Sunday, May 29, 2011

ties that bind

the circle unbroken

the circle is not broken,
rather, it is forged anew
each time we come together
with intention to connect,
with care for our own selves,
with care for the other,

our circle holds in a meeting for worship
and many speak as that within must be without,
as each speaks to ties that bind,

and, though we soon will fly asunder
with our other trajectories and other circles,

the circle that has us within nature,
connected to ourself and to others,
will not be broken
unless we forget to remember the circle,
and that it is unbroken.

by Henry H. Walker,
May 26, ’11

a personal journey

to know another

how can we ever know another?
what comes in that pair of eyes?
where mind and imagination go with that perception?
what the self within makes as the disparate becomes one?
how can we ever know another?

when others share pieces of that personal journey,
I marvel at the different paths that open up
and take me down them
as I leap into the alternative universes
that exist as surely as the one within which I live,
sometimes I just smile in wonder
at the coolness of a new perspective,
and, at other times, I feel pain and the tears come easy,

when I know the truth of another,
at least the truth that seems sure
by all the objective criteria I know,
the person herself, himself instead
can feel trouble well up within,
disturbance come toward them from without,

I wish they could see themselves as I see them,
and love themselves as I love them.

by Henry H. Walker,
May 25, ’11

to soar

Peregrine Falcon

“Where’s the ridge you’re talking about?
Is it below where that bird is flying?”

and my world turns right side up,
for he seems to have spotted the birds I’ve sought
so many times here over the years,
I excitedly point with finger and words,
more and more sightings around the knife-edged ridge,
above it flaps and perching,
and we suddenly notice high-pitched calls, almost squabbling,
I use my long lensed camera to reach out,
to understand,
to record,
to save for later,

I joy that the peregrine falcon seem to be back before me,
these unsurpassed hunters of the sky,
they who our chemicals drove away
and the actions of our apology invite back.

I am beside myself
as I reach to soar with them,
we humans truly soar best
when we feel as one with the rest of nature.

by Henry H. Walker,
May 25, ’11

how we see ourselves

out of doors

when we consider just who we are,
exactly where do we see ourselves?
as we step away and look back at ourselves,
are we inside a building,
surrounded by the stuff our fellows have made?

or are we at the top of a mountain,

by the great mother sea,
by a creek tumbling with it back toward the sea,
or in a forest with our family of plant and animal?

the very words we use might answer the question,
for if we say “outdoors”
does not our deepest self feel itself to be inside?

by Henry H. Walker,
inspired by Jack St. Clair
May 25, ’11

LeConte '11

up and down the mountain

we hike more together today than do my usual groups,

the diversity of age and gender and ethnicity
expresses a way of how different we all are,
yet each rhythm moves
in sympathy and harmony with the others,
to express how much we are together,

up here on top of the mountain blue speaks to me today

whether in the fractured smooth rocks where I sit,
in the hues of cloud dappled sky
in its dissolving into the rippled ridges ranged before me,
they, like a rumpled bed, remember the tossing & turning
as plates dreamed hard against each other,
now the bed is all smoothed over
by millions of years of rain & life’s making,

on the way down the mountain
the vivid blue of the bluet whispers sharp to me time & again,

the loose rocks on the trail
and even spruce sap, weeping down a large trunk, still speak in blue,

for the soul to be so lifted up as I feel today
the body has to do the heavy lifting,
how ironic,
I simultaneously feel energized, and exhausted.

by Henry H. Walker
May 24, ’11


Indian Gap

we immerse ourselves in a recreated Cherokee village

and hear of how an earlier people, a more basic people,
lived their lives below and among these grand old mountains,
a gentler touch, maybe because they didn’t have bulldozers,
either in their minds or in earth-smashing fact,
maybe because they knew the world
and they knew themselves,
and they knew how and when to yield
and how and when to not,

here native peoples crossed these mountains
by foot on this trail for near 10,000 years,
from when this high up was above tree line
to when Europeans spread across the land like the spread of a virus,

my students spread about the Gap
with spruce-fir for their backdrop,
soft fragrant needles below,
prickly bark at the back,
needles on the trees so dark
it’s as if black merged with the green,
a wild cherry tree lightly in bloom at the center,

a muse must be whispering to each
who sit here so open and capable,
processing place and experiences,

and I yearn to hear
what the universe messages through them,
as each seeks to make sense of place, experience, and self.

by Henry H. Walker
May 23, ’11

Sunday, May 22, 2011

letting the best out

a leap, and the footing?

I believe in every student, in every class,
I particularly joy when the evidence before me
fully and deeply supports my belief in my students,

I will continue to leap with my faith
with no sureness of the footing beyond,
I thank my stars for how often I find solid ground,
as my students find the way to succeed
in letting the best of themselves out,

would that our politicians would do so well.

by Henry H. Walker
May 20, ’11

a digital story


within everyone is a voice,
particular to the individual
and universal in how each taps the best within them,
that which some of us call that of God within,
what all might agree is that which makes us most human and special,

it challenges any school to find ways
for each student to find the true story each lives,
the path heredity, parenting, and choice leave most open and sure,

today, each of our 14 year olds in the middle school presents a story to the rest,
a digital story in video form,
a story each has chosen from the voice each feels one’s own,
and, true to the uniqueness of the diversity we live and love,
the stories vary as to what part of the voice is shared,
what defining elements of self revealed,
how particular the enthusiasm, the heights, the depths,

we feel a relationship go asunder, anxiety resisted,
place and music and baseball and soccer
the stage upon which to find one’s self,

within and through each story I feel each voice find itself
and each of us hearing those voices
can maybe find our own voice within more ready to speak.

by Henry H. Walker
May 20, ’11

greater vs. lesser

every moment a test

every moment we live is a test,
a test of our truth,
our truth of vision,
our truth as effort,
a test of our wholeness of self
as the way gets hard
and lesser selves within us
whisper of shorter, meaner paths we might follow,

for example, a self-righteous anger can feel good,
though it usually get us nowhere, fast,

sometimes we’ve already run a good race,
we’re tired,
and then a hill appears in front of us,
how hard it is to reach even deeper
and find the wherewithal to win our way up another challenge,

I’m sad when a student chooses the lesser,
seduced by the illusion of feeling greater
by treating others as lesser,

each test is real,
and we only succeed when we choose the greater self within us
over that which diminishes us.

by Henry H. Walker
May 13, ’11

Sunday, May 8, 2011

another Mother's Day honoring


born on a working farm
at the top of one of many of Kentucky’s rich rolling hills,
good soil + hard work = a hard-won living,
and she learned the skills to make a home simply elegant
and how to hold together the family that could so easily fly apart,

the farm girl and homemaker
couldn’t stay down in the country,
she followed her sister and rode her horse to the city for school
and her mind opened as wide
as Kentucky’s sky can be blue,

and she traveled the world in her mind
and she opened herself beyond what is custom
to what is right by the light of her own judgement,
and sometimes her husband’s vote and hers cancelled out,
and she loved to dance her heart away
and to use the dance of cards as a social center,
and to teach her grandchildren probability,

a job at the bank
and no door opened to college--
neither was money available
nor did the culture encourage her,
not even one so very very bright,

and she fell into love and marriage with a dashing young doctor
who she grounded with her common sense
and built the house for him, for her,
and for three extraordinary daughters
who were blessed with her intellect and his
and who mirror his love and hers,

and there in the city she taught herself to sew and to cook,
and her flower and vegetable gardens were a sight to behold,
and she knew to start the water before the corn was even picked,

a populist streak to her politics
and an unwillingness to suffer any fool gladly,

that well-read openness of mind
paralleled by an openness to new foods,
she was “curry” when “curry” wasn’t cool,
tradition equally important to newness:
1 cup of coffee, then it warmed, to start the day,
plus a small glass of orange juice,
half a Coke to keep the morning going,
Sunday dinner must be fried chicken,
steaks and french fries Saturday night,
an elegant supper club and bridge club for decades,
a jar of fresh chocolate chip cookies by the door,
baked two year-old country ham at Christmas,
hopefully with white flecks,
her spaghetti and sauce a comfort food for her kids,
bread and butter pickles, strawberry preserves,
the quality and bounty of her table a constant,

a love of Jeopardy, crossword puzzles, and double crostics,
of thinking hard and clean,
a stubbornness to hold fast and true, to persevere,
a measured life, with rules and routine to keep one steady,
while inside her head and heart soared beyond measure,
fairness deep in her soul and moderation in all things,
except for love,

the only thing that could match her love for children and grandchildren
was their love for her,

Ah, Mildred, you soared with your life,
and all of us can only hope to do so well.

by Henry Walker
December 28, 2003

a Mother's Day honoring

A Eulogy for (Clara) Jean Beaman Walker July 22, 1910-December 7, 2005
by her son Henry

A woman:
a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, an aunt, a widow,
a grandmother, a greatgrandmother,
a teacher,
an inspiration to all who only had to know her
to love her
and to be loved by her,

family always so important:
second daughter so they named her Clara
for father Clarence,
for the youngest Chickie she was “Little Mother,”
and she loved the story of selling fruit cakes
so they’d have money for Christmas
she and Margie racing down Kingston Pike
to deliver and get paid
and stopping to get Santa for Chickie
at the only store still open,
parents and brothers and sisters
so much a part of her identity,
of who she became,

learning always so important:
following her curiosity and her mother’s charge
to get a college education
and continuing on into a masters
and sending half of her paycheck
from her first teaching job at Englewood
home to Magnolia Avenue,
and teaching till she got married and lost her job,
Depression rules to share the few jobs available,
as a girl reading the Congressional Record to her grandmother
who waited for a pension
from her husband’s service in the Spanish-American War,
and who gave Jean chocolates Grandma didn’t care for,
as an adult poring over every day’s newspaper
every week’s Time, the Nation too,
teaching sex education to other PTA mothers,
she and Daddy even counseling,
teaching English, a favorite, and home ec,
loving to cook with kids, who “cut her time to double”,
spreading the mysteries of sugar caramelizing,
a marble slab, a white sauce, angel biscuits,
and summer transparency applesauce,
a favorite story described her as “lost”
till her parents found her in the icebox
eating butter,

every memory wound up with the memory
of what she ate then,

a feminist, will always so important:
she started her own business,
Camp Chewase during the Great Depression,
and hired her sisters and husband,
touching lives and making money,
teaching character,
building the cabin and renting it to pay for it--
we kids giving up our rooms for summer tourists
when Gatlinburg was crowded,
spring and fall she’d teach a full day in Knoxville,
drive to Gatlinburg,
strip and make the beds, clean it all,
even the tub no one was going to use,
drive back to Knoxville
and teach a full day the next day,

Daddy dies,
companion, friend, helpmate, half of her,
and she holds the family together:
Johnny finishing Duke and Columbia Law School,
Henry finishing Duke and UNC,
Clarence finishing UT and Vietnam,
and after her kids were grown and needed her differently
time to help Gatlinburg:
supporting all the good sides in political battles,
a liberal to the core,
EMS folks still appreciative of her effort, successful,
to keep the service in town,
advising on the Convention Center
and the Foothills Parkway,
at every City Council meeting,
all invited back to the cabin
for cake and coffee and politicking,
her Letters to the Editor a legend,
the mountains so important to her:
a “National Park Founder” says her certificate,
hiking with her long-legged father,
out the door to watch any visiting bear,
the Cabin on the Creek a gateway for
children, grandchildren, and, yes, greatgrandchildren
to learn to love forest, stream, and slope,
the longer the cabin can work as such a gateway
the better,
combining family, food, and nature in a favorite story
of sweetened condensed milk fresh peach pie,
plus whipped cream, at Laurel Falls,
including a thermos of coffee, her good friend,
snow cream the way to best celebrate the white stuff,
so like her mother whom she described as never stopping working,
till her body said “no.”
and throughout it all her life was love,
when all else fell away
and she wasn’t sure
who was around
and what was happening
her unconditional love still beamed from deep within,
when sleep and dimness kept pulling at her
enter a little child into her room
and her face became radiant,
eyes sparkling,
her life was love
when Whitney and Clarke’s kids:
Devon, Morgan Jean, Caitlin, and Liam,
have visited her,
her face has been radiant,
her eyes sparkling,
hand firm,
as she knew them,
as she loved them,
as they loved her,

as was true, and is true, for so, so many of us,

her life was love.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

the play's the thing

Bye-Bye, Birdie

I know the space,
I know many of the actors, singers, dancers, crew, musicians,
I lived the time of the story,
and still this show is new and fresh and joyous,

every moment each on stage seems to open himself, herself,
so that through each flows an exuberance
that wakens the most tired of us here this mid-week evening,

faces, bodies, voices dance,
characters are real, even in caricature,
so that relationship is real, too,
and a story pulls us along,

and we marvel at virtuosity
in the collective ensemble
as near 3 dozen make a whole that works to thrill us with sound and sight,
in the individuality
of a lead who channels who an Elvis could be
in a time when convention could also rule,
enough so that a parent could rail against even the word “puberty,”
of a lead whose comic touch as a mother who can’t and won’t let go
pulls laughs from me in my sheer joy at her comic genius,
of two leads who take the whole play to really find each other,
of two leads pinned and trying to hold to each other
as time works to wrench them asunder,

around me parents and friends and peers
mirror the same joy they watch,
I laugh, I applaud, I murmur congratulations,

mostly I feel rightness as each who creates the show creates,
and it is right,
and it is whole,

and I hope that all who create this show
joy in the success wrought through each performance.

by Henry H. Walker
May 4, ’11

Monday, May 2, 2011

the way in the way out


Heinrich is a force of nature,

he’s tied to the life-force
that drives the seed to grow
and become so much more
than it seemed it ever could be,
that drives one to find another
and we become so much more
than it seemed we ever could be,
and sometimes that drive can lead to children
who reach to the future,
a rope over the chasm before us,

individuality should be far more than self-indulgence,
for when we are true to the uniqueness
that is the best of who we are,
we somehow become closer to the universal,
the way in the way out,

Heinrich is larger than life and he is still only himself,
he is so true to his own gifts
that all of us who know him grow larger, too,
truer to our own gifts
as we laugh and risk and let ourselves be real,
to be real like our beloved Viking.

by Henry H. Walker
April 30, ’11

what a gift she is

Ann’s Bright Light

how wonderful it is to be with someone
who always sees you as your best,
who spends her life picking up and setting right
what is knocked-down,
who sees what can be and says “Yes! Why not?”

what a gift it has been for each who has been
her student, her colleague, her sister, her friend,

what a gift to be the child or grandchild of this mother
so seared and graceful in the singleness
with which she has had to parent,

Ann carries a bright light
which wakes up the heart as she shares hers,
which wakes up the intellect
as she searches truly for each honest idea,

and woe be unto any
who deny the best of either head or heart.

by Henry H. Walker
April 30, ’11

morning creates

every morning is genesis

a leaf can be a bird,
a branch be a face,
a glance and a processor inside
calls up possibility after possibility
of what it might have been
that my eyes flitted over,
our perception not just passive,
as impulses come in and get recorded,
rather, we take in and immediately reach back out
to sort,
to feel,
to cut into pieces
and then put the pieces back together
in a meaning that seems possibly right to us,

I love the hour between night and day
when shape and form emerge, as if for the first time,

every morning is genesis
and we are each the chronicler
to whom what we feel as God
has given the charge to record,
as best we can,
we are given the charge to find the patterns,
to hear the story within which we live.

by Henry H. Walker
April 25, ’11