Monday, April 28, 2014

to open the gift that is one's self

FriendsFest ’14

at its best
every day is as our birthday party
during which we open the gift of ourselves to the world,
and the world smiles and laughs
in appreciation of what it is given,

at its best a school can host the party
and each student can discover his/her gifts
and delight in opening them to share,

today in Saxapahaw, N.C., at FriendsFest,
musicians and singers in our community dazzled us
with the presentation of their joy, their skills,
the way in which each can take instrument and voice,
and spark connection after connection,
there’s electricity as individuals become ensembles,
the whole even greater than the sum of its parts,
as audiences wake up, notice, and are moved
by the brilliance that shines before us,
as the gifts inherent within each self release as performance,

we smile and laugh and joy
in how amazing each gift reveals itself to be
as all the performers open themselves to the world,
and we who helped them along the way
can joy that each found his and her way through the gauntlets,
and did not yield so that each could find the way forward
and open the gifts revealed here before us today.

by Henry H. Walker
Carolina Friends School Staff
April 26, ’14

Xavier, the play

we, robot

each of us is on a journey
to find who we really are
we want to find others who can help us
find the path to believe in ourselves
and who can serve as reality checks to our self-definition,

my career has been to serve as a middle school teacher
and I have felt best as one of those others
who helps the student believe in his and her self
and helps the student find the path away from the lesser
and toward the greater within,

tonight a play used the vehicle of middle schools
designing a robot from scratch
to explore body image,
as ideas of perfection of look war with function,
and then the ideas explored moved from the vagaries of the physical
to how heart and mind define us,
and how, at our deepest, we share ambivalence within ourselves:
we love and hate who we are at the same time,
and a confident sureness is an illusion that just can’t quite happen,
we are at our best when we act on the greater
and still pay the dues of remembering the lesser,

tonight, playwright, director, and middle school cast nailed it,
and all of us are better for remembering the truth
of who it is the universe makes when we make ourselves
and how that process works.

by Henry H. Walker
April 25, ’14

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

early spring and trees

the tree as pointillist

I see trees in early spring
as pointillist painters,
sprinkling dot after dot of a yellow green
upon the gray structure of reaching limbs,

all impressionistic and striving for a whole
more in the gestalt of the viewer
than in the totality yet created for the tree.

by Henry H. Walker
April 18, ’14

Monday, April 21, 2014

humans and circles

who the master?

humans are drawn to each other
almost like magnets lining up with each other’s field,
we find another and soon we face the other,
the journey through the moments then becomes person to person,
and the journey out to nature is abandoned,
I watch adults and kids
both slip into the social, quickly, easily,
while all around them nature quietly offers her wares
of exquisite flowers, falling water, even bears,
yet circles facing in can be stronger
than being open to revelation from without,
that revelation that can shake us to our core,

the lonely within us can feel like it’s drowning
and clutch at whatever might hold it up for awhile,
whether it be the comfort of conversation
or our electronic ubiquitous jeejahs*,
each can be a useful tool, 
yet the tool can become the master,

I want my master to be that of God
within myself and within whatever is the other,
for then the drowning makes me larger.

* term from Neal Stephenson, Anathem
by Henry H. Walker
April 19, ’14

sketching wholenesses

images and my writing

do I write in image?
in lovingly and luxuriously perceived and crafted
visuals for the page?

no, I more perceive and craft in abstract principles:
the image for my art is not words painting,
rather, it is rectangular worlds captured by my camera,

I admire the painter, whether with brush or words,
I, however, sketch my wholenesses differently.

by Henry H. Walker
April 18, ’14

Thursday, April 17, 2014

first is belief in possibility

The child is the curriculum

how do we determine curriculum?
how do we decide what we actually do with the students,
the experiences, the structures within which each moves?

there’s an attractiveness to scaffolding
of content, of skills: a set itinerary,
yet, for me, I focus first on the individual,
for only when the learner is turned-on does learning occur,

if I ran a travel agency,
I don’t think I’d figure the perfect generic trip,
rather I think I’d tailor where to go and what to do for my clients,

the art of cooking is not just following a recipe,
but first a vision of what one wants to eat,
and then using recipes and will to find a path to that dish,

for me, curriculum is more the skill of attitude and approach
than the content of data or the logical sequence of structures of skills,

scaffolding is vital but first is belief in possibility,
and second the vision within which the scaffolding can grow.

by Henry H. Walker
April 11, ’14

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

challenged by a big city

New York City

there is a deep rightness to the perfection of a flower,
in the purpose of a wild wolf,
in the full emptiness of a natural landscape,

I am challenged by a big city,
how divorced from the earth is feels to me to be:

pavement and sidewalks and buildings
instead of dirt and grass and trees,
grids of streets and boxes within boxes of buildings,
comfortable cages within which to work and to play,
and to build lives I am sure can be rich and full,

though, to me, I like to visit, not live in such a big city,

I do love the subways,
to clatter through the ground
as if we’re nutrients in arteries,
and I like the streets which are a cacophony of horns and languages,
and people bustling from one place to the other,  rarely meeting one’s eye,
and finding meaning in a store, in another, in the pursuit of dreams,
in the rightness of a job, in the tragedy of a lost way,
and it’s hard for me to not pick up the ubiquitous trash,

great buildings thrust solid and sure into the sky

as humans create in concert to show that we can,
part of us fears too much pride, 
and, like those Old Testament voices,
we can fear the city, 
I wonder if those terrorists feared the Twin Towers as a new Towel of Babel,

I move through New York, entranced by a grandeur of vision,
even Central Park is excessive in its size,
in its glacier-scoured bedrock boulders,

profusions of daffodils, and flirting geese raising a ruckus,
great towering shields of buildings surround the natural luxuriance of the park,

a lone saxophone player wails for heart and purse,

when I fly back home,
I appreciate the comfortable box of our home,
and I feel the rightness of trees and garden and sky above it,

of how I need the grounding of the first truths--
those that were here before us,
and those that will be here after us.

by Henry H. Walker
April 12, ’14

Sunday, April 13, 2014

CFS over time

the more things change. . .

plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose:
the more things change, the more they remain the same,

when money appeared for the gym, and the land for it,
my own son, Aaron, despaired at the change,
for sports were not the gate for his talents then,
when pavement replaced dirt and gravel,
some former students despaired that Friends School lost itself,
when the middle school decided to build interior walls,
I appreciated the gains and still mourned the losses:
as focus in classrooms became easier,
openness to the whole became harder,

through it all, I have been there,
as staff have come and gone,
as students have come and gone,
yet the school is still much the same place
which drew me so many years ago,
a place that nurtures and supports the best we can be,
that lives the faith that that of God lives in each of us,
and woe be unto any who seek to deny
the awesome inherent in every child,

our big middle school musical this year was Oliver:
27 middle schoolers, 30 lower schoolers, 1 early schooler,
and, once again, student after student surprised themselves
with a burst of brilliance revealed to all,

when the way opens for a new performing arts center,
our productions can be more readily shared with a larger community,
and, as with the new science labs in middle school,
the way to brilliance can be easier as to logistics,

there is a radical premise to CFS--
that truth is continually revealed and should be acted on,
and that it needs freshening all the time so we don’t lose our way,
but, rest assured, plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose,

as best as I can tell, the CFS you knew still lives.

by Henry H. Walker
April 8, ’14

Sunday, April 6, 2014

we are our imagination

stepping out of the moment

we can imagine,
and thus we can step out of the moment,
that world anchored in our senses,
and into realities that might be,
from the fantastic to the probable,

inside we can travel in time,
whether to remember paths that lead to now
or to see what might be along this or that potential path,

as near as I can tell,
most other animals don’t remember ones lost to us:
after a lion makes a kill
the herd seems to forget 
and moves on with grazing,
and we humans can do that, too,

but we also can remember too well
and a past loss can haunt us,
that which gives up the ghost
still exists for us as we imagine,
we can foresee our own passing
and, through understanding a limit to the future,
present moments can be even sweeter.

by Henry H. Walker
April 4, ’14

Saturday, April 5, 2014

a thought terrain

history writes with water

I hike along the creek,

and I change where I’m going
according to how I can answer the issue
of how to cross the water,
a bridge is not what nature gives us,

and a ford works in lower water if it’s okay if you get wet,

I look up the hill and see a path
carved above the cliffs so that, even in flood, travel can work,

trails and roads snake through mountains
the ways water shows us how,

I am fascinated by how much of history
has been written by water.

by Henry H. Walker
April 2, ’14

Friday, April 4, 2014

April wildflowers call us to the mountains

special gardens

wildflowers pull us up to the mountains in April,

and windflower and yellow trillium

whisper a welcome
as we move through them in search of the special gardens
with just the right mix of soil and moisture, of sun and circumstance,
so that blood root can bloom for its brief flowering
and we want to be in the audience for its presentation,

winter has withdrawn much of summer’s obscuring foliage,
though it's also littered the forest with dead branches,
almost in parody of branches cut and spread to honor and celebrate,

today we move with wonder through two of our favorite wild gardens,
one far enough up a valley that the land was never domesticated,
and, underneath great buckeye trees,

 are draped fields of
white-fringed phacelia, spring beauties, hepatica, windflower, 
white trillium,

Dutchman’s breeches, 

and trout lily,

and on a limestone slope just above where Little River leaves the park,

where a hundred years ago all the great trees 
were transformed into lumber and slash piles,
spring ephemerals still find a space to be,
as blood-root blooms in profusion,
accompanied by hepatica, toothwort, 

violets, spring beauties, 

rue anemone, chickweed,and yellow trillium,

every spring nature throws a party with the flowers,
and, like the honeybees in the phacelia I saw today,

I am drawn to the sweetness of what’s there,

there’s a feast planned for summer,
for now I love the appetizer of small special gardens
which whet my appetite for what is still to come.

by Henry H. Walker
April 2, ’14

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

stasis and life take turns

maple sugaring time

here in late March in Massachusetts

snow and ice still linger
where plows have moved it all out of the way
and where sun hasn’t yet phase-changed it back to liquid,

all this world seems water-logged,

here where winter can rule with a frigid hand, 
it’s as if stasis and life take turns at the game:
like Persephone half the year here, 
half the year not,
like in Narnia with the White Queen 
denying spring as long as she can,
like with the Vernal Equinox 
as the day is torn in half between light and dark,

I am intrigued by what I learn of maple sugaring:
that for the sap to flow well

nights should be in the 20’s and days in the 40’s,
each productive day a new reawakening from winter to spring,
and then the sap boils down from 30 gallons to 1 gallon of maple syrup,

it takes winter and spring together to remember the sweetness of summer.

by Henry H. Walker
March 29, ’14

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

a 5 year-old's imagination

the power of play

there’s power in a 5 year-old’s imagination
as she creates whole worlds
within which she acts
and within which character after character also act,
all within her power as that of the creator,

she can lose herself in play for long periods
where her will is dominant,
such control can contrast sharply with the regular world
that can mightily frustrate a young one:
all the restrictions on her impulses
as others need their turn
and many desires need tempering,

play is a respite, an escape,
from the hard work of growing-up,
and also a place to work out the plaguing kinks from her stumbles,
it’s calisthenics for the imagination
and a retreat before the next advance:
then she’s back in the give-and-take differentiation of self and other
that tempers and shapes the steel of her will.

by Henry H. Walker
March 30, ’14

the quilt, or the winds

Rachel on a Cusp

life is change
as “what isn’t” becomes “what is,
genesis miracles around us all the time,
I can love what was and hope to love what will be,
all the while hoping to hold the sand of now
as it slips through my fingers,

our oldest grandchild is 9 
and on a cusp that is stark in contrast:
drawn to both the embracing warmth of the quilt of childhood
and the bracing heady vigor of the winds of knowing,

she loves the uncomplicated pleasures of play, of laughing,
of figuring out simple puzzles,
of enjoying the uncomplicated pleasures of her life,
while, at the same time, she hungers to learn,
to know what adults are talking about,
to read voraciously, even if the topics in the books
are not yet appropriate for her,

I tease her as she watches tv that the woman on screen
doesn’t look much like Dora the Explorer,
then I add, “Oh, you’re not 3 any more, are you?”
to which she replies, “Unfortunately, no. . .”

by Henry H. Walker
March 29, ’14