Thursday, April 21, 2011

Carolina Friends School

like a grand theater

the show must go on:

our school is like a grand theater
with teachers and all as producers and support staff
for show after show
directed, acted, presented by the students,
each of whom come and stay for awhile,
if we’re lucky, up to a decade and a half,
as students and staff come and go
what is constant is the production itself,

some of us give our lives to this structure
and to the students who find their way to it,
some others give just as fully but are called to other plays,
to other ways of being true to the best of themselves,
many goodbyes I have felt and still feel keenly
like I did at that moment when I first realized
their heart and their feet were carrying them away,

twice in the last week
some former staff, students, parents have felt a call
and retraced a way back,
it has been a time to reunite in echo
to remember who we were together in that time past,
who we are now still somewhat embodies that time
as an older self hears the guidance of a younger,

this month I also sought out a former student
and a former teacher in Maine,
I wanted our lives to touch again if only for an hour,
yesterday Facebook helped another former student find me and reconnect,
we talked on the phone for 30 minutes, and it was good,
today some of my current students particularly needed my support,
and, for some reason, I seemed even more than usual there for them
in the present of the show
that the best in them ached to present well,

what a paradox that I can be so present now
while my heart soars back and out
to so many former staff, parents, and students,
who still deeply touch who I am,

the show must go on
and the show that is now in production is amazing,

I also remember how amazing each show has been
across what is now four decades for me here
at the grand theater called Carolina Friends School.

by Henry Walker
April 18, ’11

Monday, April 18, 2011

a wave

constancy of a changing self

who we are now is a wave racing toward a beach,
which, while it looks new and of the current,
contains within itself each impulse that made it who it was
at every point it has been,

as my brother died I saw within him the child
who could not understand what was happening,
and the adult who knew and could not talk about it,
except obliquely,

I know within me that who I think I am at heart
fixed somewhere in my twenties,
and I can’t quite get what happened
to the person who looks back at me in the mirror,

it feels like the self I know shifts back and forth a bit
as the multitudes of those within me assert
and a larger me reads a sense of who the group most feels itself to be
at this time in this place for this reason at hand,

what also seems true to me is that the child
somehow has within it the adult,
at each plateau of equilibrium flashes of insight can flare,
they that will come if and when future level after level is achieved,
as if a future self calls out and is heard before it can even be:

all is change, yet, what I feel tonight, is a constancy of self
that changes except in that it is.

by Henry H. Walker
April 9, ’11

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

let's seek the fire

the fire beneath

we distance ourselves from the hard rhythms
of earth, sun, season, of either too little rain or too much,
of the reality that before all else, must be creation--
sunlight to leaves to food,
a metamorphosis upon which can be built
the edifices of our cities and technologies and comfortable lives,
without which chain after chain crashes back into not being,
without that first fire all would be dark for no one would know the light,

we know some folks in New England
who are rediscovering a working farm on 300 acres of rich Maine soil,
land and fields and barn still there from the dairy farm it used to be,
a new house is rising behind the old farmhouse,
some support pillars lovingly found, crafted, and released
to function in form that honors their growth and individuality,
south-facing to honor the sun for the lightening of its gifts,
snug and insulated to remember those gifts,
maybe enough photovoltaics in its future to be off the grid,
sunlight to electricity, so like the trick chlorophyll allows,
for now the old farmhouse holds against the cold and the rain,
a wood stove resolutely heats air and water,
we share popovers and tea with the young mother and her six month-old,

I see the creator in her eyes and hands
as she embodies that initial creation of body and self
upon which all that is human is built,
the father is off working fruit trees for the season
with fellows who share the pruning, the vision, and the prospect of bounty,

already animals embody the farm
and a big garden will go in for this year,
we savor new maple syrup from their own trees
and hear plans for vegetables for “community supported agriculture,”

in my own way I am drawn to that same fire
these young homesteaders seek:
I walk Walden Pond every year I can
and I seek Thoreau’s gift to be simple,
I appreciate myself to the Smokies
and I seek to know its forms of land water, of flora and fauna,

I garden for the joy of soft buttercrunch lettuce, crisp sugar snap peas,
a perfect tomato, blueberries and cherries that almost burn the tongue,
I also garden for preschoolers
so that each who visits can get close to the fire
from which food itself comes:
they gather native pumpkins, sometimes green beans,
and, if we’re lucky and the summer’s been dry,
we can part the earth, and a four year old can reach in,
and out comes a potato, no middleman of store and plastic in between,

many are the gifts that teachers hope students will open and use,
no gift I know of is more basic and important
than knowing the truth of farm and forest,
the rules of the game we play even though we can pretend we don’t,

so much depends on knowing a year
as plant and animal and rock know the passing of time.

by Henry H. Walker
April 8, ’11



a clean white sea gull flies by to the left,

a dark black crow flies by to the right,
the hilly forest of winter-hardy evergreen and deciduous around me
is filled with the calls of chickadees, robins, and finch,
and behind their pipings I keep hearing shore birds call,

Maine is elemental and stark this early April,
Spring may be ready to erupt,
but it’s crouched incognito behind countless protective curtains,

wet snow holds on and whitens much of this land,
and drip drips from the eaves,

a cool grey mist settles over us all,

some of the land against the Atlantic coast here
is higher than any hugging the shore
north of deep South America,
volcanic granites and basalts here hold against
countless millennia of freezing and thawing, of snow and rain,
and the land in its forms and erratics still remembers
the crushing weight of the glaciers,
melted but a dozen millennia ago,

up here I seek the sea in what I eat
and in grand views along a shoreline trail in Acadia,

where an oft-visited national park lets us hug the wine-dark sea,
she who can break like thunder upon the rocks,
and who holds a wealth of life below its surface,
as if repressed, like a person hiding his feelings,
feelings which churn and make him so much the richer,

no new flowers or even buds are yet visible,
the spruce is still dark and deep in its green
and a cheerful yellow suffuses the green of the moss in the sun,

our science reconstructs the story of plates and magma,
of global warming and cooling, of drift and collision,

of upwelling and settling, the fall and rise of this land by the sea,
which feels so settled to us, as if denying its real past,
our history reconstructs the story of the earliest peoples here
and then tells of the Europeans who dared
to explore, to settle and to farm--
now there are more here than the land and the sea
can support with their bounty,
I don’t know the future, however, I do know
how much the beauty here tugs at our heart to come visit,

today the bright air opens vistas,
the sky is a brilliant blue,
the horizon pulls us toward it over the bountiful sea,

clouds come in the next day and leaden the air,
so that what I see with my eyes closes in,
what I see with my memory and my imagination opens up
again and again when the sea gulls fly by.

by Henry H. Walker
April 5, ’11

our granddaughters

each a jewel

“She’s performing even when she doesn’t know she’s performing,”
Rachel, the six year old big sister and buddy explains to me,
for no one is a better expert than she
regarding her going-on-three younger sister Izzy,
she of the curly locks, engaging smile, quick eyes, and verbal tours of force,
nothing also seems to get by Rachel,
acute in perception of every piece of the action around her,
and extraordinary in perception of the pattern after pattern
the pieces can make:
figuring out even and odd numbers, with just a little help at four years old,
cracking the pattern of reading now at six:
correcting the pronunciation of “hoped” to “hopped”, just by context,
guessing again and again in sports brackets better
than many who know far more of the details,

now the younger draws the eye of the adults,

for we are moved by the extravagant, the novel,
and we can miss the subtle, the deeper,
the acquired taste that takes longer to appreciate,

each is well worth the effort,
one just takes a little more chipping away to find the jewel,
each just as bright as the other.

by Henry H. Walker
April 3, ’11

a club I'm in


at the heart of everything alive
we need to reach toward the future,
for life itself is of enduring--
only that which lasts can remember yesterday
and anticipate tomorrow,
if only in our drives below consciousness,
humans are relatively recent members
in a club of plants and animals,
they that were, many that are,
and all that want to be, still, into the future,

I love the parent inherent within us
who will deny the selfish self and embrace the larger self,
I am undone by that impulse--
that which drives us to have kids, even not of our genes,
undone by how well that impulse can drive
the straight and the gay, the partnered or the single,

I am also in awe of the grandparent,
they of the club I am so happy to have joined,
for to the grandparent, three links in the grand chain manifest in front of us,

the newest aching toward keeping itself going,
at least that’s how it seems to me,
the grandparent has the luxury
of not having to do the heavy consuming work
of forging and maintaining,
plus we can know in more dimensions
what is being wrought
and know it to be wonderful,

we can feel that the best we feel within us
can seem to reveal itself as true as we can hope for
in the smile, the words, the self
that we deeply hope cannot be denied.

by Henry H. Walker
April 1, ’11


Amaryllis By Morning

just by the chair within which I meditate early each morning,
a big earthenware pot holds a grapefruit-sized amaryllis bulb
who sits there for weeks while Sun comes and goes,
two-thirds above the soil, one-third heavily rooted,
I water it some, just enough to keep the soil from drying-out,
and it says nothing, no new growth, no change I can see,
till one day in March a green tongue of a leaf comes out the top,

I watch it grow up & up, a stem reaching as high as it can,
as if building itself out of nothing;
whoever its workers are, they follow directions I cannot hear,

when it’s high enough for itself, it starts spreading out:
buds appear and slowly open into great flowers,

and I am like all the farmers, poets, artists, children
who have marveled at plant, bush, tree
as each unlocks itself from stasis
and finds within itself vision and energy to bring forth,
the quiescent to the flower, and then to the seed,
the marvel of creation embodies itself,

I know of consciousness in humans and animals,
and I am intrigued by the question
of how much awareness and intelligence
is behind the design within the amaryllis.

by Henry H. Walker
April 3, ’11

Friday, April 1, 2011

teachers can move on

fellows I miss

some do not go first off into that good night,
rather, they go off in to some twilight, away from me,
which I hope is good,

there is a cutting edge
right where our students take off, or stumble,
maybe even fall flat on their faces,
and it’s right there where intention meets the road
that I feel the call to help student after student get a grip,
realize the control possible, and put the pedal to the metal,

if I take a break, and I’m not there on the pit crew,
I feel that whoever takes my place
will miss something,
and the student, though no real fault of their own,
will spin out and have to start again,

so many teachers, with whom I’ve worked, have left where I work,
and I do my best to remember their gifts in what I give,
in what I learn to give,
in how to help the student take off,

and yet I still miss them,
for, while I love what I do,
I also love the ways my fellows have done the same job so well,
and every new person in the crew
might do it as well, maybe even better,
yet I fear any diminution
of what our extraordinary students need
so each can race forward.

by Henry Walker
March 29 ’11