Volume 3, Number 2

From the desk of Jeanne Murray Walker

Vol 3.  Number 2

For a signed, personalized copy of Jeanne’s books, email jwalker@udel.edu.

For Jeanne’s news see www.JeanneMurrayWalker.com

         What I Learned In Alaska

Another shooting spree, violent lack of trust between citizens and police, an election campaign marked by lies and incivility–turn on the news and witness the horror, 24/7.  It’s corroding friendships, dividing families. It’s waking many of us up at night.  Because suddenly everything seems upside down, unpredictable, catastrophic.  Who can bring order out of this chaos?  In November we will go to the polls to elect a new leader of the free world.  A crucial choice.

Indeed, I wonder what could be more significant?  The fact that several of my friends are dying this fall?  The fact that the day I post this will be the hundredth anniversary of my mother’s death?  Or that sunlight is falling like bars of gold onto the maple in our back yard as I write to you?

I’m looking for some perspective, some escape from gun violence, from a political drama so relentless that if it could, it would imprint itself on the sky and trees and rocks.  I’m looking for relief precisely so I can put things in perspective and maybe in some way help.

Early in September, I was lucky enough (call it blessed) to teach for 10 days in Alaska bush country, most of the days at a fish camp on Harvester Island.  No phone, no radio, no airstrip, no ads, no flush toilets.  I walked under arthritic-looking, gale-battered trees.  I stood above the ocean in a field of grass cowlicked by the wind. I followed the flower of my flashlight down a rough path at 2 a.m. to the outhouse.  I pulled on a fleece against the cold, read poetry, and talked with women and men who had gathered from all parts of the globe to do precisely that.  Writers.  We were quiet together.

What did I learn?  I learned to see God’s creation again.  I learned to wake up remembering that this day will not return.  It’s mine to notice, pay attention to, now or never.  I learned to detach from the addictive news cycle and from election politics long enough every day to watch the great death-defying act of trees unfolding in this very fall, as they head into winter.  I look up and see leaves crying out their colors (red! purple! yellow!) like vendors about to go out of business.  To intentionally make space for paying attention to the moment has freed me, at least for a while, to see more clearly that I have power–at least enough power to change the place where I live. Yesterday I signed up to help distribute food at a local food cupboard.


Sunlight is breaking into colors around me
like a catastrophe I can neither
shake nor explain–
how the sun’s gold finger
dusts the tops of maples.
How the maples’ articulate roots
wrestle wtih dumb earth.
How our houses, breaking free of foliage,
stare candidly at one another’s
naked bodies.  Time washes all the bridges
out, dismembers the maples.
Our days expire like
theirs.  We check and recheck
our watches and pay costly tickets
anyway.  Yet look
what a little thing can defeat time.
I made this from bits of salvage–
my own breath
and a few second-hand words.

From the Reviews

“I marvel at the wholeness of Walker’s vision, and how it pits the illumination of insight against the mystery of eternity.”  Elaine Terranova

“Her words gleam in the eye, nestle in the ear, take root in the rich dirt of the heart.” Luci Shaw

“Walker’s gift is her willingness, no matter how many times she has seen the sun come up, to regard each time as a fresh beginning.”   Mark Jarman

 If you have time and the inclination, leave a review of HELPING THE MORNING
on Amazon.  Here’s a link:  http://amzn.to/2cJ7iDp


I’ve just finished reading The Lightning Thief with Sophia, my oldest grandchild.  She tells me it’s the most famous kids novel in the world right now.  We’ve been texting one another about it.  I’ve also been dipping into Jane Hirschfield’s Beauty and I’ve just finished Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.  I always look forward to hearing what you’re reading–which often, then I, too, read.

What will you find if you open The Geography of Memory?  An excerpt:

My heavy navy blue 10th grade world history book left a big black hole between the end of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Early Modern Period.  For a test, I had to memorize the fact that this dark space existed before the Italian Renaissance.  Then in graduate school I discovered that after the Dark Ages were over, Petrarch went around telling people that they were lucky to be living at the beginning of a renaissance. He’s the one who named the Long Forgetting that preceded the 1300’s “the Dark Ages,” thereby making it tangible and significant. It’s no longer politically correct to call any historical period “the Dark Ages,” because the metaphor of darkness implies that nothing went on.  Plenty went on, as anyone who thinks about it will realize.  People were born and they died.  Rulers rose and fell.  The crop either fed the children or it didn’t.  It’s just that during the Dark Ages, fewer scribes and historians wrote down the details of what was happening.  History has everything to do with memory.  If we don’t write down what we’ve witnessed, we will forget it and then lose it entirely.  We will be encouraging a new Dark Ages.  I am trying to record in these pages what I witnessed.

To pick up a copy of HELPING THE MORNING;  NEW AND SELECTED POEMS go to http://bit.ly/1412FzV.   You can find THE GEOGRAPHY OF MEMORY at http://amzn.to/1X133qG
Thanks for reading!  Questions or comments? Email me at jwalker@udel.edu