Monday, August 19, 2019

echoes from his brilliance

I miss what was

I don’t like how it feels:
a fellow teacher’s classroom,
the materials for his teaching,
the ways, the things, 
with which he surrounded himself,
laid bare and needing to be removed,
what to save?
what to reuse?
what to throw away?
every decision momentous, and as nothing,

the world in his classroom
was one I only glimpsed,
I appreciated the artistry he lived within the classroom,
for I witnessed the kids’ joy in learning,
the kids’ coming into their power,
because of the teacher he was,
because of the love he freely gave,
even in the outrageous teasing he could do,

without him in this classroom,
all the things only echo from the world he created,

time has passed, 
the world has changed,
I miss what was,
and I sorrow.

by Henry H. Walker
August 16, ‘19

Sunday, August 18, 2019

of the clerk and the stairs

Who Am I?

who am I?
am I a conglomeration of selves,
different manifestations within me,
built variably because of 
changing developmental levels and experiences?
that way who I am today is a committee,
with my current self a clerk of a meeting,
sort of in charge but only one voice among many,

I prefer to think of myself as on a spiral staircase,
with different views at the different levels,
each view right and accurate, just different,
each view “me,”
kind of like that old story of the elephant
being viewed by blind people
who only can experience a part at a time,
I am the elephant,
and at each age I know an aspect of who I am,
as the elephant, I don’t change much,
but my viewpoint of myself does change,

maybe someday I can hold all of myself at once.

by Henry H. Walker
August 16, ‘19

being in a snit

emotionally hijacked!

emotions can hijack,
particularly fear,
particularly anger,
and rationality goes out the window,
our troubled self huddles, 
as if cold,
next to the flame
of our pain,
of our hurt,
of our indignation,

it perversely feels good to sulk,
to be in a snit,
to feel aggrieved,

not just airplane cockpits
need protection from hijacking.

by Henry H. Walker
August 16, ‘19

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

the Cherokee, and these mountains

revelation from the native

how hard it is to know one’s self,
how much harder it is to know another,
and these days I push possibility
and reach my heart to know the native peoples better,
particularly the Cherokee,
those cousins who knew this continent 
millennia before my ancestors moved in
within the last 400 years,

my direct ancestors felt a call
to subdue the woods, the animals, the land,
they felt a charge to be master:
the world, and sometimes even people,
just things that were disposable,
servants to be used
with no empathic leap into their own reality,
not into the people, the animals, the plants, that we enslaved,

the Cherokee were dominant
throughout the mountains of south-east North America:
they hunted, they gathered, they fought, they loved,
they also found a way to be gentler upon the land
than the European folks who pushed them out,
the Cherokee farmed and asserted their will,
they chose to be Christian,
to develop their own writing, 
to play by the rules of the new country,
some even having slaves, 
since that was the way the new neighbors lived,
and they still lost the land,

I am working hard to know how they were 
with land, with animals, with plants,
with themselves as part of the larger whole,
Adam and Eve still in Eden,
in Eden enough to glorify God,
even after the temptation of the apple,
 to know the Snake and themselves,
and work to balance it all,

I savor the mountains in the Smokies named for animals:
Bullhead Mountain, named for the bison bull,
who somehow was in the mountain, was the mountain,

two uplifts of Anakeesta slate,
called the Chimneys by English settlers,
the antlers of a great deer in repose to the Cherokee,

the Great Fire roared through these mountains near 3 years ago,
and especially stripped rocky ridges of trees,
now the heath green them again, 
close to how the Cherokee told 
of dragons landing on them
and their fire burning off the trees,
creating balds of grass and heath,

I love revelation, whether from “just the facts” science,
or from religion delving deep, particularly into “why,”
Native Peoples, such as the Cherokee,
lived a revelation our disposable society needs to hear,
before the dragons land,
and the world finds a new shape without us.

by Henry H. Walker
August 12, ‘19

Saturday, August 10, 2019

the Cherokee, the bison, the mountain, and us

Bullhead Mountain

for 3 miles from the trailhead,
up 2 ½ miles of climb,
we pull ourselves inexorably forward
through sweat and tricky footing,
to the top of Bullhead Mountain,
named for the bison bull 
who frequented this area
while the Native Americans lived here,
in that haze-swirled time
before land was staked and claimed,
and broken into submission,
by too many people on too little land,

the clarity of the Native vision
of animal and land, as us, as one,
is particularly striking here,
so my son and I used a manipulated photo
to reach toward what a Cherokee saw here,

the bison within the very mountain,
the trail climbs up to the bison,
and then zigzags up its right face,
then saunters along his flat top,

the Great Fire roared and raced over this mountain, 2½ years ago,
demanding the death of countless standing trees,


scouring the rocks of lichen,
whitening the gray sandstone,

the forest was prepared for the challenge:
tree and bush now erupt from their roots to reclaim the sun,
seed that lay dormant awoke.
and the first few feet above the blackened soil
erupt toward the sky as Gaia wastes no time 
in reclaiming the land with heath and tree,
with whatever diversity of flora can claim land and sun,

our aging bodies feel each hard-won step,
and our souls glory in every great and small treasure
the mountain reveals around each bend of the trail,

as we descend the mountain,

a pileated woodpecker raucously calls to us,
yellow-fringed orchis, 

smooth gerardia, 

and pink Indian pipe
softly call to us, too.

by Henry H. Walker
August 8, ‘19

Friday, August 9, 2019

growing-up, harder and harder

our kids, and challenges

the kids I teach
can be privileged with race and money,
and, at the same time, be disadvantaged
by challenges in being different in how they learn,
in how gender troubles their sureness,
in the conflict of coming into their power of understanding,
while at the same time feeling the despair that can permeate them,
as they realize how the adults in charge of the country
are not mature enough to lead us
into the hard choices we need to make,

our country defines itself as devoted to freedom,
but it is more freedom “from” than freedom “to,”
freedom from growing-up 
rather than freedom to choose the way forward,

how hard it must be to hit adolescence,
to feel centered on self and desires,
and instead of being led by Washington,
to have our “leaders” to be marionettes 
controlled by the strings of money,
and fiddling while Rome burns.

by Henry H. Walker
August 7, ‘19

moving toward rightness

to open the lock into truth

much of life seems 
a desperate attempt to get the code
that opens the lock
into the rightness that we seek,

we get seduced away from the search
by the glitter of others’ opinions,
by the gratification of our senses,
by getting enough of the numbers right
that we pause our effort,
since we feel on the verge of success,

I look at others,
and I feel how much they seem to have gotten it right,
and then I feel that the final numbers aren’t quite there,

we have to act with our life, our decision,
before we can feel any sureness,

we have to move forward,
despite the darkness and doubt that beset us,

we have to act with the numbers
that reveal themselves to us,
we have to hope that we move forward, 
and with rightness.

by Henry H. Walker
August 6, ‘19

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Decades of a Grand Effort

A Last Hurrah

for decades I have been called,
and I have responded, fully,
to the opening of an opportunity,
6000+ feet high up on the mountain,
a place deep inside the national park,
where all have to pay a price of hiking hard to get there,
using young and old muscles, and will,
to gain thousands of feet of elevation,
with tens of thousands of hard-worn steps,
most of us carrying a pack so that we have
—a change (or three) of clothes,
—a flashlight,
—food and treats,

along the mile-long summit,
the mountain falls off to the west,
so that we can be there for sunset,
the mountain falls off to the east,
so that we can be there for sunrise,

my mother would stand in line in the fall
and get us reservations at Mt. LeConte Lodge,
for close family, then close friends,
the powers-that-be helped us keep them from year to year,
by letting us repeat our stay
the same Saturday each summer:
42 spots, out of the 60 or so available,

like just being alive, 
I felt a sacred charge to use our time well,
to view our comfortable stay at the top 
of the fourth highest mountain east of the Rockies,
as a privilege,
any who blithely discarded their opening to the experience,
not invited back,
any who chose to not consider the effort 
to go to sunrise and sunset as worth their time,
not invited back, usually,
any who chose to be only with the closest of their tribe,
not invited back, usually,

for, to me, LeConte is all about openness,
openness to the effort, to the rock, 
to the flora, to the fauna, to the sky,
to the other, whether in person or in nature,

I sought those open to the best within their selves,
the parts within that need to be eldered
by that which is wild,
by that which is beautiful,
by that which can help us grow up
to not be the whiny child within,
but instead to be the child who comes unto glory,
into the kingdom that is heaven,

my time of pulling off this grand experience is over,
I have retired from the coordination, the logistics, the cooking,
from waking folks up at 5:00 a.m. with Nancy Griffith’s
“The finest hour I have seen, is the one that comes between,
the edge of night, and the break of day,
that’s when the darkness rolls away. . .”
or, for humor, the “little birdie” song,
or some variation of “On top of Ole Smoky,”
I have retired from singing “Morning has broken” at sunrise, to the group,
and reciting Native American prayers of sunrise and sunset to lead others,

as I walked back form sunrise this August,
I paused along the ridge-line
and lovingly touched an ancient balsam fir,
appreciating the beauty in its endurance,
the whole of which it is a part,
and that we are, too,

I saw a deer browsing near the Lodge,
and I sang to it with 
“praise for the morning, praise for the singing,
praise for them springing fresh from the Word,”

I hope through my last breath
to praise “God’s recreation of the new day.”

by Henry H. Walker
August 6, ‘19

The Mountain, and Community

Mount LeConte and Us

for decades we have pulled together
a wonderfully engaging shifting group of folks

to center our selves upon one of the great mountains of the East,
to share Mt. LeConte and its Lodge,
its sunset, with fine chocolates, 
remembering and honoring my brother Clarence,

its sunrise, with hot cocoa, coffee, tea, and the respect of silence,
the mountain distinct, running east to west,
with rock promontories at each end
that serve as podiums from which the day closes,
and then opens again,

the spruce-fir forest along its top nearly old growth,

the Cherokee for generations hunted and savored its slopes,
and knew it keenly through the richness of their mythology,
part of it containing a bison bull,
and upon it a great story of a Cherokee hero on a mighty quest,
Walasiyi, the Cherokee called it,
the abode of a great green frog,
we welcome our group to the Cabin,
a homely house hard by a creek of and from the mountain,

a celebratory meal after the hike based on my mother’s vision:
chicken salad, hot angel biscuits, marinated carrots, 
summer transparency applesauce, ham, 
pound cake, Southern chocolate sheet cake, and more,

meals before the hike: lasagna, salad, and fruit,
breakfast casserole and sausage,

treats for trail lunches: sandwiches, bbq pork-filled buns,
Aunt Lavece’s rolls stuffed with baked Tennessee country ham, cinnamon rolls,

all the food and treats to support and complement
the wonder that is Mt LeConte, Walasiyi,
and the wonder that can be the people
discovering the mountain, themselves, and each other.

by Henry H. Walker
August 3, ‘19

Monday, August 5, 2019

way up, north?

terrain and compass argue

I have grown up on the lower slopes 
of a great mountain in the Smokies,
Mt. LeConte, hard by a dropping creek 
that drains a major portion of the mountain,
the compass says the mountain is to our south,
but my senses of place think “up’ must be north,
the cool winds that regularly fall down the mountain
don’t fit the idea of “warm and soothing” 
that I would expect from the south,

weather often comes from down and to the left of our cabin,
and it’s hard for me to imagine Canada down from me,

I know that a measurement of whether I’m still “with it”
is if I know where I am as to year, month and day,
“Who is the President?”
in all such reckoning
who I am exists within relationship,

how troubling it is to my sense of self
that the cardinal points here are so inverted
compared to the rise and fall of the world around me.

by Henry H. Walker
July 27, ‘19