Saturday, February 23, 2013

me at 65

playing the odds

the house eventually will win
and I will be no more,
yet while I know I play dice with the universe
I also know that I can increase my odds
with exercise, diet, and common sense--
none of which guarantee that randomness
won’t end my game any time--
every morning that breaks upon me is a gift,

more and more precious as the view in the rearview mirror
stretches so much further than what is before me,

I’ve just turned 65
and I helped pull off opening night
for a middle school musical on that birthday,
a week before vertigo turned me around
and laid me flat for awhile,
test after test and all seemed fine
so we added two more tests:
an echocardiogram of my beating heart on Valentine’s Day
and ultrasound of my carotid arteries 5 days later,

and, for now, all looks great,

we start rehearsing for Our Town Monday,
a story of how important it is 
to live a life appreciating each moment,
life is precious, 
and still the capricious can visit us
and end the moments, 
whatever we wish.

by Henry H. Walker
February 20, ’13

Friday, February 22, 2013

to adjust our music


the air feels of winter:
crocus and daffodil whisper of spring,

sleep calls to me to mirror
the bare elegance of a leafless tree, and wait to act,

while the bareness of the garden
pushes me to act to be ready for the next season,

rather like the way stores anticipate
the clothes soon to be needed,

winter forces us inside
where it’s easy for viruses 
to add their needs to our own,
almost as if to mock how we build
with how energetically they can take us down,

every person lives a life
as if each is an instrument with its own tune,
and, yet, we do not often play alone
where our flourishes and notes 
just have to cohere with each other,
instead every other also sounds what feels right for each,
and, as we add our sounds together, 
cacophony can cry out,

to be most successful in how we sound the world
we need to adjust our music to others,
to other people and to the grand rhythms
with which the world itself surrounds us,

sometimes we need the grace to yield and follow,
sometimes we need the audacity to wrench the music
into a rhythm we find true and new.

by Henry H. Walker 
February 18, ’13

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

releasing the light within


how many brush strokes does it take 
to make a painting that’s ready to be presented?
what does it take to see the potential whole
and how to use the strokes to get to it?

I watch an actor essay a gesture, a movement, a line,

an artist with brush or papier-mache build a prop,

a choreographer see what is, suggest what can be,
and help it come to be,

a singer find the note and the song
and how to release it on stage,

a stage manager manage the logistics 
and manage the actors to learn the lines 
so that it all gets done, 

the costumer who sees what can be done with material and vision,
and she does it, no matter the hours it all takes,

the make-up artists who accentuate features for the humans
and accentuate the fantastic for the creatures of Narnia,

a carpenter artist who hears what might be built
so that what’s on stage allows audience to believe,
or at least to suspend disbelief,
and he does it,

the musicians, who with vision, and piano, and belief,
enable song and accompaniment to be
so that music transcends and deepens story and performance,

and me? 
 I do whatever needs doing,
whatever that I can figure how to do,
sometimes I’m frame to hold against flying apart,
sometimes glue to hold the disparate into a whole,
I see what can be and I find who can make it so,
and I believe in them and that can help them believe in themselves,
and they make it so,
each brush stroke vital to the whole,

or maybe each are frames in a movie,
and, when the whole is animated,
each part is alive,
and the whole is alive,

what makes life is both the importance of each part
and the miracle of how much more the whole can be
than just the sum of the parts,
no matter how impressive each part is,

there’s an elemental beat that we call chance
and what life does is play a melody
above, around, and against that beat,

how appropriate, that for a musical,
my metaphors switch into straining 
to hold the movement as central to the meaning:
the characters whose very movement can release their stories,
the songs whose sound pulls me in
and whose meaning can undo my distancing
and bring me fully focused into appreciating
the depth of the messages
and the power of the messengers,
whose movement and story and song
pull me into offering tear after tear
in appreciation of the alchemy of what brilliance
can come into being and live upon the stage,

as I told the kids just before opening night opened,
we see them, we know them,
and we are in awe of the totality of their gifts
and the power of what has been wrought
because so many gave so much,
because each held close and let free the power within 
that can hide itself away
and which nevertheless aches to break free,

in our musical Narnia I joy in how many 
break free into excellence.

by Henry H. Walker  February 9, ’13

Thursday, February 7, 2013

a tilt, and a skid


I am completely in the moment
and I know how this moment connects to the next moment,
how this and that part of what is connect to each other,
the world feels real with a sureness of continuity
like the steadiness of a beating heart,

then, with the suddenness of a thrown switch,
the world changes from solidity to impermanence,
I no longer feel grounded in a world I can know,
but rather loosed of my moorings 
in a world I only partly contain
in how I understand myself and it to be,
no longer do my senses comfortably center my world
so that I know exactly where I am,
where all else is, how we are connected,
and how I can move within it all,

within my inner ear something changes
and I feel as shocked as many were by Copernicus
who changed away the sureness of a fixed Earth,
and, if all is relative, sureness is an illusion,

my vertigo leaves, and I get back to feeling connected,
I still seek to learn from that revelation
that sureness and fixity can be but illusion.

by Henry H. Walker
February 4, ’13

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

students as story

the prequel and sequel to now

consider the kids in a school as a story, a book,
and we live a chapter with them,
for that story to be, prequel after prequel have been lived,
each is not an Athena who has sprung forth full-blown,
with no past,

a teacher reads the story,
and, if we read it well,
we know the character before us
and our understanding touches the pieces of the plot that is now,
and we enter the story as a new character, probably minor,
in the story the student is telling with his and her life,
and that chapter can be engaging with conflict--challenge,
and we hope with success,

the student moves on into the sequel,
a chapter is over, and yet the story continues,

before our chapter, if we look back, were other chapters
in which the characters faced other challenges
and created their personas through how they learned the world to be,
and how they could be in relationship to themselves,
to others, and to other challenges,

character develops, and the backstory can be vital 
to understanding the character and plot before us,

I want to teach the whole child,
in all the glory and effort, 
the hope and the doubt,
that now manifests,
I also love to know and appreciate the texture of the past
which lives with them in who they are,
and I do like to imagine the future that calls to them
as the whole person can seek to break through 
shell after shell which might hold them back.

by Henry H. Walker
February 2, ’13