Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Enlarge the Self

I watch a lot of political talking head shows. In early February, I saw Newt Gingrich on George Stephanopoulos' Sunday show. When Newt talked of conflict between Republicans and Democrats, he had a big smile as if battle were everything to him, that he cared nothing about moving forward, that he cared everything about conflict being the greatest good. I found it shocking, discouraging, and too reminiscent of Karl Rovian politics, which I continue to hope we can evolve past. As I consider my wonderful grandchildren and think of their future and the future that can follow them, I wish for leaders more like the Founders than the buffoons who so often push themselves forward in Washington. In Obama, I think we finally have someone who calls up the genius that founded our country, preserved it, and led us to be as a city on a hill.

our grandchildren’s grandchildren

our desires can define and rule us,
and the better qualities of our natures
can so easily yield to the lesser,
for its rewards are quick and feel strong:
the extra helping, the put down, the pout,
the self-indulgence as we reduce to the infantile,

and we seem to feel higher when we push someone else down,

too often our Presidents have led us away from greatness of self
into greed as the highest virtue,
and that noble party that called for us
to pay our bills,

to free slaves and masters from slavery,

to preserve wild lands as parks,

to conserve that which is best and should endure,

that party has reduced itself to appeal only to the lesser--

to fears, to the love of money,

and it has forgotten to love and consider
our grandchildren’s grandchildren,

and when our President acts the unaware buffoon,
we can hear that that’s all we can be, too,

now we have a President awake to his better self,
and we can model that and enlarge our sense of who we are,
of how much and how many we consider
when we choose how to be and how to act,

the greatness call us
and let us do our best to answer.

by Henry Walker
February 15, ‘09

February in the Piedmont

still fresh and new

February dawns bright and cold in the piedmont
and the first crocus come out as the day warms well,
but for the pine and the cedar
the trees look like they have forgotten summer,

each bud tightly closed
as if the tree can’t stay and keeps its luggage locked,
while we’ve huddled inside the last six weeks
the days have slowly grown longer,
the last few weeks, when the wind’s been up,
poplar seed after seed has twirled down,

I don’t yet feel Spring coming, though it is,
I don’t yet feel my own passing away, though it is,

logic tells me that each decade now is a withdrawal
from an account which can run out anytime,

yet each season that comes still feels fresh and new to me,
each day in the classroom still exciting,
each student special, each journey unique,

while I am still gifted with each new day
and gifted with the heart to care,
the creativity for poem and photo,
the ability to see the other,
and the openness to say it so,
to see the connections and to build them, too,

I joy that I am, that we are,
and that the bud can open,
the miracle can reveal.

by Henry Walker
February 3, ‘09

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Music Man

Last weekend we presented The Music Man. Three sold-out performances, standing ovations. The kids were radiant. Here's what I wrote about it all:

The Music Man

it can often feel that a play exists in performance:
those few minutes on stage,
the dream at the top after you climb the mountain,
and those minutes there are joyously right,
yet we spend much more time on the journey than we have at the end,
and the process is more of us than the product,

during the show I am easily moved to tears
just as when I consider the flower
I feel the spirit who infuses it
and I touch upon seed, root, shoot,
the waiting for the rain,
the reaching for the sun,
the integrity of the self that works hard to manifest sure,

so I consider the show in its entirety:
the choosing of the vehicle,
the auditions as risk is ventured,
the choosing of the cast, making one with many,
the rehearsals, the memorizing,
all the fights to stay focused,
all the vision given from without
and given from within,
the personal and the social as self enlarges,
in character, in line, in song, in movement, in costume, in relationship,
within the womb of lights, of sets and props,
of an audience who believes,
and we come out of a closed individuality
into an openness which lets each light shine bright
and pulls each to join the others until a grandness builds,
as the spectrum complicates, simplifies, and then kaleidoscopes,

the show opens, the lights come up,
and all are dazzled,
laughs and applause bubble out of the audience,
a complete immersion,
and we believe the story real,
the bubble holds us,

when the lights accidentally go down in one scene,
each of us just suspends time and reality till they come back up
and we eagerly believe again,
the audience both appreciates the virtuosity of performance
and lets the virtuosity suspend disbelief
and we lose ourselves in the story,
as the partial works to be whole, as doubt works to believe,
as the cynical finds a connection
and then can choose to be together
and thus resist being alone, forgotten,

after the last show something is over:
we leave the mountain top,
but we remember and are so much better
for the wholeness of the journey,
we are not just of the present:
we are of every moment we have lived,
each moment makes us who we are.

by Henry Walker
February, ‘09

Monday, February 9, 2009

giving enough time

“wait till they can tie the shoe. . .”

you’ve got to wait, to give the kid time,
no matter how much of a hurry you feel yourself in,
I know the learning by doing cuts the time to double, to triple. . .
yet it’s the doing that is a real learning,
especially when it’s a doing the doer owns,
when one orders one’s inner self
so that your actions upon the outer world
can be ordered and the orders carried out,
and the individual transforms himself, herself,

school at its best resists the metaphor
of learner as empty vessel
into which knowledge is poured,
or learner as someone to be trained,
the forcing of action, and repetition of action,
until what we want becomes second nature to the student,
though such training can be vital
in fire drills, manners, and the times table,

at the highest level of learning
the student empowers his and her own self
to marshal will and resources
so that each victory over inability builds on the previous
and each who can be passive
realizes how far, how high, how deep, how wide
one can reach if but believed in, if given the time,

when the learned teacher reminded me to wait till they tie the shoe,
I recognized hers was a most basic truth of teaching at its best,

and she described the student looking up after doing it
with a face that glowed
as the light within could not be held back.

by Henry Walker, inspired by Kathy Schenley
February 3, ‘09