Sunday, March 14, 2010

as apprentice to an amazing universe . . .

Science Day ’10

whatever game the universe plays,
it has rules, and rules that can be discovered,

we humans can be capricious,
and it’s easy to jump to assigning effect
to a universe which is as puppet to a puppet-master
called fate, astrology, the magic of a Hogwarts world,
the Greeks taught us both the power of individual and collective reason,
and to fear the gods’ thunderbolts, earthquakes, meddling in our affairs,

this day we give science, and the scientist, their due:
from the opening presentation by Glenn Murphy,

who loves to learn the rules and
who loves to find ways to bring middle schoolers along
into unlocking and solving what puzzles us,
I look out at the kids while he performs and presents
creative explorations of answers to perplexing questions,
“What’s at the center of the universe. . . are humans still evolving?”,

and their eyes rivet to him, only a few off somewhere else inside,
laughs bubble up, bodies rock back in the humor,
eyes connect with each other to share the discovery in the moment,

the rest of the morning? 15 workshops led by science folks
who have answered the calling to give themselves
to the pursuit of the truth that can be revealed with science,

and who have answered the calling to find ways
to bring our students along on the journey of discovery,
lab coats,

rockets, DNA in theory & from strawberries,
the touch of a snake,

a dove, a berry on the tongue,

to role play birds in migration,
to stretch the mind in attempt after attempt to hold ideas
that may be true but certainly aren’t easy,

to the afternoon when we showcase science on posters,
as each studies the others’ experiments,
getting into the science, the person, and the response,
also in the afternoon, challenges,
explorations of how the world works,
and how we can find patterns to work within the game,
demonstrate that we can succeed in the games the universe allows,
to make a marble drop in a set time,
to drop an egg with only local, natural materials to cushion the fall,

to appreciate the excellence of the other
with applause,

kits, and books,

and as we move forward,
we learn deeper how wondrous it is to learn,
to apprentice to a universe that is rational and amazing.

by Henry Walker
March 12, ’10

Monday, March 8, 2010

dreams but begin

of such is wonder

it thrills me today
to be the first and only one,
since the snow days ago,
to trudge up the old Indian road by the prong,
a way over the mountains used for thousands of years,

as I get higher and higher
the snow doubles and redoubles
from inches to near a foot,
often my boots sink in
until the snow reaches toward my knees,

like frosting that hides a cake’s imperfections,
the snow smudges lines
and makes me guess at what lies beneath
the soft cushiony curves,

a few times on the trail water moves enough
to clear its solid phase away a bit,

and I can see clarity, movement, the rocks beneath,
the living heart of the water itself,

each time I cross the prong
the rocks are fat with snow

and ice grows around anywhere water splashes or drips,

I feel as a child in a playground,
with every hard fought step up the trail
a joy of play and wonder,

my camera snaps and snaps
to hold what moments it can,

if the adult in me had not had to manifest
for a few hours in the morning,
dealing with the future in terms
of the grounds at the cabin,
dealing with the past in terms of the history
I shepherd, preserve, and today share,
my foot would be loose enough to leave earlier and go higher,

we are such stuff as dreams can but begin to capture enough
for us to begin to fulfill their promise,

today is wondrous in how well I can first be as an adult
and second how I can drop away responsibilities
and as a child find myself
where snow and mountain and high valley
pull me into a world in which my power is only to marvel.

by Henry Walker
March 5, ’10

flour's still in the bin

absence before presence

down here in the South
we’ve gotten used to short visits from Winter,
maybe a long weekend,
or most of a week,
Winter like a factory worker
who has to get back to his regular job up North,

this year the cold has settled in as if to stay,
snows keep coming and linger on the ground,

it’s early March for a planned trip to the Smokies,
and I tell a friend up there I hope to see flowers,
and he retorts that I’ll have to bring ‘em with me
if I hope to see ‘em,
sure enough flurries dog my drive,
a dusting of snow covers much of the ground
when I get there,
only some hearty leaves thrust up through it
to hint that stasis is temporary,
the back end of yesterday’s storm
confetties flurries onto me into the evening,

this year we can’t sneak into the kitchen and taste the cooking,
there are no appetizers,
there aren’t even any smells to tantalize us,
the flour is still in the bin,
when Spring is ready to serve itself
we will appreciate each taste
as if we’re breaking a fast,
for as religion after religion knows
we need to give ourselves to an absence
and then we can appreciate the presence,

as snow flakes lightly tickle my face
with my eyes I see a stark landscape,
a canvas ready for color
to blur its lines
and flowers to glory us with subtlety.

by Henry Walker
March 3, ’10

I write, there I . . .

a teacher and a writer

I feel vital when I write,
when my words sketch out thought and feeling,

I feel right when
the educator in me succeeds,

when the youngsters turn on to themselves
and take off,
the structure of class or play or overarching activity
that works,
when those I get to know and love
become more fully the greatness that they can be,

I think my teaching touches more
and more deeply than my writing,

but my writing means more to me
than any evidence proves its worth,
beyond how I feel writing it,

my teaching thrills me
with every self I see
shining out through the eyes of my students,
my writing means enough to me
that I find space, time, and words
to bring a poem such as this into existence.

by Henry Walker
March 3, ’10

self as closer to what writes large

apprentice to all

a jack of all trades, master of none,
yet together we rise
to where I touch the wide truths
that singleness of focus misses,
a jack of all trades, master of none,
yet apprentice to all,

we contain multitudes
and too often we act as if we don’t,
I am an artist, not a scientist,
a person of words and not of figures,
a conservative and not a liberal,
a male and not a female,
or vice versa, vice versa, vice versa,

we seek to define who we are
and too easily define who we’re not,
even though each of us
has bits of all within the sum,
we connect with a part of our selves and wall off the rest,
becoming partly who we are by how we’re not like the others,
and not like the parts of ourselves we deny,

I was a scientist in high school,
a historian in college,
an English major in grad school,
and at each of those times I was also
into service, into the wild, into politics, into relationships,
I have opened myself to asserting my will
and to following my heart,
and, throughout it all, I have loved to find where I’m ignorant
for there I can learn,
and I love to learn,
within me I listen to all the voices
who each have a wisdom, an opening into the truth,
and I do act as best I can, not with consensus,
but with a wisdom that includes the view
from as many windows as I can
so that what I see has depth upon depth,
and is closer to the world within which we live
than to the narrowness of my will writ large.

by Henry Walker
March 4, ’10

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

the poet as oracle

to call forth

when it’s a long haul
and the lifting and the carrying take my main strength,
as the day wears on
I get job after job done,
and, in the afternoon, my eyes get heavy,
heavy like all those projects that I am carrying--

I need a nap,

I need to disengage body and spirit
so each can regroup
and I can then make a new assault--
keep pushing up
until I find a good way forward,

after a short time at the summit
I know a new climb will call me,
as I often feel a need to write call me,

within all the doing and around all the naps
I often feel an absence,
a whirling vortex within me
that strives to fill itself,
the inchoate that, through words, can become who it already is,
below and beyond conscious thought and feeling,
or maybe it can become even more, or even different,
for, until it manifests full in our world,
it lives more in hint than in the specifics of actual form,
that form it finds when the oracle of my poetry
finds words to express the leading, true.

by Henry Walker
February 27, 2010