Sunday, February 26, 2012

the mountains to wash over me

attack, then strategic retreat

I love to attack:
to take the moments given me
so that I might do,
and change what is to what should be,

this winter I’ve fertilized, pruned,

bedded my blueberries and asparagus,

leaved and tilled the garden
until microbial bliss stirs within it,

made a renewed flower bed,
half-hidden from the barbarian hordes or deer,

started my tomatoes inside to ready for high summer,

I’ve pulled off hard weeks of helping kids learn
and making sure a great play can wow audience & cast,

now as the crocus I planted late fall jewel our yard,

I finish plans for a great day of science in the middle school:

space for open doors through which students are drawn
to where those who have chosen such careers
offer some of what the discipline and joy of science
has offered them and that they want to share,

I write this as I am in the midst of parent-teacher conferences,
within which we joy in how well the kids are doing
and in what we can do to make sure
the doing keeps getting done,

and next week I plan to retreat to the mountains
and I hope to let them wash over me like the rain over them,
so that what makes me who I am
can feel anew like a waterfall replenished from above.

by Henry H. Walker
February 25, ’12

Thursday, February 23, 2012

to rise toward fullness

Carolina Friends School

as the 1960’s struggled,
great currents pulled it
back toward the way it had been
and forward toward the way it could be,
skin color and gender tossed about
with no clear channel just forward,
war pulled the current its way,
and some called to us to hold to a course
that the best within our hearts saw,

in that time the piedmont of North Carolina birthed a vision,
midwifed by Quakers who opened themselves
to witness truth continually revealing itself,
and they chose to act upon the hope they saw,

a school births itself with little money
and yet with the enabling power of knowing
both what should not be and what can be,

always child-centered, beginning with the youngest,
and adding on as the students added years on to themselves,
like an artist comparing the canvas to the scene before,
we have always strived to make sure anything we do
fits the shape of the child,
while we appreciate whatever is empty,
we believe in the power of the self
to fill toward wholeness,

student after student, teacher after teacher,
have passed through our rooms, within our faith and our love,
and many’s the time when each has learned how
to open more surely the gift of themselves,

like in the 60’s, great currents struggle within every person,
and I love the challenge to which Carolina Friends School must rise:
to see the best that can be
and to help each within its charge
rise toward fullness.

by Henry H. Walker
February 22, ’12

Sunday, February 19, 2012

a predator lurks

a wholeness still possible

a cunning predator lurks nearby all of us,
and we can ignore it
while in the herd,
or obsess about it
like a bird with its paranoic eyes,
or somewhere in between,
while we each live a life,
somehow we can be both in the moment
and also in the possible futures that might lie before us,

my sister-in-law has been knocked down by cancer
and lies in the hospital,
held in the loving arms of family and friends,
yet also in the capable hands of nurses, technicians, and doctors,
whose jobs are a calling to hold the predators at bay,
and to give care to the wounded,
that they might feel the wholeness till possible
with what help can be given,
and with what healing each can muster
when given the right chance.

by Henry H. Walker
February 18, ’12

observation & reality

I rise up

I wonder at the way reality changes with observation:

how I can see a kid, a person, a situation,
can be clear to me and seemingly just as clear to another,
and when we talk it can be as if
it’s not two different windows with the same view before,
rather it’s as if the window’s the same
and the scene outside qualitatively different,

because each of us creates a different reality
in how we make sense of the stimuli we notice,
in how we order what we see,

I like it when one of us speaks a way of seeing
that reorders the pixels before the others and us
into shape that holds true for more than one,

my camera has a wide-angle and a telephoto zoom lens,
the eagle can be there full-frame

or a piece within the Tetons’ grandeur,

I can hunker down and focus on the perfection of the smallest
or pull back and savor the gestalt of the larger field,

for me the larger, the wider, the deeper is often better,
for the separate can be illusion,
unless we feel the eagle’s world
when we focus on the eagle herself,

I also am drawn to the self-center
of what is most immediate, closest, surest to know,
then, like australopithecus, our earliest ancestor
who raised up on two legs to look around,
I rise up and want to know where I am
within where everything else is.

by Henry H. Walker
February 18, ’12

Sunday, February 12, 2012

four poems make one, the unity of drama

Inherit the Wind:
of science and religion,
the play, the cast, the audience

our eyes pull in a chaos in front of us
and something within finds pattern within the shapes we notice,
we love the order of order,
the sense that it all does make sense,
that we can know a rightness
that not only feels good but is good,

science is a discipline
that forces us to make sure
that what we think, what we hope, what we guess,
actually survives the rake of what is provable,
the razor that cuts away the superfluous
and leaves us with the simple elegance of what is right,
a right that sometimes elders the blind hope of our guesses,
like a parent that holds us sure to a right way,

what also strikes me is what can be the rightness of faith,
a leap of belief that can find order in what can seem random,
yet still can also check its truth against what the heart reveals,
that chooses a place within upon which to stand,
to then cast out and pull back in
all the experience that can seem random,
then we can find that the heart can be as true as the head,
as long at it, too, applies the rake
that clears away anything that blocks us
from the order inherent within the best we can hope to find,

revelation can be of both science and of religion,
and can even reveal the two as making a one,
if heart & mind can work together,
with the right rake held between them.

a play is born

any life is short
when compared to what has been before
and to what will be after,
a play lives for the briefest of times:
all comes together,
throbs with the beat of belief,
and quickly passes away,
as applause dies and people scatter,
first, within the distracting chaos of people and event
a vision of what can be appears,
months of effort can then pass,
months of giving flesh to idea,
as we get near to opening night,
flashes of what can be
click together and tears find their way to my eyes,
a brief shudder along the spine,
as what was only a dream before
starts to be born as a whole
which soon will takes its first breath
and then sweetly cry that it lives.

the throttle & the brake

in early childhood development
I’ve questioned the amount of choice energetically given to kids,
I’ve worried about entitlement, indulgence,
particularly around food,
for, to me, appreciation of what one has
seems more important
than an enticement of possibilities,
any use of resource should have appreciation of preciousness,
and, further, whether to choose “a” or “b” has seemed
six of one and half a dozen of the other to me,

now as I think of my middle schoolers
in terms of the challenging drama we work to produce,
I appreciate all that work on choice,
how much learning to choose,
and how much learning how to choose,
is vital work we do in our youngest years,

now with middle schoolers
I feel the debilitating power of the tentative,
the self-doubt, the allure of the choice to hide away,
to not risk ridicule from peers,
an excessive social awareness, though social awareness
is how we notice and adjust to the other,
the group much of who we are,
I contend that just as self-indulgence can be egotistical
so can over-indulgence of the other deny one’s own self,
and give the group too much control,
in the play we push and push
so that the individual asserts a brightness:
loud, forceful, attention-grabbing,
all benefit from the almost paradox
of self-centeredness actually helping the whole center itself,
when each individual chooses such self-assertion,
it’s still within the wholeness of the group,
when each part is fully itself
the whole is larger and better
than it would have been
if the two-year-old had not learned
the power of the right choice,
we all need to know when to use the throttle and when the brake,
and to feel the confidence and wisdom to act within the choices.

of story, and choosing

everything that means much to us has a story,
with characters whose own stories go back & back,
and who have axes to grind,
a divine unsettling that needs attending,

we love conflict with either one or the other left standing,
for every day who we are comes from the decisions we make,
as various possibilities drop away and we are left standing,
how & where we stand can change every day,

consider: a state government asserts, in law,
that only its way toward truth can be taught,
a thinking man refuses to lockstep,
in his trial champions duel with each other
with swords of reason and faith,
and, no matter how this one battle goes,
I believe we every day are called to the light,
and every day we struggle to find a true path forward,

a play tells this story of one trial in the past,
whose struggles echo in today’s headlines,
36 middle schoolers grow into their characters
who each live their stories on stage with focus, passion, and truth,
the audience transfixed by a story, so well-rendered
as to call up each of our own back stories and current struggles,
every actor a major piece in a whole that lives:
a play happens, life happens,
how wonderful to witness the power burst forth from each student!
and then the power from what we together create!

I watch the audience, each intent, eyes forward,
each caught up in the struggle before them,
so close to the struggle within each of our hearts,
as all of us have to choose all the time,
and a right path is hard to find.

by Henry H. Walker
February ’12