Friday, April 24, 2020

the cost of a meal

Earth Day ’20

I sneak a peak into the bird house
to see how the baby bluebirds are doing
finishing their first week,

for the third time in the last two decades
a coiled-up black snake meets my eyes,

it’s a cold morning and a cold truth,

mid-day the head appears,

later the body slowly slithers out,
at some time it leaves the scene of the meal,
taking its time to not make itself too obvious
to our aggressive red-shouldered hawk,
who seems to love to eat snakes,
and hunts often here,
a few years ago one of my students
got bitten by a copperhead nearer our house,
the black snake likes to eat copperheads, too,

the bluebirds eat the insects,
the black snake eats the bluebirds,
how elegant it would have been 
for the hawk to eat the snake,

completing a loop.

by Henry H. Walker
April 22, ‘20

Thursday, April 23, 2020

the finite of the pie

Squirrels As Cautionary Tale

squirrels are a cautionary tale about population control,

my cherry trees bear fruit,
only for the squirrels,
who ravage the potential harvest,
before the fruit is fully ripe,

squirrels are ravenous, always,
whatever can be eaten, up on a tree,
anywhere on the ground,
they claim as theirs,
and use the bounty to make more of themselves,
who add to the desperation all of them feel,

our squirrel-proof bird feeder must frustrate them, mightily,

squirrels, like humans, are slaves to their DNA,
as each of us succumbs to the drive to make more of us,
despite the limits the finite of the pie demands,

I planted a Chinese chestnut tree in the mountains,
for the tragedy of the extinction of this bountiful food source
moved me over a half-century ago to plant a chestnut immune to the blight,
so as to fight a rear guard action against the extinction,
a few years ago a mother black bear found the tree, full of nuts,
and broke a quarter of its branches 
so they’d fall to the ground for her cubs,
the bear is not nobler than us,
it just doesn’t have bulldozers,
any of the mechanization we humans use to enforce our will,

the squirrels are tyrants on our homestead,

they should remind us to share the bounty,

for we should be able to rise above
the driving imperative of propagating our genes in the short-term,
and realize that propagation in the long term
demands we curb the ravenous within us.

by Henry H. Walker
April 22, ‘20

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

all of the sides

the regeneration of Spring

boys have often been counseled to distance self from mother,
as if maleness is too fragile to handle too much of the maternal,

I work to pull together all sides of myself to make a whole,

I beware specialization, as warned in the old tale
in which a blind person can understand a part of the elephant,
I want to know as many parts as I can,
so as to reach toward the whole
which glimmers beyond the shadows that cloud our sight,

so I am with nature,
I want to see and feel all of her sides,
Mother Earth, the first god to the Greeks,
Uranus, the Sky, the second, the male principle
who did not readily share dominion with Gaia,

we distance ourselves from Gaia at our own peril:
I savor meditations from Native American traditions,
admonitions that seek to remind us to be apprentice to the master,
for Earth to teach us, and for us to learn,

I like to be there, and still,
as darkness slowly, subtly lightens into dawn,

as Spring even more slowly and subtly
starts with the lines of trees, bare fingers of lined form,

and, over days and weeks, drapes leaves upon them,
until green waves billow the forest,

I cannot avoid the ubiquitous cascades 
of pollen from pine and oak,
a gold dusting upon everything,

I do not want to avoid the flower revolution
of redbud, dogwood, and cherry in our yard,

plus all the bushes and flowers that open my heart,

most Springs I am so busy with the work of school,
the world inside the right angles of our walls and thoughts,
within which I can watch and help the clay of students
shape itself into newness and power,
I am so busy answering the calling of that work
that the world transforms itself from Winter to Spring,
without my being there to notice, 
and to appreciate,
each revelatory moment,

this year I am far more here at home,
far more often present in moments outside,
with distance learning on the screen inside, through the internet,
and happening in homes scattered about this section of the piedmont,

I miss the proximity to my students,
but I love how close I am 
to the heartening transformation all about me here,

the bluebirds have found the box I made and fixed for them,
they have gathered pine straw into the nurturing cup of a nest,
within which four blue eggs have opened into four gaping, hungry mouths,
the male bluebird alights in the nearby blooming cherry tree,
and watches over the area, the female bluebird flits into the nest,
then both find insects to feed the young,
working hard to keep the genes going,

our own kids and grandkids are also thriving,
though physically far away from us and our care,
my wife makes sugar cookies to send to them,
as a concrete expression of our love,
and the sureness we feel of our connection,

the oak tree above me waves a fulsome green,
as the last clear beams of the setting sun
work with the factories in the leaves to hold what it can of now,
and live fully the regeneration that Spring races to give the Earth.

by Henry H. Walker
April 18, ‘20

Friday, April 17, 2020

worth my salt?

of piles and lists

seems to me
that life involves piles of things that need to be sorted,

lists of things that need to be done,

now I have time and space
to get to neglected piles and lists,

it takes a lot of energy to sort,
to decide the relative values of what is together:
what’s trash? what should be recycled?
what needs to be filed away?
what needs to be dealt with now?

I have to get in the right mood, 
the right frame of mind,
and find the oomph to organize,
to decide what needs to be embraced,
what needs to be discarded,
what projects inside and outside 
call loudly enough to get attention,
which ones still need 
a longer timeline for resolution,

it’s fun to get to the cooking that calls me,
it feels good to get to the chores that can weigh on me,
I even include books and videos 
that weigh on me to get to them,

life seems to me to need justification,
a sense of paying for the privilege
with the penance of making a difference,
the piles reduce,
the lists diminish,
and I hope I am worth my salt.

by Henry H. Walker
April 15, ‘20

Sunday, April 12, 2020

the stress test of the virus

a reboot?

we as a species need to reboot,
too many glitches in our operating system,
a shut-down,
a retreat,
a distancing,
so that we can ground ourselves
in home, in family, in nature,
and, sadly, in the despair
that societal choices have created in health care, in pay,,
and that personal choices have unleashed with self-indulgence,
and a denial of our better selves,

too many of us have lived paycheck to paycheck,
with little wiggle room,
like the “brilliant” supply-side innovation
of minimal inventory and restocking only on demand,
I like to buy necessities to have them readily available
when the unforeseen reveals itself,
financial advisors caution to have 6-8 months worth of cash
readily available, just in case,
but in the perverse cruelty that masks as unbridled capitalism,
workers are paid as little as possible,
just as Karl Marx described,
while the owners and the big bosses make out like bandits,
which they are, just as Marx described,

health care in the U.S. as uneven as wages,
not enough safety net of government ensuring coverage, services,

in this last week oil company executives visit the White House
and get tested freely for Covid 19,
while those in the front lines often can’t get tested,
or have the right protective gear,

this virus is a stress test for our economic, political, and social systems,
this virus is also a stress test for our individual psyches,

for those of us fortunate enough
to have access to trees and grass and flowering spring,
to have access to gardens and growing,
we can reboot in spring
just as the natural reboots,

we can seek to flower anew
and bear fruit with our lives
as the wan can open anew,

I fear for the less fortunate,
whether from their own mistakes or from societal failures,

we are all in this together,
and I want to know others as myself, too.

by Henry H. Walker
April 12, ‘20