Sunday, January 14, 2018

a lament

the music of the heart strings

“At Staff Retreat we wrestled with weighty issues during the day.
At night we danced to the music of our fellow staff’s heart strings.”

Carly eloquently spoke up with this lament
about the loss she feels
as change as moved us away from connections
among staff at an annual retreat away from home,

how vital it is to know the other,
to share unscripted time,
to laugh, to tell tales,
to move to the music each creates,
with instrument, with voice,
with our lives,
as each takes what the spirit has given us,
and sings the songs of our selves
with who we are and what we do.

by Henry H. Walker
January 10, ‘18

Friday, January 12, 2018

the culture shouts!


what gives us worth?

what a challenge it is in our competitive world
to resist judging ourselves by comparing to others,
how seductive it is to compare quantities:
the size of our houses,
the fanciness of our cars,
the size of our paychecks,

in sports when one team plays another,
the result is zero sum:
plus 1 for the winner, minus 1 for the loser,
and that makes zero,
how much worse it is when the numbers
are a hundred, a thousand, a million,
do we need to feel better than the others
to feel good about ourselves?

our culture shouts at us
that whoever has more money is better, happier,
that money, income, differentiates among us as to worth,

when we are closer to the edge,
the level of  our monetary resources can be determinative,
if we are comfortable, even if not indulged, 
than we should feel our value otherwise,
such as in how what we do
matters to those we care about,
in the impact of our lives upon the lives of others
we learn to care about,

in Christianity, many believe that St. Peter
will meet us after we die and judge our lives,
I doubt how impressed he will be with our paycheck,

when I’m slipping away at the end of my story,
I hope I will find the worth of my life
in how much the world is better
because of how I lived.

by Henry H. Walker

January 11, ‘18

Thursday, January 4, 2018

the terraced steps fit the land

an elegant solution

never does a project
go easier, faster, surer,
than my expectations—
at least until now,

the footing of the way
from the cabin porch steps
to the flat near the creek
has increasingly disturbed
my sense of rightness,
exposed root and rock
all almost designed to impede, to trip,

in the last few years,
I have imagined solutions of rock or wood,
the rock has scared me with its weight and unwieldiness,
the wood with the brusque heaviness of its engineering,

an old broken-down redwood bench offered a slat to me,
and it was already but feet away,
I only had a handsaw,
but with two cuts I had a wall,
and two stops to pound into the ground,
and within a few minutes I had the retaining wall,
and within another few minutes 
I had the leveling earth behind it,
I needed one more level,
so the next day I studied the slope,
and I found a smaller rock,
sticking out from under a bedded boulder,
a few minutes of shovel and mattock work
and it was out,
as I started to lift and flip it away,
I noticed how flat a surface it had,
a few minutes more work,
and it was anchored—
one side under the boulder
and the other side chocked with root and rock,
and more dirt around it,

the two terraced steps fitting 
into the land with a graceful simplicity,

would that all our works wedded so well
our vision with what fits upon the earth.

by Henry H. Walker
December 28, ‘17

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

a new developmental level

Max turns five

in my photography
I have long felt an ability
to look at a person’s eyes
and often see when the reality
of the person looks back,
the guard lets down for a moment,
and I take the picture,

children can take a long time
to let you see the truth
behind the curtain,
behind the mask,
this Christmas, as our grandson turned five,
he seemed to reach a new developmental level,
and I encountered less of the contrary,
less of the pose,
less of the guarded,
the delightful sweet person,
the loving, gifted young man
shared himself to me at times,

I felt like applauding the revelation
that is birthing itself within who he really is:

Max loves books, stories, the imagination,
Star Wars engulfs him, with light sabers and strong characters,
just as much Legos allow him to create ships and stories
whose worlds absorb him,
he loves to reveal and carefully fix the Lego ships,
trucks and small cars complete the troika of toys
within whose worlds he is master,

the social world still takes effort from him, 
as the contrary and the private still have power,

I love how much he is becoming master of them, too.

by Henry H. Walker
December 28, ‘17

Sunday, December 31, 2017

the Performing Arts Center comes

a vehicle for the many to become one

across the creek,
light expectantly spills out of the 8 vertical windows
of the shell of the new C.F.S. Performing Arts Building,
construction slowly transforms concrete slab and block
toward the intimate, comfortable structure of the auditorium, 
within which the art of our dance and drama
can create an extended wholeness of experience
that feels alive to me,
George Fox could see that of God in everyone
and, in performance, 
I see it join with that same essence within others,
and a light kindles and flares,
the light within the shells of those windows,
like the coals of a fire,
ready to flare when new wood
 releases itself into a blaze,

within our current performing space, the Center Building,
our alums maintain a tradition of coming together
as Winter Solstice and Christmas reach toward the New Year,
they use their talents to create a performance:
today it is a take on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,”
a reimagining of the story,
starting with poverty as the reality of Charlie and his family,
at least in terms of food and money,
with poverty the reality of Willy Wonka’s soul,
a man obsessed with his own importance
and with how the kids on the tour are, to him,
existing only in how he can use their ideas to make money,
despite who might need to be sacrificed, forgotten,

in this version of the story,
Charlie’s father and a former coworker
commingle their ideas and create products
that work and make money for them,
the collective working better than the individualistic,

I enjoyed the use of dance as transformative,
a vehicle for two, for three, to become one,
the actors impressive in their virtuosity, 

two weeks ago a bridge already spanned the creek
between the new Performing Arts Center and the Center Building,
but there was no way to walk to it on this side of the creek,
while we’ve been gone, earth has been moved and shaped
into a pleasantly curved, inviting path
that connects what is to what will be,

the light in the windows across the creek promises of a future,
the light on the stage in the Center Building tonight reminds us
that every moment can be kindled and blaze bright.

by Henry H. Walker
December 30, ‘17

the tool reshapes the world, and the user

the smart phone versus the "lizard brain"

in only tens of thousands of years,
humans have physically adapted to different environments
by changing the pigment of the skin,
and the size of the body,
to fit what climate and sun require,

in even fewer of those tens of thousands of years,
humans have psychically adapted 
to what change has demanded,
figuring out how to manipulate
a small grass into hearty ears of corn,
rocks into tools and other rocks into metal for tools,
domesticating animals into servants and food,

when population outpaced 
what gathering and hunting could provide,
we evolved ourselves into agriculture and cities,
the need for inventory and marketing
led to writing and numbers:
abstract symbols that described concrete reality,
and changed the reality of how our brains were organized,
so that the tool shaped not only the outer world
but our inner world,
unconsciously we reprogrammed ourselves,
and we’re still at it,
creating a future self with the Internet and smart phones:
a brave new world,

if our lesser instinctual selves, 
the limbic system underneath our rationality,
don’t doom us before we can get there.

by Henry H. Walker
December 24, ’17

Thursday, December 28, 2017

fungus like the char-broiled

a fungus world

the fungus surprises me
as it works it will upon the woods,
upon the trunks toppled in last spring’s wind storms,
and upon standing trunks only partly consumed
by the Great Fire late last fall,

I am intrigued by trees that still seem alive,
but charred their first feet from the ground,
and, in that black char, fungus colonizes and erupts,
often in spectacularly beautiful shape,

I wonder if the mycelia will consume only dead wood,
like maggots were used in earlier times
to get rid of infested flesh
and leave healthy flesh alone,

some large pines have exuded sticky sap in the char,
and I wonder why,

for now, the fungus is a wonder.

by Henry H. Walker
December 24, ’17