Sunday, March 27, 2011

at the heart of teaching

within & without

as teachers we meet and we talk,
and we seek how best we can act,
our goal that the best in our students can act,
can find where within them is the potential
that can realize how to be actual,
each then can open anew to the wonder and effort
that it takes to develop a skill,
to ask a question, to find an answer,
to venture effort until it’s right,
to feel right within
with each connection made,
with every taste of excellence achieved,

for me the secret is to know each individual before me
and to find what to say, what to do,
that can help each person cut through the nonsense
and realize the wholeness within
and see where to go to be even more real, full, sure,
all of us need strength to escape obfuscatory thickets
and get on to a path that leads up to the light.

by Henry Walker
March 21, '11

Saturday, March 26, 2011

heart & head argue

Spring Equinox ’11

the last full day of Winter here in the South
is warm enough for shorts and bright enough
for the Sun to show us clearly all that’s outside,

leaf and flower appear here and there

like a magician’s trick manifests just when you aren’t looking,

the blueberry bushes, which took half the winter
to lose the last of last year’s leaves,
they who impressed me with the bareness of their branches
just a bit ago,

now I can’t see through them any more
their leaves so hungry
they’ve demanded to be served the Sun,

birds are passionate in their intensity
for the time is now to find a partner and make children,

high up some of the oak trees drape themselves in gold
as each seeks to be by how well it can make more of itself,

a full Moon breaks the horizon,
but it’s supersize can’t break through
the eastern trees and increasing cloudiness,
overnight the Moon does better at ruling the sky,
an ivory eye that tells us fully of the Sun it still sees,

clouds visit most of the Equinox, the air cool, lightly breezy,

the garden, college basketball on TV, school chores,
and errands in the car fill most of the day,

the grass seed I’ve planted begins to poke up from the straw,
two blossoms on the cherry tree become a hundred,

dogwoods start to blossom, their leaves like squirrels’ ears,

I look for serviceberry and find none, yet,
redbuds purple jewel their branches,
my kiwi vines start to release their buds
like a laugh that has to bubble free,

the air so warm
that thoughts of tomatoes in the garden dance in my head,
and it’s hard to remember that casual shifts of the winds
can invite Winter back for a visit,
fruit trees take the risk and bet the farm, and might lose it,

there’s an ancient wisdom in the ginkgo,
so Eastern and deep in its roots,
and I listen to its counsel also,
for its buds are still cautious,

my heart is with the hope in the flowers,
my head is with the wisdom of the branch,
daring to still be bare.

by Henry Walker
March, ‘ll

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

the earliest of Spring

blood root, the star

it’s so early in Spring that it’s still Winter on the calendar,
up here in the Smokies water remembers to flow
as the icy snow high up gives up its grip,
the stasis before the show
that plants, with memory and plan in seed and root,
just ache to bring out from behind the curtain,

and, when the light has come up enough for the show,
every leaf is a prima donna ready for an audience,
ready to use the energy from light and memory
to be, and to reach a year or more ahead,
with bud to blossom to seed,

I’m here in the mountains well before the full show gets rolling,
and I look for the outliers, the opening acts,
the first to find their way from nervous anticipation
to their entrance under the light,

I search out the off-Broadway venues,
the little ecosystem clubs where flora might take a risk,
I find beds of early blooming hepatica,
trillium up and ready to go,
little yellow violets audacious in their cuteness,
and I hope for blood root, a star who comes on stage early,
yet only where and when it chooses,

I elder myself that we in the audience must be patient and understanding
that its entrance is by its own clock,

finally, today, my last full day up here for 6 weeks,
I search out a low, deep, shaded hollow,
and there, by the dropping branch,
blood root after blood root makes an entrance,
each bud erect, assertive, unopened,

the fullness of their entrance will come
days after I’ve gone back home,

still I marvel that the star I hoped for
revealed itself on a stage I could find.

by Henry Walker
March 14, ’11

design & disorder

an invisible hand

the inner judge within us can easily find flaws with the world,
at least my inner judge does,
until I find a way to overrule it on appeal,

I remember, as a kid, wanting to see the beauty in the forest
and having trouble getting past the bother of the messiness
for no gardener cleans up the forest floor,
I would love to marvel at the purity of the water
and get bothered by water striders,
who, like squirrels (who also bother me), eat what they can find
and neaten up the world a bit,
while annoyingly present in a process that feels messy,

I wonder about design and intelligence behind it all:
Adam Smith posited the invisible hand of the market
moving through countless individual choices,
a collective good made up from the hodgepodge of self-centered wills,
Charles Darwin argued the same,
with God playing dice with the universe,
and as each organism lives for itself,
random change works upon all
and somehow the whole can feel so right,
like a puzzle with each part fit surely to the whole,

random selfishness and competition at the heart of the universe,
life fueled by death,
and the world still expresses an unexpected wholeness that astounds.

by Henry Walker
March 13, ’11

into the woods

baskins and the gauntlet

I feel ready to run a gauntlet,
to hike & explore & lose myself
in the forest and mountain upstream from me,

I am ready for branch and experience
to slap against me, to wake me up, to test me,
to remake me by knocking off the callouses
with which the tame world so often
hides away the nerve endings
that allow me to soar, to plummet,
to laugh with water racing back toward the sea,

the first blossoms on the spice bush and myriad yellow violets,

to mourn trees dying before their time,
as an adelgid scythes the hemlock,
and a great beech I’ve known all my life
slowly, inexorably readies itself to pass on,

the gauntlet holds true as tree after tree has fallen
across the way I choose to walk,
and branches grab me, poke me,
I only notice my torn t shirt after the hike is over,
trunks force me down, to bow, to crawl,
and maybe 10 times the blowdowns force me completely off the trail,

I even lose my hat for awhile high up
where the hollow often has bewildered me a bit
and today goes even further with testing tangles
that deny there is a way,
I retrace, find my hat, and I make my way forward,

I cross the ridge and drop to the next valley,
there the creek makes a waterfall as dark and hidden as any I ever see,
generous rain and snow-melt impress me a bit
with the size they give to the falls,
here where the bedrock allows, in fact, requires a steep drop,
I don’t spend much time here,
this waterfall seems less welcoming to me than many,

just upstream I visit an old cemetery

perched on the side of the hill,
facing where the sun rises,
ringed by hills at the rim of the upper valley,
a view hidden by the trees in summer,
those trees who weren’t here when those here were laid to rest,

I pull myself hard up the steep trail that climbs to the ridge,
and keeps climbing, though gentler in the elevation gain on the ridge itself,

I drop down to where Cherokee Orchard was,
drop down the road,
drop down the trail,
until I’m back home at the cabin,

the creek pulls me into it to wash off the sweat
and get me ready to know where I’ve been,
where I am, and to find words to describe
losing myself in a day full of subtle wonder,
no great view, few flowers, no grand animals,
just two valleys and a ridge at the end of Winter,
a stage upon which Spring, Summer, Fall, and the next Winter
will captivate me, and anyone else nearby, with the dramas that await.

by Henry Walker
March 12, ’11

Monday, March 14, 2011

retreat to the Smokies

loosed of some limits

I loose myself
from the yokes to which my will submits
and then works to aim,
for months I’ve felt the pull of project after project,
I have answered each call with my call in return,

I now loose myself from action, for a time,
from those times when I connect myself
and feel what can be, what should be,
when I see the part that would be whole,
and with that vision call to myself and to others
to awaken the sleeper,
to reveal that which is hidden,

it still seems good to me to be with the world
we’ve made for ourselves,
when that world has been too much with me, though,
I seek out the world we humans haven’t made:

rain and snow-melt have swollen the creek in front of me,
the stars are out above the bare beech above,
the Moon waxes an eloquence I hope for,

I love what I do with my life,
the gifts each young person with whom I work
struggles to understand, to reveal, to give,
and how pleased the universe should be
with every denial of the lesser,
with every embrace of the greater.

by Henry Walker
March 11, ’11

Friday, March 11, 2011

it's all about doors

Science Day ’11

all of
education is about doors:

the infant and faces, meeting the eye and making the connection,
sounds that learn to be language,
muscles that learn to move, to crawl, to walk,
the power of words, of language,
the question, the choice,
the discovery of discovery,

fast forward and one is 10, 11, 12, 13, 14,
and door after door can appear open, or closed,
and one can feel ready, or unable, to open the door and go through,

so we have a Science Day
and each visitor who shares himself, who shares herself,
in talk and workshop is a doorkeeper
who steps from the place of science
within which each works,
where each finds light to reveal the workings
that hide beneath what we see on the surface,
each opens a door and invites a crossing over for a time
into revelation about DNA, gravity, rockets, Bonobos & us,

half the school also asks a question and ventures a hypothesis
that opens a door they find themselves,
ventures a procedure to get through
and reports what each finds on a poster of the experiment,
I am in awe of the brilliance
and daunted by how much work it takes to discipline the effort,
how hard it is to both feel the joy of discovery
and to make the needed work to make it to the top
where the truth is finally clear,
in the afternoon, advisee groups protect an egg in a big drop,
cheer when it survives, laugh when it doesn’t,
there’s even a rueful chant of “Break. . . break. . . break!”

throughout it all, it’s at heart about doors
and the making of every effort to be sure
that each stands open and available
to the right effort of any student drawn to such openness,

I love the kids’ faces as each is drawn
toward the wonder inherent in every moment,
to the joy so ready to release
when the key turns,
the lock releases,
and we are amazed with what we find behind the door.

by Henry Walker
March 11, ’11

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Henry's Year

My heavy lifting

as Fall moves into Winter,
and as Winter holds us inside more and more,
I find it time to do my heavy lifting at school,

in November, we celebrate lives with the Day of the Dead,
reach out to the world with a hunger exercise for our middle schoolers,

and work to touch each part of the world with our imagination,

then with an International Potluck to celebrate the world and or connections
with an exuberance of food,
and then fundraising for Oxfam to help them
help empower people after people around the world,

in heavy Winter it’s time for the school play
with up to a third of the middle school
creating a dramatic whole that fully engages creators and audience,
a community is born and lives again
whenever any of us work to recreate such a wholeness,

and, just before Spring, it’s time for Science Day,

a time for the scientist in every middle schooler
to feel a call to come out and reveal itself,
in experiment, in workshop,
in the taking of risk and the joy of discovery,
and, just after, I retreat to my mountains
where I am not initiator,
rather I am apprentice
to what can be without any of my help.

by Henry Walker
March 5, ’11

the season is changing

Spring is stealthy

Spring is stealthy, sneaky, unobtrusive,
as it hides away in the dark time,
in the cold time when water forgets it’s a liquid,

now in early March the calendar reminds us
that the Equinox is but weeks away,
and the air here in the South
feels more of the Gulf of Mexico than that of Canada,

crocus I’ve planted are like scouts for spring,

now daffodils, hyacinth, January jasmine, and japonica

follow in flower in our yard,
trout lilies begin their show,
the maples hurry their blooms/blossoms
and use wind to carry their pollen,

if I look closely at branch of bush and tree,
I see that which was hidden
works hard to start to reveal itself,

though still cautious to not come out for sure
until more sure of acceptance,

I see a bluebird today for the first time this year,
right at the bluebird house we maintain for their species,
his thoughts, and hers, she whom I haven’t yet seen,
their driving thoughts must be of the next generation
that will feed on the insects that will awake,
Spring will drop pretense
and release leaf and flower, seed and young,

the light time, the warm time, will hide away for a time
the caution that will become the upcoming Fall into Winter.

by Henry Walker
March 5, ’11