Sunday, April 26, 2009

eldered by nature and friend

a follow-up to life=tension

spring is of beginnings, and endings

spring is all about beginnings--
seed to plant,
bud to flower to seed,
the dormant to the active,
inside to outside,
eggs become baby birds,
or sometimes feed a snake,

and yet just two days ago,
the winds of Wednesday,
broke over my last cherry tree from my planting 3 decades ago,
it’s had its run and now it’s laying down its burdens,
its small green cherries might still connect well enough
to root and sun to ripen into fruit--
to seek a new beginning,
though I might then cut off that possibility
and have them reprise their role so many times before
as jam or a pie to commemorate how
Earth & I can celebrate the way we can come together,

the cherry tree, bent to the horizontal,
still green with promise of some more days to come
in which fulfillment is of these moments
and not of a future when it,
in this form,
will reawaken for a new year of hopeful growth,

I recently wrote of life as
agenda, tension, acting upon a list that needs doing,
and a friend eldered me
as to how full and right the days can be
as we lay down our burdens
and day by day appreciate each moment by moment,
then we can remember and honor the past,
hope for a future that soars without us,
and our labor can be to savor each moment still granted to us,
without the drive, the lists, the tension,

for now who I am needs the definition of the climb up the mountain,
when it’s time I hope my wisdom can change
and I can savor being still
and savor each hue of the sunset as it washes over me,

spring is all about beginnings,
and it can be all about endings.

by Henry Walker
April 24, ‘09

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

CFS Upper School Performance


“did you cry?”
she asked me as we intersected for a moment,
the show had crescendoed
and all of us had started to spin back into our own worlds,
I told her, that as redemption started working its way into the play,
and the reality of loss touched its rawness in actor and me,
I felt the power of the story ground me for a moment
and the tears did push outwards,

for most of the time I enjoyed the surface, the moment,
the virtuosity of song, of dance, of character,
the way music & stage & story
interested me and made me laugh,
and, true to my experience, as the show went on
the production value swelled higher and higher
as performers realized their power and united with the audience,
the spell practiced so long had the final ingredient and animated full,

the teacher and philosopher in me appreciated
how many students found a place within which to shine,
the way that a meritocracy need not be of elites only,
how that with gifts of vision, direction, belief, and work,
so many can rise high enough for their light to brighten all of us,

I loved the actors who years before were already at excellence for us,
the actors who took early steps for us and now run in power,
the actors I only know from this show
who still thrill me with their performance,

thank you, those of the upper school, who worked hard
to create and release a show that flares and soars.

by Henry Walker
April 21, ‘09

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

for a colleague

find your footing, then leap!

life is always some kind of odyssey
as adventure after adventure grabs us and whirls us about,
and we search within for the wherewithal to find our way home,
and way too often it takes us awhile to figure out
what home is for us, and then where we can find it,

the way of understanding home that makes sense to me
is not a mere resting place where the story’s over,
but a base that accepts and loves us for who we are
and that gives us footing and direction
so that who we are can leap out with grace upon the world,
a home that works to let us reveal the best that is within us,
that which feels right to us,
and that which does right for others,

with life partner and with life career
I feel I’ve won a lottery
as who I am has found home
and metamorphosis after metamorphosis releases me
to be greater than chance alone can have rolled,

Matthew, I saw you in Pat’s class at N.C. State
and heard her excitement at the power within you,
I’ve watched you teach math, song, and person
with passion and investment,
and kid after kid has found a voice,
and staff after staff have grown,
as all of us try to keep up with your joy in being,
in learning, in singing the song of ourselves,

I thrill with you that you have found a partner
who can help complete you,

may you find the way to the next steps on your odyssey
so that you can find home for your career,

and song after song will then find its way into the world
because you have your footing, and you leap!

by Henry Walker
April 20, ‘09

Sunday, April 19, 2009

the moments between every breath

Here I am sitting outside our house where this poem came to me. I could not figure how to use graphics to illustrate the poem so I just put in these pictures.

the tug back & forth

life equals tension,

what has less disturbance and conflict than death?

if one just accepts whatever “is” as sufficient in itself,
then it’s like a little death,
for all we are then is passive--
flotsam & jetsam washed hither and thither by the waves,
there’s no need to act,
no list of things that need doing,
no push for a future that needs fulfilling,
no living, just existing,

no sense of divine discomfort
due to the conflict between what we expect,
maybe what we hope for,
and what actually manifests before us,

in life there are many continuums
upon which different parts of us take a stand,
and we are pulled, stretched, frustrated, enlarged,
as we seek to decide where, among all the choices,
we will come down,

I write this outside as I wish for a return of the red-shouldered hawks
who two years ago gamboled before me,
and I wait for the pizza I ordered to find me,
I feel the call of the school work that needs doing,
the garden that needs tending,

we can hope for the dispensation of an order to our universe,
but, if we actually expect it,
we deny the tension inherent within the moments between every breath,

for as long as we are gifted with actual existence
we have to accept what actually happens
and at the same time to hope and work for
how we want the world to be,

life is tension,
and, all too soon, there will be no worry,
the continuums will not continue
for our current consciousness that assumes, falsely,
that the future can be planned and enforced,
and yet still has to act in hope to tack against chance’s wind,

how wonderful it can be to live fully in that battleground
where expectation and reality,
where what we want and what actually is,
tug each other back and forth,
and each new moment surprises us.

by Henry Walker
April 17, ‘09

Here I am looking up into the tree where a little over two years ago I saw the hawks below.

These are the hawks I saw two years ago in March.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Smokies Spring Musings

an endangered spirit

we don’t like limits,
anything outside us
that makes us feel small and scared,

when I walked, with tentative step,
in the great redwood groves of northern California,
I felt dwarfed, lessened, put in my place,
for their scale of size and age
made me drop my eyes
and question
if I could even fit into a world
where they hold sway,

when we walked, with tentative step,
in the wilds of Wyoming where great grizzlies roam,

we had to realize that a quite possible mix of luck and mistakes
could easily leave us savaged and dead,
no wonder we have killed so many of the great predators
who could have enjoyed us as prey,

all this comes to me as we hike miles up a valley in the Smokies
into a small woods of Eastern old growth,
though a little insect is killing the great hemlocks here
the trees are still large and impressive,
yet to a scale that feels manageable,
I wish we had saved sections of the grandest old forest
where the great poplars rose in magnificent transcendent columns,
I feel sad that all we left were those at the edges, the corners,
the places that were too hard to get into easily,

we’ve tamed the world
and worked to break its spirit
so that it will serve us without its own conditions,

I think our own spirit can also break,
something inside of us can also be lost,
when we tame too much outside us,

the redwood, the grizzly, the tiger, the wolf--
we need them all, not just for them,
but equally for that in us
which must be free
or else we gain safety and comfort
and lose much of the best of why we are.

by Henry Walker
April 9, ‘09

creatures of the story

nature can often seem to be background noise
and we yakkety-yak to each other above it,
if we grow up in nature
we can find it easy to lose ourselves
in water & stone, in little animals that scurry,
in imagined worlds in dark crevices and airy perches,
the world speaks in its own languages
and we then can almost understand it,

if we don’t spend those first years listening
I wonder how much we can never hear,

in the best of circumstances
we still have to study and work
away from nature’s curves and dimensions
in buildings that worship flat surfaces and right angles,
where even nature is framed and planed
in rectangles of window and picture,

we still, though, are creatures of the story
and we can get back toward the first storyteller

when we discover the poems of wild flowers,

the stories of trees,
waterfalls, bears, and seasons,
the books that rock and water write together,
the serial told time and time again
as species after species works to be its fittest,
the conflicts,
the comedies and the tragedies,

we are creatures of the story
and how wonderful when we can slow ourselves,
open ourselves,
and start to understand
all the languages around us
when we immerse ourselves
in the stories of the natural world.

by Henry Walker
April 8, ‘09

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

manifest true?

the parental impulse

I honor that deep impulse within
which drives the parent
to have the child
to love the child

to raise the child:
to care,
to subordinate so much of the rest of his and her life
to the primacy of what is best for the child,
to set conditions for behavior
and no conditions for love,

I think we humans can be at our best as parents
when we live in the moment with the child,
and at the same time see the futures
inherent within the choices of the moment
and act with some wild blend
of intuition & logic & guess, & love,

and the child makes her way,
and the child finds his voice,

I honor that impulse within me
and I celebrate each parent who finds the way
to give so that the world can receive
the priceless gift of a new person,

and God works hard to manifest true.

by Henry Walker
April 6, ‘09

within & beyond the moment

almost a third of her life has built itself
in the over 3 months since we were last together,
she sits erect, ramrod straight,
her eyes tracking the eyes of every face around her
and finding anything, anyone, new in her environment,
her expression thoughtful, though touching on guarded,
her face has lengthened from the round,
her smile even more ready to light up her face,
and just beneath the joy a growl lurks,
when her parents are out of the room
and she can feel lost,

she tells us of her needs with an almost fuss
that easily ramps up into fuss,
we work to tease out the meaning behind the energetic tones,

she’s at an age where she explores pitch and sounds
without any sure correlation of which thought to which sound to which effect,
except in that “fussing” will call up a parent,
and a parent can guess and fix it,
or anchor her,
or find a trick that grabs her,

forty more months of experience and effort
and her sister knows the power and use of word after word,
sophistication of thought and feeling
and their connections to sounds in packets and strings:
letters, numbers, people--all a great big fascinating puzzle
which she understands and acts upon more and more,
relationships within and between a way to excel,

the younger sister just as equal to her tasks
except at a far earlier stage in the figuring,
I love Isabel’s eyes on anything new,
like an owl seeing prey move into her world,
she fusses and I move her close to a toy in front of her,
and I think I got it right,
that her desire was further along than her pounce,

she’s basically content within herself--
dedicated to the proposition that that which is without
should come within her for processing,
you can almost see behind her eyes
all the sights & sounds & touches, smells & tastes,
all her thoughts & feelings as they whirl around each other
and start to fit into meanings,

it reminds me of a lesson I learned hard,
that before you go cross-country up a mountain
make sure you know just where you are
before you start forward,
Isabel is studying the lay of the land
and just venturing her first moves,

her sister Rachel is well on her way up
and she savors how much she gets it,
and when she doesn’t get it
she feels the burn when her will must be thwarted,
she’s working hard and well,
and furiously figures all the in’s & out’s,
the why’s & the wherefore’s,

they each prime themselves to enjoy each step of the climb
and all the possibilities of how and where they can go
within and beyond how full each moment can be.

by Henry Walker
April 5, ‘09