Thursday, December 31, 2015

willy-nilly we change the world

of the Winter Solstice 2015

Walker Prong Smokies

as the year winds down,
Canada sends us a taste of cold
to flurry snow on the mountains
and start to ice 
where water splashes and drips and seeps,

the steeper parts of the trail today take caution,
and enough ice slicks a high section
that we retreat back down the valley,

bright above me a quarter moon
silhouettes the reaching trees
whose leafless limbs remember summer and anticipate spring,

after writing these words, days pass,
and the Winter Solstice comes and goes behind curtains of gray,

a celestial show hard to notice and remember 
when we can’t see it and feel it,
unseasonable wet southern air denies 
that it’s time for freezing cold,

willy-nilly we change the world 
for our comfort, for our whim,
and this year the world reminds us
that we may have the power of a god,
but our souls are often too young to have wisdom.

by Henry H. Walker
December 24, ‘15

of Rachel, Izzy, and Max

the joy of grandchildren

every child’s path from potential in the genes
to flesh and blood and soul reality
can be wondrous if growing pains
can be managed into birthing labor,

a grandchild can be particularly wondrous:
a reprise of what we remember in parenting,
with far less of the moment-to-moment managing and worry,
we have spells of absence and then presence 
so that  their development for us is in chapters
rather than easy-to-miss small incremental steps,

a 10 year-old fully coming into her intellectual and soul power,

a 7 year-old who can burn and joy with the fullness of her heart,

a 3 year-old programming himself
while hardware and software update faster
than he can readily reconcile,

as grandparents we love and appreciate
without condition and with wonder,
we joy with their joy and sorrow with their glitches,
as each gives birth to the best each can figure how to be.

by Henry H. Walker
December 26, ‘15

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

below an old growth forest

a community in the soil

it’s easy to be impressed by visible thrusts
within an old growth forest, 
the great trunks of trees whose lives match countries
and dwarf the human life-span,

now I’m intrigued by the roots below it all,
they who have intertwined and commingled 
since the last ice age, never dying away completely, 

individuals pass and dissolve away back into the whole,
now the hemlocks die so much en masse 
that sun and blackberries have their time on the ground,

I wonder what consciousness imbues the roots,
what connections? communication? community?

the roots as a community have endured for millennia,
and though I probably can never know just what goes on
in the intertwined mass of their lives,
I care about them anyway.

the whales sing to each other,
and we don't quite understand it,
and it is enough for me, for now,
to appreciate that something extraordinary exists below
that I cannot yet fathom.

by Henry H. Walker
December 27, ’15

Monday, December 21, 2015

to unwrap a present

I find a picture

“let me go over there to see if there’s a picture . . . “
I announce, and I go there,
and there is a picture waiting for me,
as if each is a present that I just need to unwrap,
today a particular juxtaposition 
of light and water and rock and wood
within my eye and open to my shutter,
an angle, a take, a frame
that I hold a moment, 
beauty, rightness, a photo,

some things shout of the picture inherent:
a vista, a waterfall,

 a sunrise,

 a sunset,

the smile of a toddler,

the twinkle in an eye,

though even with the shout,
choice and timing still matter, 

a photographer needs an eye
and needs to train the eye
to see if there’s a picture,
and, if there is, figure how to capture it
before it is gone,
or before we’re gone,

at times I search for a particular picture,
for example, I looked for years for snowy high mountains
above luxuriant flowers, and one day I found just what I wanted,
today I found a still pool of water with an intriguing reflection in it,

icicles above a dropping creek, 

and club moss assertive
with dappled sun and yesterday’s light snow below them,

I often check if there’s a picture, and often I find and unwrap it.

by Henry H. Walker
December 20, ’15

the "why" of it all

whence the spirit

I am intrigued by child development,
that progress from the womb dream into our tactile world,
there to learn what one can do and thus who one is
within the constraints and possibilities of tangible reality,
and then to learn the more intangible realities 
of connections with others,

I am also intrigued by adult development.

when young, physical development empowers,
when aging, physical development disempowers,
yet, if we’re lucky and work right at it,
the spirit can learn and remember 
to release the power inherent within it,

my parents gave me a great gift of the intangible:
the desire and drive to know, to understand
the “what” of it all,
the “how” of the cosmos,
yet I also want to know “why,”
the riddle that consciousness faces every moment,

I want to understand the order
the universe releases to build complexity, to resist stasis,
to use the self to subsume the self into enduring rightness.

by Henry H. Walker
December 18, ’15

Thursday, December 17, 2015

a vengeful God, or . . . ?

time to grow up, America

I hope our country can grow up.

in a child’s development
the parent, early on, can have mythic power:
the mother who never turns away
and will hold us tightly in her arms,
the father who stands as a bulwark
against anything scary,
the one who keeps us safe,

then we grow up,
parents can become smaller, frailer, limited,
maybe even more impressive in how well each can do
given the constraints reality imposes,

today in our country I hear the child in many
demand a father to protect us,
an Old Testament Jehovah, 
angry and strong and violent,
many deny the New Testament
which hopes for us to grow up
and fully live in a world of grays,
with exceptions to the rigidity of Mosaic Law,
the charge to let our hearts live as much in love as they can,
the hope for us that we will resist giving in to fear and violence
as much as that way can be denied.

by Henry H. Walker
December 14, ’15

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

oh, Christmas tree. . .

stay the dance

I often feel that as we dance through life,
we rarely know the source of the music 
that drives our feet,
that moves us to move, to choose,
that pushes us this way, or that,

I sit next to our new Christmas tree
and marvel at its pungent fullness,
its sense of contrariness to the loss of leaves outside,
to the fall of needles from the pines,
to the diminution of light,

we bring a balsam, a Fraser fir, into the house,
and it laughs at death and resignation,

some of our cousins sleep through the dark and cold,
we humans, however, stay active, and working,
we heat and light the boxes we live in,
yet what can move us this season is the ancient tradition
of a cut evergreen, dazzled with ornaments and lights,

each Christmas tree challenges us to fully live
and to deny the call of the dark to quit the dance.

by Henry H. Walker
December 6, ’15

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

the first value of Carolina Friends School

before all else? community. . .

nothing we do at school, 
no wonderful academic leadings,
no enabling of the learning of skill after skill,
no physical facility,
no bells and whistles in the classroom,
are as important to who we are as a school
as our establishing a community,
and for that community
to see the individual,
to know the individual,
and for that individual to settle into self
and then be able to release the power within,

after such acceptance each student
is then ready to excel in the academic, 
in skill development,
in social experience,
in using space to express 
the brilliance inherent within all,
a brilliance too easily hidden by self-doubt
and the absence of a supportive environment
to encourage potential to release into wonder. 

by Henry H. Walker
December 13, ’15

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

with the rawness of fear and loss

to toss and turn

I feel facile with words
and with honesty as to demons
who embody my fears,

yet words give me the illusion of control,
and what I really need
is to toss and turn 
with the rawness of fear and loss.

by Henry H. Walker
November 27, ‘15

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

the mantra of football on TV

slipping past defenses

college football on the TV,
two teams no one particularly cares about,
yet the game entertains, diverts,
the scroll of scores in other games
swiftly crawls across the bottom of the screen,

and yet we talk of important things,
those sick now and their struggles,
it’s as if the chips of the football game
distract us into being able to chew on the tough meat
our thoughts and words tend to avoid,

we go back to my brother slipping away, 
of him as husband, father, son, brother,
of avoidance and reality,
we laugh at anecdotes of him and his temper,
of cooking and smoke,
and of a smoke detector flung into the woods,
of him when most alive,
and of him denying to speak of the ending,

there are many plays simultaneously going on around us,
we are drawn to our friends and their roles,
particularly in the tragedies,
and we do not know which act we ourselves are in,
and whether our end will be tragedy or comedy.

by Henry H. Walker
November 27, ‘15

Monday, November 30, 2015

albino turkeys!

wild turkeys

a dozen wild turkeys clustered and pecked
amidst a pile of nut brown oak and sycamore leaves,
so intent on their own late afternoon Thanksgiving meal
that they tolerate me and my snapping camera with 20 feet of them,
the two albino birds draw me the most,
and I ache to hold their flowing beauty in a frozen image,

I decide to attempt to shepherd them
so that they will move to and up along the creek,
giving my camera rock and creek backdrop
to the sleek sinuousness of their form,
and to their staccato pecking head thrusts,

it works and I move with them up the creek,

they even indulge me 
with short flights of morphing large into the air,

so that they could stay with each other,

I write these words along the creek where they passed,
my life and theirs intersected for a bit,
they knew me as a minor annoyance
who led the dance for awhile,
till they returned to their own lead,

I knew them as the lead in a dance
I love to do with the wild.

by Henry H. Walker
November 26, ’15

Sunday, November 29, 2015

the sun sets, the sun rises

the loss of observer after observer

the stream is both constant and never the same,

we humans imagine the world will end when we do,
for it’s hard to imagine the roach, the squirrel, the tree,
as protagonist in a new world with bacteria and viruses
still the bulk of life-forms,

the sun of each of our lives sets,
and the sun will still rise when we are not here to see it,

I feel the absence of those who have gone before,
and it almost troubles me that the world doesn’t seem to care,

the stream still flows 
despite its loss of observer after observer. 

by Henry H. Walker
November 25, ’15

Saturday, November 28, 2015

of Heraclitus and tension

the tension of self and other

I don’t like confrontation,
yet I also hate to not speak my own truth

connection and relationship are vital to our well-being,
and somehow we must be true to self
while also being responsive and true to the other,

it reminds me of Heraclitus’
“the way up and the way down are the same,”
for somehow we must balance seeming opposites: 
unique to self and also sharing sameness with the others,

the challenge of a middle schooler is to be an individual
while also enthusiastic as a member of a group,

maybe part of why I still work with middle schoolers
is because I’m still working hard to figure out how to hold that tension:
to honor myself apart and together,
being one while also being many.

by Henry H. Walker
November 25, ’15

Monday, November 23, 2015

may history not repeat itself here

the Devil in the heart

many of us obsess about World War II:
intrigued, captivated by how a modern country
could lose its mind and follow the devil in its heart,

in retrospect the story is so optimistic:
good overcomes evil, and we wake from nightmare,

and yet, somehow, now in the United States,
history is repeating, 
as those who are different are blamed and scapegoated,
the Muslim becomes he who should be 
feared, labelled, stigmatized,
subject to the full force of our nightmare,

we in the U.S. like to think ourselves enlightened,
and yet the dark within us
is brother to what twisted the Germans 
away into being lost.

by Henry H. Walker
November 22, ‘15

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

the electron, the Moon, and the poem

writing and quantum mechanics

reality trumps even the most brilliant:
Einstein just didn’t want to accept quantum mechanics
for he denied that an individual observation
could force an electron into being one way over the other,
Einstein felt the Moon was there, whether he observed it or not,

I often write of the creative process,
at least in terms of writing,
the how and where and what seem to materialize
once a choice is made by the author,
the very act of putting words on the page
somehow lets this one reality come into being,

how marvelous that the writer 
is as observer to reality,
somehow the writing is forced
to become one way or the other
because a writer exists, and chooses,

the Moon may exist independent of us,
but the poem and the story do not.

by Henry H. Walker
November 16, ‘15

dark dreams

lifting up rocks

I’ve gotten to a stage in my life
where the dark currents below my awareness
leak more and more into my consciousness,
particularly in the middle of the night,

at night it’s like there’s a little boy in me
who just has to lift up rocks
to see what’s underneath,
and then my dreamscape shudders with what is released,
when I can clearly see what slithers out and forth,

I cannot compartmentalize very well,
I cannot wall off doubts and fears,
and so far I can ride their bucking
until I’m back in control,

I imagine it’s like a rider and the horse,
if you can know who you’re riding, 
you two can work together
and find the way forward.

by Henry H. Walker
November 13, ‘15

Monday, November 9, 2015

upon the slate of the cosmos

ways for meaning to express itself

many are the ways 
that meaning shapes itself into reality,
I know words as a prime conduit,
I also appreciate dance, 
when movement and stasis
speak loudly in their own way,
music, when melody and rhythm,
move us at our deepest,
service, when giving to the other
heals the giver, too,

I appreciate work
when doing trumps all else,
as action is immediate to the moment,
one can talk,
and one can do,

I appreciate the laying on of hands
of those who care, of those who shape,

humans at our best fight dissolution and entropy
and seek to let that of God in us come forth,
for meaning to write itself
upon the slate of an unconscious cosmos.

by Henry H. Walker
November 7, ‘15

more conduit than magician

aching toward wholenesses

I love to create meaning with words:
letters morph into strings,
and strings knot themselves with other strings
and somehow construct scaffolds,
scaffolds that ache for wholenesses of thought and feeling,
intimations of what might be
if order can coalesce from out of the primal ether,

in the beginning was the Word
and we who write dare to remember creation
every time we leave the formless to find form,

it always feels like a conjuring whenever it works,

and we who write are more conduit than magician.

by Henry H. Walker
November 5, ‘15

Saturday, October 31, 2015

two chasms below

afoot on the knife edge 

kids can ask me:
“What is your pet peeve?”
sometimes I answer about how
people can be frustratingly ignorant
of the selfish thoughtlessness of an action,

when I get to my deepest value, though,
I answer:
“When people are not real. . .”
when they are not true 
to the authentic richness unique to each person,

life is a series of tightropes
upon which we must dance forward
with two chasms below:

losing ourselves to the other,
stymied as to being an individual
while we are pulled by the group,

and tempted to lose who we are
to the self-indulgent one within,
lost in a hall of mirrors in which
we see nothing beyond our own ego,

my goal is to be like any who move forward,
even while feeling and swaying 
to the pull of both chasms at the same time,
those who refuse to let either Scylla or Charybdis
tempt us away from the odyssey home 
to the best truth possible in this world,

the best way forward is always a knife edge.

by Henry H. Walker
October 30, ‘15

Monday, October 26, 2015

the gift of an ancient collision

it’s good to be a bit off

because the Earth tilts in relation to the Sun,
those of us in the middle latitudes have seasons,

our year exists with constantly shifting daylight hours,
so plants have to deal with freezing cold and burning heat,
with the phase change of water
that leaves us with sleeping dormant forests in winter,
and gives us the glorious regeneration of spring,

it’s all because we’re a bit off,

it’s the Earth off-center that lets life be particularly interesting.

by Henry H. Walker
October 23, ‘15

how to live a life. . .

how to honor a parent?

at our best we live our life well,
so that who we are 
in connection to others,
in our touch upon the world,
would please the parent
who gave us his all,
who loved us with her all.

by Henry H. Walker
October 22, ‘15

the charge of a parent

in a parent’s eyes

in a parent’s eyes
the child can be more real
than the rest of the universe,
more vulnerable to blasting winds
than anyone else could imagine,
more needy than the child
ever feels himself to be,
more capable than the parent
can worry she is,

I love parents, 
for my stomach knows their truth:
that sense that we as parents have a sacred charge,
and woe be unto us,
and to our child,
if we don’t rise to the challenge.

by Henry H. Walker
October 22, ‘15

Sunday, October 18, 2015

entropy wins at the end

the act I’m in now

I don’t feel anywhere near as old as I must look,
like many of us, I have an earlier image of my self
that hovers within me, 
that hasn’t changed much in a quarter century plus,
my body and mind still can do,
and, it seems to me, to do well,
much like they always have,

yet I don’t run anymore, and I miss it,
sleep is no longer a trusty sidekick
but rather a friend that counsels uncomfortable truths
right in the middle of the night,
that time when I would prefer to shut off
the fear, the sorrow, just below my sureness,
I wake up and feel that I’m slapped
with what I don’t want to acknowledge,

ever since my Daddy abruptly died
and wasn’t there for me, ever again,
I have felt the surface on which I live
as tenuous, fragile, liable to dissolve at any moment,
and something within break, and I can no longer be,
or something without randomly intrude and I am no more,

we live a life of probabilities, 
and sometimes our luck will run out,
so much that feels right won’t fit us any more,
as age and entropy win at the end,
for now, I seek to remember to live these moments well,
the curtain will come down, 
let me joy in whatever act I live 
in the moments I have now.

by Henry H. Walker
October 16, ‘15

Saturday, October 17, 2015

the light bright through the house

a dream of a new performing arts center

my working life I have given to Carolina Friends School,
to an institution whose existence only matters
to the degree to which we are true to our students,
to their needs, to their possibilities,
to that of God within them that seeks to blaze brightly,

I am in awe of the vision, the dream,
the audacious choosing of possibility over doubt
that those first dreamers dared to imagine,
they imagined a school that was as true to the students
as George Fox worked to be true to God revealed,

I was welcomed into the dream long ago,
and this is my 45th year of living the calling there,
the charge to be true to the wholeness
potential within each student,
every day, in every class, 
teacher and student here work to learn,
to be true to the best possible,

we have found a way to have a gym, fields, tennis courts,
to support the physical as a path to wholeness,

now we are close to a leap of faith
to have a performing arts facility
that can more fully match the possibilities 
inherent within our students
in terms of performance, 
the light can then shine brightly through the house,
and people can see the good works 
that now have so many limits
as to the audience we can know,

George Fox spoke of the light within all,

the Sermon on the Mount charged us to let that light shine to all, 
a new performing arts center can help that to be true.

by Henry H. Walker
October 16, ‘15

Monday, October 12, 2015

how does courage come?

courage comes in little footfalls

courage comes 
as moment to moment
a path is chosen, willed, and walked,
despite doubt and fear,
despite each little whisper that denies we can,
despite how slippery the surface that challenges our footing,

one of my students labored on the hike today
and gave voice to the negative inherent in us
that thinks we can’t, we shouldn’t, we won’t, 
and tears flowed,

he persevered, 
no matter how much negativity clamored within,
he persevered, and succeeded,
the sun of his disposition replacing the tears
that were raining hard,

by the end we learned together 
how to manage self into success,
at least for a time,

as the hike was ending, he considered
and allowed as how the hike was “pretty fun.” 

by Henry H. Walker
October 9, ’15

what our souls need

The Elk and Us

the elk draws us, and a slew of others,
to their remote valley in the Smokies, Cataloochee,
a place where they just are,
here where they are a piece of the world we lost
when we lost ourselves in ourselves,
when we crowded out animals and plants
we forgot our souls needed. 

by Henry H. Walker
October 8, ’15

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

touched by his rightness

Sweet, Sweet Max

a deep sweetness suffuses Max:
an inherent joy that expects the world to be friendly,
just as he is,
and that all will be right,

he knows what he wants,
as he increasingly considers cusps and which way to go,
he tries out his own imperatives,
despite what a later self would realize as not reasonable,
when he is redirected, or tires of being lost in a frustrated sadness,
he reverts back to his basic deep sweetness,

it is exciting to imagine how well 
he will make his world a better place,
as it is touched by his rightness.

by Henry H. Walker
October 3, ‘15

Monday, October 5, 2015

of child development, and physics

Max, and Quantum Leaps

child development is not a continuous linear progression,
rather a child abruptly shifts from one level to another,
accumulated experience shifts around inside
until disparate pieces fit together, they coalesce,
as if pieces of a jigsaw puzzle organize themselves,

one moment a struggling reader
clicks into a new reality
and letters seamlessly become words,
and words, faster and faster build meaning,

our grandson, Max, has a mind, a soul,
that watches and listens, that seeks and grasps to know,
being two, going on three, he knows enough, and wants enough,
to burden him with power he can’t yet contain,
so his parents have to be grounding
as his electrical energies flash
and skitter his want and will from here to there,

in physics, around the nucleus are concentric shells
within which electrons whirl around and around,
till, when energy is introduced, an electron can jump
to the next outlying shell, a quantum leap,

that’s what Max is doing, and all children at their best,
each makes quantum leap after quantum leap,

the circle of themselves jumps outward,

and each leap leaves them in a new place,

it takes time and care to integrate the self within
with the new levels to which understanding has leapt,
and within which it takes time to make a home.

by Henry H. Walker
October 2, ‘15

Monday, September 28, 2015

owning great chunks of who I am

how much butter over how much bread?

my therapist suggested: “You’re spread too thin,”
and at times I do feel like Bilbo, “like butter over too much bread,”

yet more I feel that I barely tap my strengths and my loves,

I love connections, communities,
I center my world around each individual student,
and I also push and push to find larger and larger connections
for them, for teachers, for alums, for family,

I use my eye and my camera to hold the twinkle in kids’ eyes,
and the sweep of their worlds,

to hold flowers and waterfalls and sunsets, and great trees,

to hold otters and bears, and a heron taking flight,

I collect Native American artifacts, petrified wood,
six vertebrae from a long-gone moose,
a plaster of Paris bear print,

I write poems to hold moments,
to hold people,
to chronicle my journey,

I garden and cook and share the bounty,

I feel called to follow my passions, to use my strengths,
rather than being spread thin,
I feel I am owning great chunks of who I am.

by Henry H. Walker
September 24, ’15