Monday, May 25, 2009

Exploratorium in the Smokies

12 kids, 4 adults, Smokies for 4 days, Mt. LeConte, Grotto Falls, Greenbrier, no bears, a lot of wonderful writing and sharing, a magical time . . . below is what I wrote.

Please note that it is easy to comment on the poem by clicking just below the poem and adding your reaction, positive, I hope. I rarely get comments, and I would love to get more. Thanks, Bill, for your comments.


breaths at the crest

transitions draw me,
boundaries where road yields to wood,
and I face the wood,
where trail crosses trail,
as winter yields to spring,
as day winds down,
where the kid finds the adult within--
and the adult the kid,

today we’ve slowly wrenched ourselves
out of late spring in the piedmont
to early spring on the Appalachian crest,

wild cherries are in extravagant bloom
here where an ancient native trail crosses
the mainness of the midline of the Smokies,
tomorrow we will find our way up and down another mountain,

for now I’m just opening myself
so that with each breath I can exhale
what I don’t mind giving up of this year:
the worries, the distraction, the short-circuiting
that loosen me from my moorings,
and with each breath I can now inhale cold clear air,
fragrant with cherry and spruce,

and a reminder to stop and remember what’s real
before and beyond the machinations we make to surround us.

by Henry Walker
May 18, ‘09

our genius and curse

a human genius, and curse,
is that we are never satisfied for long,
we can joy in the moment
but the novelty passes--

we anticipate so well
that we can fear the beginning
and forget to savor the middle,

so what does this have to do with hiking up a mountain?

today I thrill at view after view
the crisp clear air allows

and that my hiking energies release,

yet the next moment I move on to not noticing,

I can be in the moment
with the mountains rippling out and away and back into me,

(Clingman's Dome from Alum Cave Trail)

new and fresh like each branch leafing

and each bud flowering,

shape, color, essence elegant and bright with promise,

and I can be in the moment when each step hurts
and I forget what I will gain at the end of the hike up,
some of us on the hike let the effort blind us for awhile
to the value banked by our muscles’ investment,

I want my present moments to realize their worth in themselves
and their worth in the web of connections
that stretch before and after them,

how hard it is to hold our curse
and still recognize the genius interwoven within it,
that keeps us fresh and fully present in the moment,
so that we can find the new,
we do know that this too will pass
and that knowledge, too often, makes us forget the miracle that it is.

by Henry Walker
May 19, ‘09

the novel of a waterfall

a waterfall draws us to it
so that road & trail & foot find it
might near wherever it finds itself,

yesterday we were enchanted by the soft spells
when water chuckles syllable by syllable,
drop after drop released and arced out to sparkle in the sun,

at a falls water rushes and roars
in sentences,
a novel that stands there and turns its own pages:
the water, protagonist,
the rock, antagonist,
and their conflict fascinates us,

so much of what we know as our world
is sequel after sequel to that first story.

by Henry Walker
May 20, ‘09

filling the glass

I am struck by how full and whole young people often are,
I can see the person true in the twinkle of the eye,
for when the eye twinkles the real person within isn’t hiding at the moment,
I take a picture and often the wholeness can almost be seen,
the picture works,

I am also struck by how I can miss parts of a person,
when I notice the wholeness
I can miss how much the impostor sews doubt within,
the smile and not the fear,
the successes and not the challenges,
the surface and not the depths,
I can see the writer and miss the artist,
I can miss the musician, the dancer, the athlete--
whatever parts of the self are hidden from my immediacy,
yet when I realize my ignorance I excitedly fill in the holes,
I love to know and I love to love as the partial grows fuller,

entropy doesn’t need help in draining the glass toward empty,
I prefer to help Pollyanna’s counsel be true:
to see and celebrate how full the glass is,

I swear I think that helps it fill further and fuller,
if one just believes in it.

by Henry Walker
May 21, ‘09

a passing, a continuing

each of us exists
thanks to countless generations of parents before us
who sacrificed chunk after chunk of their present
for the future of their child
and who dared to hope
that the unique gift of each family might endure,

this morning I sought to hear of a man,
born in southern India into a Hindu culture I admire
but only start to understand,
trained as a chemist, working as a scientist and researcher,
a devoted husband,
with two sons who carry on his legacy,
I imagine that man, who passed away this week,
and his love for his granddaughter who’s growing up a world away,
a few visits, in the Triangle, in southern England,

and I imagine her watching him
in the studied simple elegance of his dress, of his mannerisms,
in his inquisitive drive to understand, his love to learn,
I imagine how hard she wished to know what all went on inside his head,
though she knows his heart and his joy at her accomplishments,
he is gone now and there is so much she would like to know of him,
and I’m sure she missed the call from him today on her birthday,
the way he always called,

if I could call him,
I’d tell him the details I know of his granddaughter:
of how her head, her heart, her effort
should make any grandparent proud,
there’s a joy in life that suffuses Anna,

along with some self-doubt behind her eyes,

and I’m sad for her grandfather, and for her, that the torch is passed
and a new generation must carry on as best it can,

and I’m happy for him and for her
that each had the other for awhile,
and that she feels called to bring out the best in herself,
for him, and for her.

by Henry Walker
May 21, ‘09

Saturday, May 9, 2009

an evening of the arts

Arts Eve ’09

how marvelous that so many can find so many ways
to reveal the arts that are within them:

a chorus of 38 middle schoolers,
near 30% of the school,
led by a long term teacher
whose blood throbs the beat of the school,

and a teacher who has been passing through these last few years,
giving his all for the time he’s felt called here,
and there’s been magic in his touch
that will be hard to forget,

the young people learn how to wow themselves and us
with the power of the harmony,
as the disparate finds itself true,
and finds the other,
so that the sound of their joining thrills us
with the greatness of the sum,

and the audience applauds and strolls to another revelation,

recorders harken back half a millennium
as the wind of the Renaissance blows again
from the lungs and the spirit of musicians born
as the twentieth century was ending,

and the audience applauds and strolls to another revelation,

team after team of found percussionists
use tubes, rhythm, and physicality
to make music with plaza & table & high structure,
their enthusiasm, their joy--manifest,

and the audience applauds and strolls from one drumming to another
and then to the next revelation,

where dancers purposefully move with grace upon the grass
adding sand, grain upon grain, upon the visible structure below,

echoing the invisible structures which hold each dancer to the other
and to the memories of their time here at school,

amplified words and music drive and counterpoint
the movements of individuals, pairs, triads,
every dance fitting into a whole
like the voices of the chorus early in the show,

and the audience applauds and strolls a short way

to where whistle-led drums capture us

and move us to move, to smile,
to close the circle of our movement around the middle school,
to crescendo, and then to move into the building

and to be dazzled by drawings, paintings, masks, puppets, treats,

this art more lasting than ephemeral performance
but requiring more effort from us to find it
and give it the time and attention
that then can call up the creative genius of the artist,

this night many find many ways
to use the arts to express themselves
and with those arts to touch the best of the other
with the best of themselves.

by Henry Walker
May 7, ‘09

Thursday, May 7, 2009

we are each part of multitudes

I endorse God Makes the Rivers To Flow by Eknath Easwaran, ISBN 0-915132-68-0.
I use his meditation system and the passages in this book every morning, and have done so for decades. Great stuff.
The poem below certainly owes a lot to the truths inherent in the meditations I work on 20+ minutes every morning.

self as large, larger, largest

I increasingly know that who I am is part of multitudes,

I’m both the atom,
the smallest unit down into which I can be most easily reduced,
the “Henry” I see in the mirror,

and I am also the larger molecules of which I am a part:
within marriage, family, friends,
my school where I help enable learning,
my neighborhood, state, country,
myself as global citizen,
and, greater still, the largest sets: life, reality itself,
all that of which I am a part, a subset,
and that still is who I am,

I believe that self-interest is a powerful engine
that can marvelously focus our energies
so that capitalism, free enterprise, choice
helps us be productive
as we then know the directness of the relationship
between our efforts and what we value,
so we give our best,

how I think we’ve lost our way, too often,
is that we’ve narrowed self-interest
to the smallest unit of who we are,
to the least aspect of who we are,
to who we see in the mirror,
and we can then define ourselves too much as
but the gratification of our senses, the indulgence of our whims,
the infantile and the adolescent within us
who wants to stamp our foot
until the world realizes
that all that matters is what we want, now,

how much better we can be
if we enlarge self-interest
and sacrifice the lesser to the greater,
enlarging who we are as we serve the other
and discover how truly the other is part of us,
and we part of the other,
so that our decisions also value what is best
for the grandchildren of our grandchildren,

I believe that who each of us is
is not lessened by being enlarged,
not diminished by
the deer that eats the flower,
the wolf that eats the calf,
the peregrine falcon that soars beyond any gift to us,
any gift but our joy in its magnificence,

our gratification can be deferred, or even denied,
so that we can be gratified by what is best
for our self as large, as larger, as largest,

when we expand we only lose illusion
and what we gain is extraordinary,
true to the best of the sets which hold us
and pull us into greatness.

by Henry Walker
May 5, ‘09