Friday, July 27, 2018

needing to get into gear

the sureness and the random of the gifts

our bodies crave at least a couple of miles of work,
to gain elevation and thus to use muscles and lungs
enough to keep them going,

it feels like getting into a mountain stream,
the first of a hike is painful and never easy for me,
I need to persevere and find a gear that works
for body and spirit,

we get into gear and do well,
and we are rewarded with sweat and flowers:
yellow-fringed orchis and a high country Carolina lily,

with fungus erupting from tree and soil
to use the recent rains to reach toward the future with spores,

in a favorite section of the trail,
where trees and flowers feel old growth to us,
a yearling bear is browsing
and lets us watch him for a bit,

though he is so sensitive to noise
that the click of my camera keeps him alert,
until he moves up and away to eat alone,

in the wild, gifts appear,
I work to notice and appreciate
whatever gifts luck will help me open.

by Henry H. Walker
July 24, ‘18

Thursday, July 26, 2018

we stir a pot, and. . .

the creek as torrent

in the mountains a creek has many moods
and can tell you much of what’s happening to the forest
in how low or high it is,

just before the Great Fire, 
drought had strangled off the flow of water to the woods,
the creek was as low and reduced as I’ve ever seen it,
presaging how tinder dry was the forest,

this summer rains have come and gone, and come again,
enough to keep the creek healthy and the forest growing,
a little spitting rain sweeps in around us,
and I hear thunder up on the mountain,
distant, like news from the Middle East
that doesn’t really touch me,
a storm must have settled on the slopes above us
for the creek comes up, roaring
as high as I’ve ever seen it,

huge quantities of water race down the mountain
as if furious, in a rage,
ready to sweep all before it,
if I were to fall in,
I would have only moments of life left,

logs sweep down the valley,
large rocks carried along,
we can hear and feel them crashing into stream bed stone,
muffled thuds of sculpting,
the slope steep enough to hurry the anger along,
the bed deep enough to hold the creek away from houses,
the color of the browning torrent shades I’ve never seen before,

how many extreme events do we need to wake us up
to know our actions stir a pot,
and we can’t know for sure what we’ll be served.

by Henry H. Walker
July 24, ‘18

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Laura should live in our moments

Laura Shmania

a ruby-throated hummingbird finds the red bee balm
by the quickly dropping mountain creek,
it visits each fading blossom to savor its gifts
and help it seed the future,

I feel Laura Shmania with me in this revelation,
and I wish she were here with the love and the skill
her camera and soul lived with such a moment,

Laura was of light and revelation,
she joyed in the beauty of a bird, a flower,
a person releasing the best self within,

may we celebrate the hummingbird and the flower,
may we work to echo the wholeness
with which Laura gave herself so fully to life,

may Laura still live in our memory and in our choices,
in the way we look at the world
and joy in the burgeoning rightness that wants to be.

by Henry H. Walker
July 25, ‘18

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Road Prong, the High Way

Road Prong in High Summer

I walk up Road Prong,
the path that follows 
the dancing stream 
down the mountain
and heralds the best way to a gap,
and thus to the other side of the mountain,

every time I walk here, I reach to remember millennia of people,
who, after the Great Ice, found the same way my feet find today,

every moment is new,
yet moments can echo the steps of those before,
I love to feel the continuity
that can pull the past into the present,

every step on this path
calls up a hundred centuries
of our brothers and sisters
blending the practicality of getting from here to there
with the devastating beauty along this high way.

by Henry H. Walker
July 20, ‘18

Sunday, July 22, 2018

"the least of these" and us

Mother and Love

my mother was full of love,
as full of love as any I’ve known,
even as Alzheimer’s cut her pathways
to form thoughts and to reach to others,
her heart still reached out,
particularly if a child were near,
were they being taken care of?
enough food? a place to stay?

she cared for others deeply,
and, as near as I can tell,
she did so without the revelations of empathy,

for me, empathy is how I can project myself
into seeing as another,
into feeling, at least a bit,
how the world reveals itself to them,
as I imagine walking in their shoes,

Mother must have had some kind of work-around,
maybe partly from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount
as she followed his call to care for others
in deed, as well as in heart,
she loved without condition,
all without living in as diverse a world as comes at us now,
all without as easy a feeling of another’s world
as empathy can force upon us,

Mother would be appalled by children forcibly 
separated from parents by a dictatorial government,
she lived a life of rules,
even without empathy, she knew what was right,
how can so many today follow fear and hate 
into denial of what should be so obviously right?

by Henry H. Walker
July 21, ‘18

if given more years

Daddy, drawn up into the mountains

my brother called it “The Walker Curse,”
the way some of us with my father’s genes
are usually hotter than any around us,
a hyper-activity with sweat,

I go for a hike
and I wonder if I should just pour the water onto my clothes,
skip hydrating and thus skip the middle man,

my dad grew up in Low Country, South Carolina,
before air-conditioning,
he said he’d lose three pounds in a football work-out,

he went to college at Furman,
just in sight of the Appalachian’s southern highlands,
and I wonder how much they called him,

he found a way to get to East Tennessee
and to build a  summer cabin in the Smokies,
he’d teach at summer school in Knoxville,
because we needed the income,
when he’d get to where the road left the flat valley,
to where the trees shaded road and river,
he’d roll down the windows
and declare the cool breezes nature’s air-conditioning,
usually he’d pile us into the car,
and we’d go to the Old Swimming Hole,
where he’d soap off the sweat, 
and be cool, finally,

today my wife and I head to that summer cabin,
this time driving from Durham to Charlotte 
to Greenville, S.C., Furman’s home,
we buy a basket of South Carolina peaches, 
we hope fresh from the trees,
and I imagine Daddy, a son of South Carolina, called to leave,
called up into these mountains, along the very way we’re driving,
outside the car, the Confederacy still tries to Iive
in flags and signs, just before the climb toward North Carolina,
the Rebel yell, as if to hold us back,
to pull us back into the pestilential swamp
where my first Walker ancestor made his fortune,
there along the Little Salkehatchie River,
down coast from Charleston,
and with people brutalized into slavery,

there my father grew up,
and the nightmare of the Slave Times pulled at him,
as it still does in the psyche of our peoples,

Daddy died in 1962, before the openness of change
could work on him as well as had 
the openness of mountains rising to the sky,

Daddy loved to learn, to nurture us and his students,
to follow the lead of a partner
who loved the best that called to us,

our drive from Greenville, South Carolina, into the mountains,
reprises my father’s physical journey,
what I do with my life in education honors him, 
reprising him as teacher in my devotion to my students,

how I work to escape nightmares of the past, 

and to follow dreams of the future,
is how I imagine he would be,
if given more years, and thus the chance.

by Henry H. Walker
July 20, ‘18

Saturday, July 21, 2018

life's hard-won harmony

heavy and green

summer lies heavy and green here:

the mountain slopes look all soft and comforting,
full of pleasantly plump round lines,
as if a green snow has buried the edges,

within the forest it can feel as a cathedral
with the eye pulled up to lead the way for the spirit,
with every view a window into a path toward the divine,
from a distance the wooded mountains pull me to them
and then up with them toward the sky,

each leaf disciple to the sun,
jealous of every other leaf,
though, together, they are a choir
which sings the majesty of 
design, intention, life’s hard-won harmony,
that should be appreciated, enjoyed, held sacred.

by Henry H. Walker
July 19, ‘18

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

a school should be audacious

the child is central

I still feel the “calling,”
a charge that we can be so audacious
as to care for the whole child,
as to reinvent ourselves and our curriculum, 
every moment,
and still to maintain the best of ourselves, 
throughout that reinvention,

at our best, 
what we are about is holding,
at the same time,
seeing who exactly each student is, now,
plus seeing how that student 
can come fully into her/his powers,
and, in addition, 
the envisioning of how to use our school
to best serve what the past, the present, the future,
call to us to be for the child,
the child central to it all,

whenever I get too much into routine,
into taking a path more because it’s easy than right,
I work to listen more keenly to the call
for us to be fully there for the students,
whenever I feel we’re off the path,
I hope to help us find our way forward,
to listen to what is right, not just to what is easy,
to resist the conventional unless it’s the better path,
to center the universe around a student,
than around another student,
and thus we live education as “calling.”

by Henry H. Walker
July 16, ‘18

Sunday, July 15, 2018

steps forward versus steps backward

superstition still can rule us

2600 years ago
some Greeks in what is now Turkey
found a way to use their minds as detectives:
faced with a world of mysteries,
they discovered how to think clearly enough
to grasp at answers as to how the world works,
to find the rules, the causes, before the effects,
the causes no longer just capricious gods
whining their way through our world,
thus were born: logic, mathematics, geometry,
excessive irrationality now treated as superstition,
as myth, no longer comforting, instead, obfuscatory,
red herrings that could lead us off the trail to truth,

as I watch hearings in Congress this week,
as I watch our determinedly willful President this week,
I see them as being ruled by fear and obstinate ignorance,
the heirs to the worst the Greeks thought to transcend,
the nightmares that we carry within us from our prehistory,

I hope that we can move forward with more steps
than the steps backward the lesser within us urge,

there is greatness within us,
how tragic it is that we can choose “leaders”
who call us only to the ignorant evil, also within us.

by Henry H. Walker
July 13, ‘18

Love your enemy?

“them” and “us”

“Love your enemy” is a hard command,
for it’s easy to see the other as enemy,
and to feel righteous in dismissing another
as wrong, as opposite, as irredeemable in their flaws,
it’s easy and comfortable to know who we are
because we know we aren’t that other,

what I work on in my soul
is another path to sureness,
a drive for connection,
to see the other as a source for commonality,
to see excessive individuality as a trap,
just as much a trap as excessive “us” opposed to “them,”

I hope for “them” to become “us,”

I know perils exist that can sunder connection,
that hate pulls at us just as much as love does,

I think Jesus wanted to help us be as one,
every time we choose gratuitous acts of kindness,
we choose love over hate,
and Jesus should smile.

by Henry H. Walker
July 9, ‘18

Saturday, July 7, 2018

the bear and I up the hollow

up Grassy Branch

for near two hours I pull myself 
up into the mountains above the cabin,
I push through heat and humidity that force the sweat from me
so that my body is pounds lighter,
though my spirit is pounds lighter, too,

I explore how the woods are recovering from the Great Fire,
much of the trail being swallowed by exuberant new growth,
poison ivy reaches for me at every step,
blackberry vines grab at my arms,
and prick my blood into flowing,
annoying bugs dance before me
and seek to fly into my eyes,
no amount of swatting can keep them away,

after I’ve climbed high up the hollow,
and explored the views and muddy horse trails,

I head back,
as I drop down, I see a great bear
also leaving the higher country,

his path set to intersect mind just where
overgrowth increases the chance I will surprise him,
a possibility his size and history make concerning,
this is a large bear, coming down from a sheltered hollow
my wife and I explored in the winter,
noting pile after pile of scat along the way,
and a large log, high up the hollow,
full of a bear’s scratches,
Scratch Log Hollow, I name it,
the scratches, maybe art? that’s what I’d like,
maybe assertion of self, that seems more right,

I sing to the woods, “Morning has broken. . . “
to let him know I’m around, 
my heart beats faster,
for he could easily make me into a meal,
that truth, that we humans might not be in charge,
shakes me at my foundations,
and I still love these moments.

by Henry H. Walker
July 2, ‘18

Friday, July 6, 2018

A.I. and us

intelligence, artificial? absent?

what profiteth a species
to have the answer to a billion questions,
readily available,
but not the means to know how to ask the right questions?
and the desire to do so?

accumulating knowledge does not coalesce wisdom
from out of the mountains of facts,
we people can still be ignorant, and stupid,
if we pick and choose what to notice and what to ignore,
gigabytes within Wikipedia do us no good unless we access them,

we are fascinated by artificial intelligence,
the way our tools will not just implement directions,
but be able to make decisions themselves,
to be able, amidst a cascade of possibilities,
to see a better path, and choose it,
I wonder how much A.I. intrigues us
because we know, deep down, 
how little we use our own intelligence to make our decisions,
and instead rely on the prime directive from our emotions,
our limbic system in charge, not just in advisory capacity,

I teach middle school,
and every year I watch the empowerment of the mind 
come into its power,
while the hormones course
and Mr. Hyde supplants Dr. Jekyll,

as a species, we need to use our mind 
even to make sense of our emotions,
so that can listen to the advice of the heart
to help steer us in service to the greater good,
the heart without the mind is just as fallible
as the mind without the heart,

somehow we need to program ourselves,
to build upon the surety of our awareness of self
so that the prison that can be the ego can find the open air,
where the best that is possible
shows itself to us as a shining light
that can lead us to the hill where the light will not be hid.

by Henry H. Walker
July 1, ‘18