Saturday, January 27, 2018

a wonder

Outside Glasgow, Kentucky, on the old family farm, a very special person lives with whom we visited Thanksgiving.  This poem is a tribute to her.  At 98, she is still persevering and is still a wonder.

Anna Bridges Holman 

Anna lives a meditation I like:
“putting others before themselves
they find themselves in the foremost place,”

Anna, so sweet, so solicitous of others’ needs, desires, gifts,
so pouring the gift of her love on all of us
that she herself glows with her life and ours,

so sharp she cuts to the heart of the best of us
and to the truth that can hide away,
her common sense isn’t common,
and, further, she’s a computer pioneer within her generation,

I think there’s something special about Kentucky and women,
my wife and her mother have amazed me
with their strength, their beauty,
their ability to hold true to self and other
despite how outrageous people can be around them:
the rock that centers a family,
the star that leads a family,
the glue that holds a family together,

from the first time that I met Anna
through every time I have seen her since
I come into her presence and I just feel better
as if she gives me whatever I need at that moment to be more whole,

I know part of it is grounding in a most classic sense,
the being close to the earth,
knowing how to farm,
how to release sustenance with seed, leaf, animal, and hard work,
even now our letters and e mails from Anna
speak of temperature, precipitation, storms,
the challenges people and plant are given
by the chance rolls of fate that weather tells us about,

Anna is of the generations after generations
who have lived on the land, worked the land,
and who have learned to endure and to joy,
and to know deep in muscle & bone & soul what earth and sky demand,
if we are to thrive and not vanish,
I have savored the hickory nuts she laboriously processed
on long fall evenings
whose nut meats amazed a cake,
the custard she made every year at Christmas
whose rich, delicious fullness fought late December’s cold emptiness,
the butter beans, the cucumbers, the tomatoes she readily shared,
her passion for family history,
even when it’s her husband’s and thus the history of her choice
and not of her personal past,
that history she also preserves,
plus taking care of whomever in the community, 
whenever each needs it and she can help,

I celebrate her devotion to her husband, to her children, 
to her grandchildren, to her great grandchildren,—
all of whom must know
that with Anna Bridges Holman
it is as if each has won the lottery, the Derby,

in Our Town, Thornton Wilder writes of the best of us
and that we should appreciate each moment we have,
for the others we love are of grace and wonder,

how good it feels to sing a note just right,
for some of us we need to stand next to a person
for whom pitch is as natural as breathing,

I love to be next to Anna Holman,
for with her life she sings true to the melody
that comes from earth and family, and love,
she harmonizes with what drives growth,
with what weather and circumstance allow
for a farm, for a child, for a grandchild,
for a great-grandchild,
for any with whom she finds a connection,

when someone’s song comes to an end,
whether after a long or a too short life,
Anna endures and still seeks to sing with her life
and to joy in whatever songs 
family and friend share with her,

everyone who lets himself, who lets herself,
come close to the love that is Anna,
becomes better for her firm soft touch upon our soul,
upon how we might sing the song God has given us,

the best in us cannot but become even better
when we let ourselves have time
 and then connection with Anna,
from whom wells forth love 
as if from a spring beyond our understanding.

Anna is of grace and wonder,
may we appreciate every moment we have with her.

by Henry Walker

updated 12/17

Saturday, January 20, 2018

the transformation of snow

A Snow Day

nightly slowly moves into day,
and only a fitful, light drizzle
accompanies dawn as the temperature
hovers a bit above freezing,

slowly, inexorably, a consensus forms
among what falls to the ground,
the white stuff stops melting on the way down,

grass and roof, anything raised a bit above Mother Earth,
start to whiten, then the whitening speeds up,
snow continues through the day,
softening the lines where bare branches wait for spring,

by late afternoon, near a foot of white has fallen,
the ground decorated with a deep cover
of soft, undulating uniformity,

for now, the world is transformed
with a blurring wash of white
that entices the eye and challenges the foot,

as long as the power holds
and the wood releases summer into our Great Room,
we are cozy, and we love the snow, at a distance,

we love transformation in our spirit,
and the comfortable in our skin.

by Henry H. Walker
January 17, ‘18

Friday, January 19, 2018

embrace or fear?

contrast and commonality

we humans are drawn to contrast:
the cold outside that shivers water into solid,
the heat inside that allows leaf and laugh to last,
the new over the old,
something different to wake us up,

we also love the familiar, the routine, commonality:
think of the many generations that lived
because they spotted the threat,
the predator, the enemy, the disruption,
so that we could survive today
into a tomorrow much the same,

our genes know we need the stranger,
our fears prejudice that difference,

iced tea well illustrates our quandary:
make hot tea, then put ice in it,
sweeten it, then sour it with lemon,
my mother always pointed out
how much the sweet needs the sour,
the sour intensity of the summer transparency apple
revealing its delicious heart only with enough added sugar,

modern America tears at itself,
as many of us celebrate change and difference,
and many of us fear what the stranger might bring.

by Henry H. Walker
January 17, ‘18

Sunday, January 14, 2018

a lament

the music of the heart strings

“At Staff Retreat we wrestled with weighty issues during the day.
At night we danced to the music of our fellow staff’s heart strings.”

Carly eloquently spoke up with this lament
about the loss she feels
as change as moved us away from connections
among staff at an annual retreat away from home,

how vital it is to know the other,
to share unscripted time,
to laugh, to tell tales,
to move to the music each creates,
with instrument, with voice,
with our lives,
as each takes what the spirit has given us,
and sings the songs of our selves
with who we are and what we do.

by Henry H. Walker
January 10, ‘18

Friday, January 12, 2018

the culture shouts!


what gives us worth?

what a challenge it is in our competitive world
to resist judging ourselves by comparing to others,
how seductive it is to compare quantities:
the size of our houses,
the fanciness of our cars,
the size of our paychecks,

in sports when one team plays another,
the result is zero sum:
plus 1 for the winner, minus 1 for the loser,
and that makes zero,
how much worse it is when the numbers
are a hundred, a thousand, a million,
do we need to feel better than the others
to feel good about ourselves?

our culture shouts at us
that whoever has more money is better, happier,
that money, income, differentiates among us as to worth,

when we are closer to the edge,
the level of  our monetary resources can be determinative,
if we are comfortable, even if not indulged, 
than we should feel our value otherwise,
such as in how what we do
matters to those we care about,
in the impact of our lives upon the lives of others
we learn to care about,

in Christianity, many believe that St. Peter
will meet us after we die and judge our lives,
I doubt how impressed he will be with our paycheck,

when I’m slipping away at the end of my story,
I hope I will find the worth of my life
in how much the world is better
because of how I lived.

by Henry H. Walker

January 11, ‘18

Thursday, January 4, 2018

the terraced steps fit the land

an elegant solution

never does a project
go easier, faster, surer,
than my expectations—
at least until now,

the footing of the way
from the cabin porch steps
to the flat near the creek
has increasingly disturbed
my sense of rightness,
exposed root and rock
all almost designed to impede, to trip,

in the last few years,
I have imagined solutions of rock or wood,
the rock has scared me with its weight and unwieldiness,
the wood with the brusque heaviness of its engineering,

an old broken-down redwood bench offered a slat to me,
and it was already but feet away,
I only had a handsaw,
but with two cuts I had a wall,
and two stops to pound into the ground,
and within a few minutes I had the retaining wall,
and within another few minutes 
I had the leveling earth behind it,
I needed one more level,
so the next day I studied the slope,
and I found a smaller rock,
sticking out from under a bedded boulder,
a few minutes of shovel and mattock work
and it was out,
as I started to lift and flip it away,
I noticed how flat a surface it had,
a few minutes more work,
and it was anchored—
one side under the boulder
and the other side chocked with root and rock,
and more dirt around it,

the two terraced steps fitting 
into the land with a graceful simplicity,

would that all our works wedded so well
our vision with what fits upon the earth.

by Henry H. Walker
December 28, ‘17

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

a new developmental level

Max turns five

in my photography
I have long felt an ability
to look at a person’s eyes
and often see when the reality
of the person looks back,
the guard lets down for a moment,
and I take the picture,

children can take a long time
to let you see the truth
behind the curtain,
behind the mask,
this Christmas, as our grandson turned five,
he seemed to reach a new developmental level,
and I encountered less of the contrary,
less of the pose,
less of the guarded,
the delightful sweet person,
the loving, gifted young man
shared himself to me at times,

I felt like applauding the revelation
that is birthing itself within who he really is:

Max loves books, stories, the imagination,
Star Wars engulfs him, with light sabers and strong characters,
just as much Legos allow him to create ships and stories
whose worlds absorb him,
he loves to reveal and carefully fix the Lego ships,
trucks and small cars complete the troika of toys
within whose worlds he is master,

the social world still takes effort from him, 
as the contrary and the private still have power,

I love how much he is becoming master of them, too.

by Henry H. Walker
December 28, ‘17