Friday, June 22, 2018

a wonder of profound moments




Summer Solstice ‘18

I first celebrate this day of abundant light
by getting up at 2:30 a.m.
and going out on the deck
at this house by the Pacific Ocean:
the sky is clear
and hundreds of stars pinprick the blackness,
the Milky Way a faint band above me,

dawn comes clear and cool,
the ocean like a sunbather ready for the rays,
sea and shore birds all filled with purpose,

the early sun caresses the plants and rocks of the shore,
and reveals a brilliant whiteness to the breaking waves,
till quickly subdued a bit by a rising mist to the east,
contrast ramps down as a gray filter
rises between us and the rising sun,
the mood of the day is fickle so far,
typically mercurial for this part of the California coast,

a constant: the rocks who jut out into the waves are contorted
as if frozen screams from millennia of plates
grinding against each other,


















I imagine the pressure when they were on the seabed
fusing them back into stone,
then the lifting, the twisting 
as continental and ocean plates each asserted a will,
some magma intruding to fill cracks, visible as bands now,



we celebrate the high point of the year
by driving down the coast to Point Lobos,
a protected marine reserve,
where the land abruptly rises from a bountiful sea,





so rich that rafts of otters lounge and feed
among the floating mats of seaweed,






harbor seals cavort and then sleep off 
their big meals on rocky islands,














a raucous calling from the gathering of sea lion males, 




adults and juveniles,
who cry out into the air 
as if they’re the loud English House of Commons,

even the plants seem caught up in the extravagance:
mats of lizard’s tail and bluff lettuce, with quantities of 
monkey flower, yarrow, and paintbrush,
myriad of other flowers greet us as we walk,










we stroll to the Bird Island overlook,
great rocks thrusting straight up from the water
with no connection to the mainland and its predators,
so hundreds of Brandt’s Cormorants nest there, 






close to the fish they easily catch,
we watch two black heron’s nests




through the enormous camera lens of a friendly volunteer,
who also points out where peregrine falcon often perch,
and we see one! and hear it screech off into the air,
with a mate?




the sun decides to brightly reveal this luxuriant world,
releasing blues and greens with the clear water 
that stretch what the palette can envision
and that clearly etch every line of animal and plant and rock,

mist comes back in again and again
and then goes away again and again,
as if to cleanse our palate between courses,

this Solstice is full of awe,
and we need  a pause in between courses of the bounty
so that we can hope to appreciate the next moment,

this Summer Solstice is a wonder of profound moments,

as the sun sets on the day
we hold the brilliance of its moments as long as we can.



Crab, Tidal Pool, Point Lobos






















by Henry H. Walker

June 21, ‘18


better at choosing a restaurant than choosing a President




Schizoid

we are at a schizoid moment:
the best of times co-existing with the worst of times,

the Internet and our devices have allowed us to cooperate together,
to share experience, ideas, reactions,
to crowd source as a way for “me” to become “us,”

Waze, TripAdvisor,Yelp—ways to pool experience,
and for all to grow larger, to make better choices,
websites like Wikipedia sharing knowledge,
making sure it’s right,
AirBnB and Uber opening up possibilities
for where to stay and how to get around,
blogs and websites can be gifts to others if they want,
the best of us releasing itself,
though glitches and unintended consequences 
come along for the ride,
and our social media certainly has the anti-social about it,
but the move to rightness and cooperation pushes itself forward,

then I think of our politics,
where the worst of ourselves is rewarded,
a zero-sum game in which the only way one side wins
is for the other to lose,
problems ignored while “mano” fights “mano,”
Rome can burn, but the Senator doesn’t care if he’s re-elected,

we do better figuring how to choose a restaurant
than how to choose a President.


by Henry H. Walker
June 18, ‘18


Thursday, June 21, 2018

our self in the mirror




the glories of the coast

the Pacific Coast of California calls us:

we get up way before dawn,
endure the rigamarole of a long plane flight,
the renting of a car,
and two hours driving south,
an In andOut Burger, with fries, our fuel on the way,

around a curve Monterey Bay hints it’s out there,
and then we come upon the coast
where Monterey Peninsula advances into the ocean,
an ocean we have flown over so we have touched its vastness,
yet never can we be prepared to hold it,
the metamorphosed sedimentary rocks on the peninsula
stubborn enough to hold,
for they have endured crustal plates grinding together,
the ocean relentless enough to shake their solidity,










back East, the land feels the sun and gives in to its power
so the days reach into the nineties and the humidity oppresses,

here, the ocean holds the past,
a conservative who only changes
when she cannot hold as well any longer,
her thermal mass holds the highs to the sixties,
the wind drawn into the land 
where temperature changes like fashion,

the birds seem to own this world








lines of 20 to 60 fly mostly up the coast, just above the water,
seagulls appear from out of the sky where it has blended into the water:
angular and sharp in their lines,
as if sculpted in a wind tunnel for how to be one with the air,
the land birds, such as the crows, 
seem compact and clumsy in comparison, though powerful,
their needs sculpted by the drive for short quick journeys,

after rock and water and birds, the plant kingdom draws me
to the magnificence of wind-sculpted Monterey Pines








who hold the land with their will, despite the gales that can beat at them,
they create a forest within the shelter of the art of their beauty,
many are the bush and plant who also hold
and jewel the landscape with their flowers,













at low tide this morning, we searched out the nearby tidal pools,
expecting a feast for the eyes of open sea anemone,
sea stars, scuttling crabs,
the animal kingdom microcosmed for us,
instead the tide was too low: no open anemone,
no sea stars, the anemone and mollusks all closed-up,










choosing sleep until the water returns,
some shellfish are lost to opportunistic birds,















yet what I needed to do, and finally made the effort to do,
was to open myself to wonder 
at the underwater plant kingdom revealed,
“kelp” the only name I know,
and how pitiful such ignorance feels
compared to the magnificence of leaf, of shape, of color,
that decorates the once and future seabed,
“seaweed” another term that comes to my mind,
a grab-all coarseness that doesn’t see the garden
that lives just below the breakers
and is as rich a celebration of life as any on the planet,
at the Monterey Aquarium today we marvel at the kelp forest
which is presented in living glory, 










as gorgeous plants undulate in the shifting currents,
while schools of fish, and individuals, 
promenade their selves within the breathtaking magnificence 
that is the garden, just below the ocean’s surface,

bits of the garden break off, and some gather on the beach,
“wrack” they call it: tendrils, stalks, leaves, round bladders for air
that help the plant hold itself high enough in the turbulent sea 
to maximize how much of the sun it can use,
photosynthesis here not just from the green, but often from the yellow,







our kind are mostly of the land,
and, even there, these days we can be willfully ignorant,

a species is thought to be aware of self
if it can recognize itself in a mirror,
I feel today that an even higher sense of self
is if we can see the plants, the animals, the rocks, the water, 
as us,

if we are to survive as a species,
we must quit ignoring, and denying,
the rest of the world which is us, too,

let us be the mirror that sees and knows the other,
and realizes that the other is necessary to who we are
at our most natural self.

Jellyfish, Monterey Bay Aquarium



Jellyfish, Monterey Bay Aquarium
























































































by Henry H. Walker
June 18, ‘18


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Monterey and Otters




Otters?!

could it be an otter?
I see ripples in the water,
a head appear,
then dive,
and I realize it is a fat, magnificent seal,
savoring a seafood meal in the sheltered rocky shallows below us,




late afternoon, we see more diners just off shore,
heads appear, disappear,
the animals are smaller, 
either young seals or otters, we guess,

I snap picture after picture,
attempting to catch as much of the mammal 
out of water as I can,
always the challenge with our cousins
whose life is mostly under the water,
the air a place to capture a breath or two,




















this cousins floats on its back, often,
like the otters I’ve seen in pictures,
they seem to eat their snacks
while reclining and dive back in to get another,
“you can’t eat just one tasty treat”, seemingly their motto,

once, I see the animal silhouetted in a rising wave,
I hope to capture such a image in a photo, 
and can’t, too fleeting a moment,

our guess, our hope, our decision, is otter!
a cousin my wife and I love,
incredible spirits we have seen close in Yellowstone,
a connection to this wonderful sea world
we hope to know better and better with awe,
the next day the otters draw our hearts to them again,
and we watch them with tears in our eyes.


by Henry H. Walker
June 18, ‘18