Sunday, August 29, 2010

Carolina Friends School

the circle continues

I celebrate the circle around me,

the circles of staffing before this one,

the circles that will come after those who are here now,
as change waves over the school again and again,
I hope for the school, at the heart,
to stay the same, true to the directions,
though the hands doing the lifting and carrying, change,

this school dares to seek the truth continually revealed,
dares to be audacious enough to realize there is that of God in everyone,
and to seek and find it in staff and student, and parent,
dares to be undaunted by feeling the wholeness of self as our charge,
each discrete skill a means in service to the holistic end
of each becoming the best possible,

I still miss fellow teachers who moved on decades ago,
I still joy in new teachers who enthusiastically throw themselves into the work,
I anticipate and value future teachers who will hear the call
and sing their response in ways that will hold to what needs keeping
and find sureness in what new needs to be,

everyone of us is born with the ideal within us,
that can seem to demand more
than our energies can feel up to providing,

the possibilities can diminish as each runs a gauntlet of forces
that make it hard to release that best--
the gauntlet of body or spirit, family or culture,
the way we are treated,
or from our own decisions,

the great challenge and success of our school?
we get the truth that each person is wonderful at heart
and that our job is to clear the path
so that the best within can burst forth
with a smile, a tear, a laugh,
with the right effort to succeed,
and the world is better for each birth of each best,

the circle holds against dissolution.

by Henry Walker
August 28, ’10

Saturday, August 21, 2010

summer vacation ends

Yoyoing Back

I feel like I’m a yoyo spinning free,
for a time, at the end of my string,
enjoying the last whirls of summer vacation,
till work gives a sharp tug and reels me back up and in,

a week from tomorrow my school year begins
with a staff retreat by the Atlantic Ocean,
this evening night falls on me a few miles from the Pacific,
the sun’s last light almost glowing
on the bay and slopes below me,

tomorrow we’ll pack ourselves into the can of the airplane,
and we’ll fly most of the way home,
we’ll stop in the Smokies to reacquaint with the East,
the heat and humidity we haven’t missed,
the gentle old mountains, laughing creek,
and traveling bears we have,
the tugs on our attention we’ve barely felt
will get us to move,
to ready us for work,
remaking the home, returning to a nest,

to be pulled back up and in is right,
the tether holds me
and I remember the efforts to which I am called,
for now, though, I feel the loss of the summer.

by Henry H. Walker
August 14,’10

Friday, August 20, 2010

losing myself in my mountains

the webs of which I am a part

a time in me loves to be alone in my mountains,
when I am not so webbed to others

in that great social dance of pulling and being pulled,
when decisions of what to do, where to go, what to eat and when,
are all made by committee,
within which each of us is near equal in seeing the way,
where and how to go a balancing of the assertive and the responsive,
the tugs on me and my tugs,
a give-and-take as complicated as can be,
our web moves forward,
none of us exactly satisfied
yet fulfilled deeply in a larger sense of who we are, together,

I like a few days within which I can imagine myself, for awhile,
only webbed to a natural world
that does its thing with me only as spectator,
my actions free as I feel the larger web around me,
and I move myself along trail & slopes & day
in ways I hope will open doors for me
to appreciate true the beauty the world creates despite us,
about which we seem to be the ones called upon to step out,
notice, and appreciate, as we get the wholeness nature expresses,

I write this down by the creek
after a thunderstorm has washed over us,
and the flow is loud and high
with an almost metallic tang to its smell,
only mildly brown, for above me,
the protected forest takes care of its soil,

I love my next few days of hiking
and losing myself in every world I find,
I also cannot forget how sad I am
for each tearing of the web as time has moved on,

I have been blessed with my grandchildren
for over two weeks together,
and my moments now feel the overlay
of memory after memory of moments with them,
with my sons and daughter-in-law and wife,
and, when I open myself to noticing,
all the friends and family
with whom I have made so many memories,

I need to lose myself in nature for awhile,
yet my heart finds itself longing to refind the connections,

on the Appalachian Trail I walk 5 miles and meet only 2 people,

flower, fungus, rock, cloud and view draw me out of myself,
yet even then I revisit self-doubts
and even use my neglected cell phone to make a call
so that the cabin I oversee can get the guttering it needs
to keep the screened porch from leaking,

my feet are on the ridge-line and still part of me feels the tugs
of those webs who are also me.

by Henry H. Walker
August 17, ’10

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

California Dreaming. . .

Bound Outward, from Sausalito

the winds know the Pacific
and have pulled it within their very essence,
when they get to know the headlands here in northern California,
they react, and mist weighs down on us,
whips and speckles wet drops on us all,
the hills are sharp-sloped, the bay deep,
age-old uplift met carving glacier until the globe warmed
and now the ocean reaches fat flat fingers into the land,

great trees and luxuriant landscaped flora
surround us here on the slopes above the bay,
we’re in a comfortable house designed
for the outer to flow seamlessly into the inner,

the plants love the land, the air, and to soak in the blowing wetness,
below me white slips of sailboat joy in the wind,
the white tripods of their sails billow full or tack hard,
and I love it when they bow deep to the side with the power they ride,
views come and go at the whim of the mist,

it’s quite cool here in early August
while back East the heat tests our temper,

on the hike today along the coastal range
I need long clothes and not sunblock for my skin,
a few seals and more wet-suited surfers brave the ocean
while we enjoy the hike up
with wildflowers, birds, and mist for company,
the rock along the way is twisted, faulted, fractured,
almost as if it’s frozen in a final wrenching scream
like that Edvard Munch painting that can haunt you,
one morning wakes particularly wet outside
and the clouds stream over us as if to keep us sealed in,
to the east lighter paths open first here and then there on the water
to remind me there is a bright sun somewhere out there,
overhead blue shows itself behind cottony clouds,
grey streams just overhead as the Pacific bids us “morning. . .”

I bring my 5 1/2 year old granddaughter up to high in the house
and the actual circle of the sun floats in the clouds before us for a wondrous moment,

and then the mist forgets it,
later sunlight breaks through upon some of the water
as if the Bay itself generates the light,
while so much of the rest of this world remains leaden grey,

soon we drive up the slopes of a half mile high mountain
and meander the dewy trails on its steep slopes,
the ocean breeze loves to roll the clouds in to these sharp valleys,
great rough-barked Douglas fir
and soft-barked arrows of redwoods
reach into the fog-whirled sky,
ferns remember the great evergreen old growth
that for countless years dwarfed all other living things,
mosses and lichens drape themselves over surface after surface,
and the whole forest both enchants and elders me
with its righteous age,
it bids us remember that we should be careful in our shaping
for the Earth is our partner and not our slave.

the next day the ocean calls us back to a lighthouse
where the land follows sharp-edged rocks to a place where the light can shepherd ships to a safe passage through the shifting strait,

a great hawk flies into a conifer 25 feet from us,

and she, like the lighthouse, commands the view
and seeks to control its world,
while below seal after seal takes a break
and rests upon the rocks

while the ocean waves below.

the next day redwoods call us again
and we spend near 3 miles being dwarfed and eldered
by trees older than the country,

so large and old that all of us are as children at their feet,
we suffer as a species when we lose our ability
to even hear their words, let alone understand their meaning,

the little children with us can help us reopen ourselves
to learning how to hear and think in the most ancient of tongues.

the coast--raw, elemental reality gusts into us,

intricacies here are understated and subtle,
while the basics of ocean, rock, and wind shout at us,
intricacies of the flower, the soaring bird,
the teeming abundance, of plant and animal
just below the surface, is there,

yet what we see is raw and elemental,
though not less grand for the simplicity of its affect,
on the bayside, below the brunting headlands,
soil and plant conspire together to flower abundance and diversity,
frost never visits here to challenge and prune the possibilities,
people huddle in their houses
and, at their best, they let the Earth hug us with a bounty
that can release itself enthusiastically
and remind us of the dream of Eden.

the final hike of the trip,
a long stroll down a gentle valley,

rounded beige hills to its side,
eucalyptus and acacia trees, grasses, and flowers by the trail,

some quail quickly absent themselves into thickets along the way,

the layered, faulted rocks almost shout of enduring,
and the ocean breaks white upon their resistance,
sea-gulls drape their own white upon the rocks,

we venture between ocean and cliff,
thinking ourselves safe from the waves,
our feet get soaked as they learn different,

my granddaughter and I pick up trash washed ashore
as a way to protect the seals we saw the day before,

on the way back she hands me a treasure of a dry eucalyptus nut:
4 holes in a perfect cross,
as if to hold everything:
the cardinal directions,
the Cartesian plane,
the way up, the way down, the way to each side:
all held as one,
a beautiful symbol to hold at the endof our California dreaming,

so like the chiastolite crystal from back East
over which native people and Puritans seem to have fought.

by Henry H. Walker

bring out the best

San Francisco

land and water release some of their genius here,
and it seems to me no city does better
in releasing the genius that we humans can express,
spectacular restaurants are easy to notice,
yet the fulsome garden of ethnicities which flourishes here
should be noticed, too,
each variation of the whole
with its flavors unique and commonalities true,
plus I celebrate its museums, music, drama, dance,
all the ways head & heart & body can release their best,
my 30 something son has found here
both the runner within and a company which celebrates
his raw ability and developed skills with both people and product,

too many elsewhere feel only the rightness
of the meat & potato of their worlds,
the truth of their answers to what is right,
and are challenged by the smorgasbord
of the diversity embraced here,
they seek to diminish it in hopes
that such reduction will make them larger
yet instead it makes them small.

by Henry H. Walker
August 13, ’10

Exploratorium, the interactive museum

The Exploratorium

here by the Bay
plants flower in profusion
and so does learning,
nowhere better than at the Exploratorium,
a museum dedicated, devoted to children and science,
exhibit after exhibit rugged and safe
and also rigorous and truthful
as it finds and presents windows upon wonder,
ways to let kids see, feel, manipulate,
I watch them jump with excitement, their faces transform--
eyes flit back and forth, smiles, laughs erupt,
questions pour out, learning goes viral
and spreads from one to another,

any moment with the universe can take one’s breath away,
they add here to that basic grandeur of the most simple
some quick and easy steps into jaw dropping experience,
and it’s a magic show of water, wind, sand, light performing tricks,
form explored as the eye, the mind grow larger,
rocks of apathy turn over and beneath are marvels,
information presents itself, questions rise and guide:
to guess, to imagine, to think--
all such rewarded, and eyes widen further,
smiles grow even larger,

each of us leaves this bazaar
where the doors of science open with the flourish of a magic show,
what need we of stage when all about us
the universe itself performs in ways
that only gain in wonder
when the ways of the tricks are revealed?

by Henry H. Walker
August 12, ’10

Izzy At Two

The Terribly Trying Time of Two

two is a trying time, a testing time,
when much is given and much is demanded:
so many decisions to be made,
so many keys to be found for so many locks,
and more seems up to you than you feel able to handle,
so you check out others and pattern their behavior,
repeat and repeat so you know the drill,
make decision after decision even when there’s no reason,

mood will soar into joy

and plummet into despair

from moment to moment,
some call it “terrible,” and, in some ways, it is,
more in the old sense of power
greater than mortals can handle,
but handle it we must,

the world of words makes sense
and verbs join nouns
and ideas take shape in them,
each word, each thought carefully, intentionally realized
within the head and upon the tongue,
there’s delight when it all works,
when we repeat what is said
so that both of us are on the same page
of a good story that’s unfolding,
we get it right and are rewarded with a “nyeah!”
our actions do well and there’s a “thanks,”

all is right with the world
and it’s as if the sun itself dawns upon a shining countenance,
we deny the impulse asserted and the face contorts into mad
as if darkness denies the previous light,
sorrow keens out from within,

every cusp of choice needs a decision:
“you do this. . . you do that. . . “
and there’s no buffer to the mood
when external reality blocks internal whim,
a key to parenting?

give possible choices that can still be made
so that the decider still decides something,
and can move past butting against an insurmountable obstacle,

the will is a wonderful tool
but it’s so sharp it can cut both us and the wielder
in the learning of its use,
and it is good to develop some buffers,

to be two is to come into a power
that you have to try out and learn,
and the essaying forth is giddy and scary,
to be two is a trying time
and terribly important in the learning of who we are,
and how much wonder & joy and sorrow & despair
we must feel to be most real.

by Henry Walker
August 5, ’10

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

up the green slopes

LeConte Calls: We Answer

the mountain calls to us
and we work our way up its green slopes--
passing by streams, rivulets, and trickles heading the other way,

flowers, bushes, and trees hold against that dropping down,
the rocks here seem to feel that pull keenly,
the trail demands rebuilding all the time,

near the top we stop for lunch
and soon thunder announces a visitor coming,
sure enough, throughout our last mile and a half,
enough rain comes to cool us off, sodden our pockets,
and wet the places sweat hasn’t gotten to yet,

at the lodge: good roofs, hot drinks, and dry clothes refresh us,
a filling supper, then outside, I am drawn to wildflowers
who make their beds and make me want to lie in them,

clouds thin enough to show there is a sun
and I snap picture after picture
of rustic grey buildings within fields of yellow cone-flowers

who echo the sun who visits only for a few minutes
before racing clouds hide him away
and keep him away all through sunset,

before sunrise the clouds are still all around us,

compressing space and denying the moon and stars are still up there,
while it’s still dark I start on the way to sunrise,
out on a rock promontory 30 minutes away,
the mist diffuses everywhere and washes out contrast
where the ground is open to the sky,
there’s a soft grey to the almost luminescent slated stones in the trail,
dead trees, like pillars, are black sentinels of the night, marking my passing,
where the spruce-fir close above me against the sky
the gloom deepens to black before my feet,

I make it halfway out without a flashlight until a wet stone trips me,
and I give in to shining a beam of light before me,
thus I lost the gestalt feel of all that’s aroud me,
and I settle for the narrow focus of just what’s in its light,
only a way to know where to put my foot,
I joy once I no longer need its crutch
which both helps me and reduces nature and me to the mere practical,
the breaking of morning is beautiful
but never opens into a view that also holds distance within it,
the view only opens wide when we’re partway down the mountain after breakfast,

when we near the cabin we look up and see the mountain top
still lost within the clouds billowing wide ad high--
a great cumulous towers directly above the lodge itself and sits on their view,

we hear the next day sunset and rise are both open,
and I get mad at myself for being jealous
rather than fully accepting that I need to fit within the universe
and not always strive to force it to fit me.

by Henry Walker
August 1, ’10

our two grandchildren care

learning to care

I love noticing and describing the climb,
mostly up to higher and higher developmental levels
by the two grandchildren with whom we’re graced,

the eyes captivate me
as they learn to focus and discern and learn,
and, as they value those of us different, but somehow worth a connection,
and, if we’re lucky, a smile,

the hands, the knees, the feet
as the world becomes that which can be acted upon,

the voice as sounds become tools,
first clumsy then finer and finer
as the subtleties of grammatical constructions, of sets and subsets, emerge,
all a verbal scaffolding with which thoughts and self can reach higher and higher,

today I’m in awe of the heart, the caring for another,
the finding happiness in another’s well-being,
growing-up we learn individuation, and that’s good,
seeing our 5 year-old and our 2 year-old play with each other,
they often release a natural sweetness inherent in them,
and carefully nurtured by invested parenting,

they learn and care, and that’s true and wonderful.

by Henry Walker
July 30, ’10

the generative impulse

in awe of mother

we come into this world through the grace of a gatekeeper
who most often becomes our closest guide for years,

I am in awe of mother, my mother, every mother, the mother,
for of such is the bringing of life
from out of the darkness into the light,
from possibility and hope into the first breaths
and the opening into the grand adventure,

of course, first for her is the hardwiring, the biology of it all,
but then it is the wiring of learned behavior and choices,
gifts from the ages and the making of one’s own way,

I am in awe of mother,
of every person,
of every morning,
of every leaf, flower, tree,
of the spell of water in whatever form it takes,

when we can find a way to make sure no blinders are on us,
every moment in this world can deserve awe.

by Henry Walker
July 31, ’10