Thursday, June 25, 2009

We had a scare, but it seems now that things are looking up. Joan was diagnosed with a melanoma on her left arm this month, a complete surprise to us all. She had it removed yesterday, and the surgeon described it as thin, shallow. Dr. Yeh, the surgeon, thought there was a very low chance of it having spread. They biopsied the appropriate lymph nodes just in case. I refer to it in the poem below, so I didn't send it out till after we got the outpatient surgery done yesterday and knew whether fear or hope was more justified. Whew!
A lot's going on in the poem below. . .

Summer Solstice ’09

the morning wakes cool & drizzly
and continues that way through the day
up here in Massachusetts,
it’s hard to honor the Sun at its zenith
when clouds membrane themselves
between us and what’s beyond them in the sky,

last night a magical evening at Fenway,
though my Braves had less than the mighty Sox,
the beer as watery as our fifth inning pitching,
every seat filled,
and filled with fans fiercely faithful,
for Father’s Day, my son gave me that old-time religion of baseball,
the "Show" Crash Davis rhapsodied about,
the venders, the colors, the loudspeakers, the cheers
like being at a circus, the seats like coach in an airplane,

today we savor our grandchildren, both sweet and fiery,
brilliant and beautiful, handfuls but what a joy to have them in hand,
circling each other, and the four year old, on her own
doesn’t seem to mind when she eclipses the one year old,

we fly back home late afternoon,
our plans all changed to deal with a recently-diagnosed lesion on Joan’s arm,
the prognosis fine to scary at this point,
I don’t want to imagine a turning to the worst, yet I fear it,
the prognosis hidden from me like the Sun today,

in the sleek cocoon of a modern jet
we fly out of the Northeast, quickly climb above the clouds
where bright Sun, on this longest day, dazzles the eye
and still has to hide from the land,

back in the Southeast, the Sun has broken through
and the day is 25 degrees hotter,
all that which is growing seems poised and full--
the blueberries, squash, beans, potatoes, first tomatoes and blackberries,
all ready for gathering,
the second crop of bluebirds is busy at the nest,
and I expect eggs when I check them tomorrow,
I hope better for the progeny than the black snake that got the first crop,

as dusk deepens I sit outside
with mosquitoes harrying me a bit,
sweat on my brow till a breeze cools me a bit,
the lightning bugs are ubiquitous,

the Sun has stalled in the heavens
and we wait for what change will come upon us soon.

by Henry Walker
June 21, ‘09

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

our grandchildren

We were lucky to have some time with our two grandchildren in Acton, MA. Watching and helping in the amazing reality of child development is a gift we savor. Check out the pictures and the sense of science in the child. A new friend came to CFS and helped us with science three months back (check the blog for March 14). He wrote an article for The Guardian (Britain's leading broadsheet newspaper) about CFS and science--a good companion piece for this poem. Check it out at

the child as scientist

in a one year old
the world engenders equal shares of wonder & frustration,

new things, people cascade past the eyes,
fingers twitch, toes curl,

the hand reaches to touch, to grab, to hold and consider,
to manipulate and see what might happen,
the mouth opens wide in wonder,
the mind works hard to figure what’s before it,

wonder . . .


things dull with familiarity, people around aren’t the parent,
the lip curls, a disgruntled cry comes out,
louder and higher if the right response isn’t intuited and acted upon,
or just if the world doesn’t quickly fall into the place wanted,
the cry ramping up until it can sound like an air-raid siren!

frustration. . .

often the right food at the right time can restore balance,
enough familiar and enough new and all is well, for awhile,

consider the 4 year old scientist who can still have that same wonder

and who now has words as tools,
who has filed away experience after experience
and who loves sorting through and finding patterns that explain,
and reveling in revealing sheer competence,

before us today at a museum are
and objects we can manipulate within the fields they create,
invisible power manifests before us and obeys laws,
laws that need wonder, experimentation,
and thoughtful venture after venture at explanation
for us to fathom how they work,

the 1 year old knows there are rules and meaning to what is,
it’s the figuring them out and the figuring how to act within them
that’s her job now,

magic is one system that holds the wonder
and has appeal and answers that explain,
yet answers that make most of us powerless,
pawns to stars, spells, hoodoo,

I prefer the system of science
when it both holds the wonder
and still reveals the rational laws all have to follow,
and which are accessible to any of us
with clear thinking and the mind to use it,

I think of Einstein and the compass,

his lifelong wonder and devotion to understand
the hidden powers that underpin reality,

the child has to be a scientist to thrive those early years
and will stay so unless we pervert their world
with the destructive side of irrationality
and its child, powerlessness.

by Henry Walker
June 18, ‘09

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

mid June in the Smokies!

Just back from the Smokies. Wrote some, some about writing, some about actual experiences in the Smokies. Enjoy!

a poem has two masters

in the juggling that writing a poem entails,
the writer has two actions to release and catch at the same time,

first is to write real--
to be specific as to one’s actual experience--
thoughts, feelings, place & event,
centered by the authentic,

second is to choose a filter,
an organizing principle,
to cull out from the real what is also right
for this particular take on this particular part of it all,
the creative touch upon the heart,

I also take pictures
and I like each to be real,
yet when I add my own choices
of what, when, where, and how,
I have taken what is real
and added just enough of me
so that I can sometimes release
much of what was only potential before,
at least for a time,
but a time is all each of us has.

by Henry Walker
June 15, ‘09

just desserts

to me the mountains are like dessert:
they don’t mean as much
unless I haven’t had ‘em for awhile,
the first taste is amazing,
and, unfortunately,
it’s too easy for a treat to become common,

I love for my consciousness
to open onto the world
as if both the world and I awake to the first morning,

we need to earn the sweet.

by Henry Walker
June 13, ‘09

slapped awake

the calendar gives only some openings
and weather and fortune often like
to restrict the possibilities even more,

today we get an early start on the road,
we check the sky for what it will allow,
and, as we approach the mountains midday, it looks hopeful,
we turn off the interstate and climb up to the ridge line,
park the car, lather on the sunscreen, grab the camera,
and hike straight up the rolling meadows of Max Patch,

the beauty of the moment,
the beauty of the view,
the beauty of the wildflowers,
almost slap us with their immediacy,
their gratuitous glory only slumbers if we are not here, asleep,
and, when they slap us, they and we both awake,

at our feet is a sky of yellow buttercups
with clouds of white yarrow,
we lift our eyes to the abruptness of mountains rising,
near and far,
clear and hazing into distance,
their substance solid and real
as if frame to the painting of the flowers,
or maybe the flowers frame them,

I love how the ephemeral contrasts with the lasting,
the rock and its age-old shaping gives a platform
upon which our friends, the flowers,
strut their stuff for a few days,

just above the high ridges the clouds flatten into a darkening grey
and tower white up and up,
whipped to reveal what that which was within them can become,

just below the meadowed top a light forest has been allowed to succeed,
and we find the absurd beauty of a flame azalea,

who slaps us hard with how extreme a flower can manifest in beauty,
its orange and red, voluptuous,
nearby a laurel stands at the ready
to release itself in just as magnificent a flowering,
though subtler in its shadings,

today we have received a gift
and I hope I can stay awake and alert long enough
to appreciate what can be waiting around every turn of the path
for the next few days calendar and all allow us to be up here.

by Henry Walker
June 13, ‘09

mist & sun dance

today the mist and the sun dance with each other,

when the grey one leads

these are misty mountains,
with everything still and all blurred together,
only the shading varies,
and every step up the mountain is hardwon
as if the dreamy world without prefers stasis over change,

when the bright one leads,
the world awakens,
the mood lightens,
shafts of sunlight knife through the trees
and connect ground to sky,
the yellow within the green awakens,
as does the individuality of leaf & rock & moment,

the wind kicks up as if the music speeds up to match the mood,

the lead shifts again, and again, and again,

galax and laurel are like debutantes

presented to the world, perfect in their first flowering,

while the high rhododendron drops off bloom after bloom to the
though the flowers still on the bush
have enough left for the bees to court them,

we’re at the tail-end of spring,
which has a full week till the sky calls it summer,
how magnificent it is today
to climb up to the high rocks where Earth meets Sky,

and the mist and the sun dance
to let the best of itself and of the other
whirl before us for our wonder.

by Henry Walker
June 14, ‘09

Monday, June 8, 2009

what graduation can mean

graduation: within, before, after

the seniors mill around,
finding their friends,
readying their appearance,

each almost giddy with excitement--
pride at what they’ve accomplished,
keyed-up in anticipation of all the forks of possibility before them,

they’re at the rim of the nest
ready to leap and fly, because they’re “there”,

and also not ready at all, because they’re also not “there,”
for each can see, more clearly now than ever,
where they’ve been
and how sure it is that there is reality to their leaving the old reality,
that old reality often comforting and sure,
for another reality, where they can expect to soar,
yet, of course, each can also expect another possibility
and they can fear a fall,

a baby is born
and it knows nothing of what to expect
while we can be almost delirious

in imagining the possibilities that she will fulfill,
that he will realize,

I love to visit the early school
and see the person start releasing the self,

and the love and care of the teachers
as guides to that release
as self expands in power and definition,

I love to visit the lower school
and see the traits & skills & realities

of the young ones coming more and more steps fully into their own,

I love to teach in the middle school
and to honor every step into sureness,

every release of the best within,
every appreciation of the best without,

I love to watch the dance, to hear the music,

to watch the performance,
to sit in on a class,
and appreciate the upper school

where the potential
of the infant,
the preschooler,
the child,
the young adolescent,
blossoms into a reality that can be awesome,
and scary,

at graduation I love to look at the graduates,
all ready to leap,
and I hope they can remember
where they’ve been, where they hope to go,
and how to live the moment full,

how to get themselves,
how to get the other,

and how to make their world as extraordinary
as each of them can be and become.

by Henry Walker
June 7, ‘09

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cal Geiger, everyone's Friend

Our former colleague, Cal Geiger, died first of the week: peacefully, with his wife Virgie by his side. He was an extraordinary man, a Quaker, a man who lived his faith with every fiber of his being. Below is what I wrote to honor him:

Cal, everyone’s Friend

a great heart beat its last this morning,
though the love and care it lived
still throb faint, yet strong, in our memories,
many of us hope that our hearts can follow that rhythm,
though surely imperfectly,
as I know Cal felt his life to be so imperfect in following
the vision he felt Jesus called to him to follow,
the vision Martin Luther King saw and he shared,
the vision his God gave him,
and he answered with his life, as best he could,

I loved hearing him tell his story,
of growing up in the South, in Florida,
with all the messages the culture whispered to him,
and how he dismissed the ones that lessened others,
and would have lessened him,
and instead he accepted a calling to be a Friend,
to “walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one,”
to oppose even World War II,
for war cannot release the best of us,
and I’m still working on really getting that lesson,
his alternative service transforming,
and his life completely given to others for decade after decade,
a commitment to give his best to one person at a time,

a gentleness to Cal, a soft feel that helped you relax when you were with him,
and, as you relaxed, you could hear more surely
which voices inside to heed, and which to dismiss,

the grand issues were part of his life,
the persistent testimony for peace while hard war shouts,
the dogged work for rights while wrongs seem everywhere,
I remember him telling of his sister in Palestine
as Arab and Jew fought for the Holy Land
and she was nurse for both sides:
when she died there was a truce for the funeral,
her loving influence suspending the killing
as both sides recognized her greatness,
as so many of us now are recognizing his,

what I’m also remembering are all the small things--
the twinkle in his eye,
the gracious care he gave to every conversation, to every interaction,
the basket weaving in Lower School
where child after child learned to create,
while so much outside sought to teach them how to break apart,
the pure note of his life as it rang true to what God hoped in its making,

Cal Geiger lived a life
that always chose the whole over the partial,
creation over entropy,
belief over the cynical,
and he lived that positive life even with buffeting shocks
that no one should have to endure,
yet also with a partner who completed him, and she and he are one,
and he and his God are as surely one
as any of we mortals can hope to be.

by Henry Walker
June 1, ‘09