Tuesday, October 30, 2012

teeter and totter at the same time

the balance of imbalance   

it is vital to be one’s own self:
to assert,
to follow one’s own intuitive leaps,
to take a risk,
to release upon the world
ideas that feel right to you, yourself,
ideas and feelings that feel right to be
despite how original and seemingly unvalidated
your enthusiasm might be,

yet--hold that thought--
have it work with a seemingly opposite impulse,

it is also vital to feel one’s self as connected to others:
to follow,
to respond,
to get that the other is also “us,”
to get that we need, at times,
to subsume a first impulse within a larger drive
toward order and rightness,

life is the art, not just of balance,
but of imbalance,
of jumping lightly yet surely on the “teeter”
and then jumping lightly yet surely on the “totter,”
of getting that, at best,
we know and live
both the impulse within our own assertiveness
and the impulse within our response to others,

each impulse is a hypothesis
that accounts for some data before us,
we need to alter each hypothesis
to account for the world that really is,
and that needs our individuality as a part
that helps make up a reality
that can be as collective
as we can expand ourselves to realize.

by Henry H. Walker
October 21, ’12

Monday, October 29, 2012


to risk the fall

cohesion can have a power I don’t understand,
for I cannot really get
why I am not completely undone
by each and every essay of self hazarded forth,
each taking of a risk,
each time a person ventures forth
out of the protective shell behind which we all can hide,

just to move through a day can be bravery for some,

this week I have borne witness
to kid after kid with the gumption to stand alone before us,
and deliver line and a cappella song,
while each knowing full well that we will judge and compare
and then cast our musical,

I understand better those who don’t audition,
who fear they don’t have it,
than I can understand those,
for whom fear and doubt companion them like friends,
and who can then still take a risk,

that impulse to risk the fall
and to reach for the gold
is our species at our best,
I am undone emotionally,
at least that’s a way to describe how moved I am,
by the chutzpah middle schoolers can find and choose,
even when self-doubt shouts at them, “No!”

by Henry H. Walker
October 26, ’12

Monday, October 15, 2012

every moment a miracle

mortality as a gift   

for half a century
I have felt mortality
as someone close
who can call on me any time,

I have felt life as a gift that we only borrow,
and, when we return it,
others will go about their lives just fine,
often with little sense of a repo man
 ready to repossess their own hours upon the world,

I hope,
I plan,
and I know that I barely get it,
that sense that what we have,
while we still have it,
is as much miracle every moment
as we can ever hope to know.

by Henry H. Walker
October 12, ’12

Sunday, October 14, 2012

finding a path

toward the light   

most everyone needs to be seen
to be noticed
to be appreciated,

all of us come forth
from a warm fluid oneness,
from a dark out of which we awake,
and we make our way through the cold
toward the light that calls to the light within us,

and, like any hero in legend, we’re not sure of the way:
we blunder, we stumble the wrong way,
sure we should go that way until we know we shouldn’t have,
and, if we’re lucky, we can find ourselves not alone,
two heads & hearts better than one,
and even more points can help us triangulate toward truth,
for truth is a wisp like many shimmers before us,
and it takes help to be sure the light without
connects truly to the light within,

as to my career I’ve worked
to see,
to notice,
to appreciate,
to walk with kids awhile
and help them all find their way to keep moving forward,
so that all of us can move toward a light that knows us,
that calls to us,

and then each of us can be home again
and realize the promise whispered to us
before we saw any potential path open before us.

by Henry H. Walker
October 10, ’12

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October in the Smokies

the leaves sing   

the calendar seems to move through days in abrupt
that I don’t notice at the time:
day follows day with routine tick-tocking time
which lulls me into not noticing that chunks of existence pass,

in the swelter of summer
fall is an abstract idea
that only a few early leaves mention as they turn
 as if to remind us of what’s coming,

now in October, cold clear air
comes in periodically as if to anticipate winter,
yellow reveals itself
 in rhododendron, basswood, and poplar leaves low on the mountain,
the yellow takes over tree after tree
as we hike along the upper half of the mountain,

I particularly notice the birch along the stream
who seem to be of a primal golden world,
the stream embraces a leaf as it falls into it
and hurries the leaf away downstream,
it fast forwards the dropping away,
somber green mossy rocks hold the tawny yellow leaves
 as if to display them so that we have the time
to notice and appreciate the beauty within the transience,
I take pictures of people and place
while flashes of yellow gold tumble through the air like confetti,


there’s a sharpness to the world today, and a sharpness to my memories,
both in the sweet trueness of what has been,
and in the sadness of what is lost,
turkeys and bears forage these woods with us today,

to fill themselves with seed and nut for the long nights of winter,

while I work to feed myself with memories
around which I can huddle
 as if before a giving fire amidst the taking cold.

by Henry H. Walker
October 6, ’12

Thursday, October 4, 2012

impostor syndrome

 anything less than whole?

as a wonderful old song lamented:
how can anyone ever tell himself, tell herself,
that at the heart we’re anything less than beautiful?

what we should not allow is to be dumbed-down,
to let the trickster within switch the cups around
and convince us the best of who we are is as nothing
and that the least of us is the part we should choose to be,

maybe we need to feel we’re faking it
so that hubris doesn’t blind us, or those around us,
but I worry when I watch a student, a colleague, myself,
pull back from a risk, from an effort,
when we feel as the impostor,

it takes work to build,
to essay forth out of love,
out of gritty determination,
to put together what we know can be put together,
that’s when we can connect the glory within us
to the glory within another,

when we lack the belief in self to feel good enough
about ourselves to do the work,
we lose a bit of who we can be,

while each of us still may stumble,
and we still will doubt,
we can learn to believe in ourselves, to trust ourselves enough,
so that we can, and will, move forward,

and the world is a better place
because of that movement toward wholeness,
each day is a time to believe, and to do.

by Henry H. Walker
September 25, ’12

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

the same story, newer and fuller

a wholeness to be one’s self

I feel torn between two takes of a person developing:

first, a sense of completeness at each stage of development,
and, second, a sense of an incompleteness that only seems to reveal itself
when the next stage fulls out the picture more,

our grandchildren, even when first born,
amazed me with the wholeness
with which they’ve been themselves,

and at each next stage it’s the same self
with more texture, subtlety, color, power:

at four, tools are more and more available to act on the world
with words, with actions, with leaps of imagination

in which she is consumed in the new reality

 she spins for herself and for us:
a dining room table into a boat
with her underneath it as captain,
later, molten lava in the air above us
which then becomes a monster she takes care of,

she feels a new reality and performs for us, and for herself,
with dance and song, or whatever tools the creator within wills,

a thwarting breeze can still knock her off her feet a bit,
and she is then consumed in the frustration of a reality that denies her
and pulls the chair of hope out from under her,

at seven, the feet stand firmer within a shared reality,

the footing surer,
so that a leap can easily get to heights, to brilliance,
as the world makes more and more sense--

Ranger Rick, with pictures and words,

 gives her presents of wonder about the world,

how stripes on a zebra work to keep bugs away,
a family cookbook opens her to family history and dishes,
as she seeks out roots to the past in name, place, time, recipes,

God speaks in math and she understands,
and likes to speak the language,
I watch her this morning teach Hebrew letters to her father,

for she is both to receive and to give,

each child is a full self, and has been for a long time,

I love to read each new chapter
with which the book of their lives
tells the same story yet tells it new and fuller
at each stage of their learning.

by Henry H. Walker
September 29, ’12