume and geysir, to heat homes and make electricity,
for water to still embody itself as glacier,
and, in its melting, roar in laughter as waterfall,
the big native mammals here, the whales, dolphins, and seals,
come off the shore of Iceland for seafood buffets,

so much of who I am chooses nature over cities,

as a career, though, I work with young people,
to help them know themselves, appreciate themselves,
to help them unwrap the potential present of who they are
and give it to the world,

I appreciate unbridled nature,
and I hope to help each student
learn how to run free,
to run with the beauty each can be
when let loose from the shackles
that reach to hold us back and down,
when doubt is too much with us.

by Henry H. Walker

August 18, ‘17

Thursday, August 17, 2017

what the stone holds


the natural world draws me
to sit at its feet and listen to its stories,
to climb into its arms and let it hold me,
to feel it protect the best of me,
and let me find my way into the secrets
of a waterfall, of moss and lichen
who paint themselves over basaltic rock,
of a natural garden where flowers are only a small part
of the beauty that reveals itself
around every bend, every stop, of the trail,

the volcanic rock remembers its origins
as it hardened into gray stone 
that still holds the ripples of its flow,

just below us, a great lake,

left over from the glacier’s gouge,
with the clear waters and wonders just below the surface
that call people to snorkel and scuba its beauty,

and there, where the North American plate rises as a cliff,
over a thousand years ago, Icelandic people met as a parliament,

out under the sky, with water and rock holding them as if a parent,
so that they could rise to the best their collectivity could then muster,
at the top of the ridge, a stone holds between two opposing rocks,
poised as if to symbolize the contention from which truth can emerge.

by Henry H. Walker

August 6, ‘17

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

walking the glacier!


water speaks in strikingly difference voices,
often it is soft, gentle, soothing,
as liquid it laughs down a mountain side,
calls to us to see it perform in a waterfall,
it gentles our spirit through a lake,
yet it can often scare me in an ocean with its power,
though there it still holds us as mother,

today has been of its solid form:
high up a great mountain a glacier came into being
countless thousands of years ago,
to drops down the valleys as if it is a huge beast,
slowly, inexorably, slithering toward the sea,
fed by snow that makes it larger,
diminished by heat that morphs solid to liquid,

a glacier can stop its downward advance,
and build up a Cape Cod or Long Island,
as its conveyor belt drops sand and rock at the terminus,

a glacier can shrink in size, retreat, 
such as now, withdrawing before the havoc 
we humans wreak in the climate,
the last decades have forced the glaciers back and back,

there is enormous weight and sheer presence in a living glacier,
no wonder the Norse,
who lived close with such ice,
felt the power of the ice,
a force that shapes mountains is far greater than any mortal,

today we stalk glaciers,
we touch ice in a lagoon below one,
watch great chunks bob and blow in a meltflow river,

while the tide rushes the ocean in
to meet the ice heading out,
so much fish must abound in all that meeting
that seals and birds are everywhere,
feeding their bodies while we feed our souls,

our feet and fingers need to touch the glacier itself,
we find and charter a tour company
which outfits us with the right tools for the ice,
particularly crampons to make our boots
walk the ice as it were land,
we step on to the glacier!

there at its front end where it’s all blackened with ash,

yet clean, and even blue, just below its black patina,
here solid water starts to give up the ghost
and release its friendly liquid form,
we can see little streams work their way down the ice,
and, if we’re still, water gurgles and sings to us from below,
we even drink fresh meltwater,
which had stayed frozen maybe a thousand years till melting for us,

the ice crunches beneath our feet
and allows us wonders with every step,
glimpses of ethereal blue reach at us from the depths,

lines of tension crisscross the ice,
feeling for the crevasses that can be their future,

holes appear where swirling water had carved them so,

mounds of dry ash over ice reach toward the sky,
while less-insulated ice around them has eroded away,

most of the ash is black and sandy feeling,
though some is gray and feels fine like clay,
we hear that that gray ash is from
a particular eruption in 1354!

the ice is hard, and not friendly,
as our son found in a small fall,

being here, today, on this awesome glacier,
connects us to a significant piece of the truth
God imbues in the world
for us to find, if we but will.

by Henry H. Walker

August 8, ‘17

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Gullfoss, Geysir, and Secret Lagoon

water triumphant

Iceland feels new:
the North American and European plates
seem to repel each other,
as they pull apart, they open up the Earth
to sculpt with lava
and anger water into steam,

today, east of Reykjavik,
we find where trees and fields can friendly the rawness,
where AirBnB allows us to rent a perfect home,
with the sky open as the American West,
as cloudy and drizzly as Seattle,
with a daylight that, so far north, just doesn’t want to quit,

all quiet and still, summer here brief and glorious,
as we look across the land, 
steam rises as if from industry,
or as signals of smoke,

regular reminders that the rock below is alive with heat,
a sulfur tang, often in the air and in the water,
also reminds us that rock’s story is still being told,

our first full day is of water
in a falls, in a “geysir,” and in a pool,

“Gullfoss,” on the Hvita River, is such an extraordinary waterfall
that all others I have seen seem dwarfed by its spectacle:
as the Ice Age passed into memory,
water roared through the valley 4000 years ago,
breaking through the basalt before us,
which then found the power to hold
and let the water work its will on the lower sedimentary rock,
then more basalt, then more sedimentary rock,
so the falls have terraces that then drop,

now, for thousands of years, water has roared over rock,
falling with such exuberance and grace,
that no heart can fully hold it, let along a camera,
though countless of us make the effort,
we approach toward its greatness,
yet it is transcendent,
and our steps can never quite get close enough
to really know what roars here in glory,

next we savor “Geysir,”
where every 3-7 minutes water explodes into the air,
a simmering pool that swells with a large blue bubble
which then bursts into a white fountain,

making a firmer statement, clearer to grasp,
than that of much of the land,
which around here murmurs with steam,
and easy-to-tap hot water,

we soak later in the natural heat of Iceland’s oldest pool,
“Secret Lagoon,” where cool air and warmed water
treat the body and the soul,

what a perfect day!

by Henry H. Walker

August 5, ‘17

an edge

Iceland Anew

we are so far north
that the land herself here seems new,
for glaciers mostly covered it all till 10,000 years ago,
then, as they melted into retreat,
the sea came in to swallow most of the island,
till the lighter land slowly bobbed back up
into roughly the island we know as Iceland now,
plants and birds found it, of the larger mammals, only the Arctic fox,
then a bit over a millennium ago, humans found it,
and Nordic folks, farmers and fishermen, made it home,

the story of humans here less than in North America,
the land newer, and more forgiving than in many places,
since we haven’t yet had the time and numbers
to use up so much as we have in Africa, Europe, and Asia,

the Vikings seem like the Polynesians to me,
a sea-faring folks, with an edge 
to their personality and weapons.

by Henry H. Walker

August 6, ‘17

Monday, August 14, 2017

the cetacean world!


the ocean surrounds Iceland,
as if to hold it in its embrace,
the land reaches into it,
and the ocean reaches into the land,
an intimate conjoining like that of fire with ice here:
shore birds everywhere,

from the Old Harbor at Reykjavik,
we boat out to where the fish are abundant:
the ocean boils in long ovals of feeding mackerel,
the surface churns from a frenzy,

only one of us actually sees a fish,
and then we find minke whales breaching the surface for air,
and then feeding ferociously below what we can see:
a favorite moment came when a whale surfaced 
close enough to us for the “whoof!” of its breath 
to startle us,

all of this reminding us that what we perceive
is so much less than what reality truly is,

today I loved to watch 
the whales and black-and-white dolphins breach,
almost as a wave to us, their distant cousins,

today our whale watching trip 
lightly touches the cetacean worlds,
and I feel both enlarged, and chastened,
by that which is both not us 
and us beyond what I can ever hope to know.

by Henry H. Walker

August 4, ‘17

Saturday, August 12, 2017

anticipating Iceland


we travel, 
at some effort, 
with some worry,
to Iceland—the land of fire and ice, 
of volcano and glacier,
where the natural world, 
from all we’ve heard,
shouts with a clarity and force
we hope to be ready for—

we saw the tip of Greenland below us as we flew here,
ice and snow, white and strong below the plane,
an appetizer for the main course before us,
we want to see glaciers, volcanos:
a small caldera leaped up at me as we start to land!
I want to see waterfalls, whales,
whatever Nature releases into what can seem the forest
when I want to be there to hear the sound,
I hope my individual consciousness and its perceptions
will help create the reality of a glory
that seems to be the gift of this land,

how wonderful that here half the people
wake up to the truth of faerie,
unlike what progress had done to many other places
where it has reduced the universe to abstraction and lines,
and then into the denial of the other,
that Narcissus shouts in our politics,
and in our obsession with our senses.

by Henry H. Walker

August 3, ‘17

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

joy in the moment

in their wonder years

two young girls, two and five,
see me as the best I hope to be,
their eyes light up when they see me,
and I light up to my best self
because that’s who they expect me to be,

I look behind their eyes.
and I see a wholeness of self
that nature and nurture, and choice,
preserve with joy into the present,

I am a better person when I am with them,
and I hope to help the better person within them
to keep releasing herself unto the world.

by Henry H. Walker

July 31, ‘17

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

risk the edge

different strands reach for us

ever since my dad’s abrupt death,
I have felt the chasm
just to the side of where I walk:
the cusp between moving forward, surely,
and an ending pulling me down into its emptiness,

the benefit to me of realizing
that way different strands reach for me from the future
is that I can savor the moments while each is still available to me,

the loss I can feel
is when I fear to live the  moment,
to take the step, to risk the fall,
to let my fears of how I might stumble
keep me away from the edge
where glory reveals herself.

by Henry H. Walker

July 31, ‘17