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

Sunday, September 27, 2015

callouses of surety

the value of glitches

my wounds are my strength:

as we go through life
we make mistakes
and we can never go back and correct them,
the universe, too, makes mistakes,
glitches for which there is no divine plan, 
despite how much we hope for one,
we can only hope to survive each glitch
and learn how to live with them,
I can never get past my father’s untimely death,
I can just learn to live with it,
and my turning away from him,
when I wish I’d turned toward him, and he to me, 

yet that wound in my soul
rubs off callouses of surety,
I feel the joy in the moment
and I feel toward the pain glitched onto others,
particularly my middle school students
who, too, have wounds from the gauntlets
through which they have to pass,

my wounds allow me to have strengths
I would never have had
if my way forward had just been easy.

by Henry H. Walker
September 24, ’15

Saturday, September 26, 2015

hearts a bustin' with love

David Stewart

ah, Dave,
much of who I am 
coalesced out of the swirling maelstrom of the Sixties and Seventies,
years when we were much together with each other,
a time when circumstance and choice
swirled us together a lot,
I treasure my memories with you then,
the floor games in the control room of the Language Lab,
hiking and exploring the Smokies,
you and Stupka our flower experts,
the Waltons and good meals together,
sharing our kids with each other,
our “Little Woofer” and your Emily, then Ike and Jacob,
going up Greenbrier to the high bridge without a railing,
and your overwhelming love and concern for Emily
flummoxed you and I was honored to be able to help her across the bridge,
sharing Friends School with you all as fellow staff, 
you and Karen as CFS parents,
then you on the Board, then Chair of the Board,
helping to hold us together,
your getting me started with meditation decades ago,
a discipline which I follow religiously every day,

as more recent swirling maelstroms have carried us apart,
I still treasure our connections with you,

your love, your being there, fully for us, for Ann,
then for us, again, with the loss of Ann,
all extraordinary,

I loved your all’s wedding above the cabin,
and then the fireworks!
when one misfired, 
your dad shouted: “Look out, Mother!”

 hearts are a’bustin’ with love,
and you are in our hearts.

by Henry H. Walker
September 21,  ’15

Friday, September 25, 2015

oh captain, my captain. . . soon to another ship

Mike Hanas, Headmaster

no one can really know the depths and breadths of another,
neither the back story, nor the current story,
and for someone who serves as administrator,
they stand above us, 
buffeted by winds and storm they can keep from us,
and we below deck have enough challenges of our own
as we keep our focus on our own worlds,

to me Mike gives complete attention to the one he’s with,
to the one in the crowd who speaks to him,
on the personal level he forces the issue to be one-on-one,
though somehow he also keeps his attention
on what the personal tells him about the universal,

Mike loves the intellectual, the dance of ideas,
the coherent thought developed, expressed, provocative,
he loves the venture, 
at least as much in the attempt as in the success.

as head of our school, vision pushed him in his musings,
and he could see where we tend to go,
where we might go,
and push us to choose where we will go,
what the student needs, paramount,
what the staff need, almost as paramount,

and then he finds a crack in the hull,
a tragic flaw neglected for decades,
yet present every day for victims,
and he would not allow the convenient forget,
the ease of dismissal,
the convenient sweeping under the rug,
for he sees, knows, loves each who is hurting,
instead on the prow he leads CFS into the storm,
and, once again, true to us as a school,
the student, each student affected, centers his universe, our universe,
and prices are paid of revelation, recompense, and redemption,
a soul-searching for which he is applauded and condemned,

I feel as a child to a parent,
a child getting old enough to glimpse a bit of the effort, and its cost,
of he who leaned into the storms,
and led us through into the relative calm
that still needs all hands on deck to keep us on course,

Thank you, Mike, for keeping us true to who we are,

I love the self I see now behind your eyes,
one ready to lead the way again for another school,
and who will chart and navigate through new waters,

we will miss our old captain,

and we will find a new captain
to follow and lead the crew, plus the vision,
into whatever tomorrow we need to find,

just like the back story and the current story,
there will be new stories we cannot yet fathom,
but isn’t that life?
a wondrous adventure into the unknown. . .

by Henry H. Walker
September 17, ‘15

Friday, September 18, 2015

lesser to their greater

subdued by coastal redwoods

a mature redwood forest endures few animals below its crowns,

there, a deep dark gloom befits that world,
as if here it’s time to be only serious, subdued, daunted,

when sun beams through gaps in the crown,
a moment can surprise you
and laugh like a young child,
a child who can penetrate 
the gloom of the old 
with a moment’s joy,

most times I find a welcoming in the woods,
an openness to the animal, to the human,

yet the coastal redwoods know themselves
in a way that can deny a place for us, we humans,
except as temporary visitors, lesser to their greater.

by Henry H. Walker
September 1, ‘15

Sunday, September 13, 2015

"others' sorrow as your own"

the price to pay for empathy

one of my meditations counsels me
that to be a lover of God
one can feel others’ sorrow as one’s own,

there’s a price to pay for empathy,
for each empathic leap
can leave us without protective walls,
and the raging sea of another’s sorrow
can beat and beat against the sureness
that we can hope is the self with which we live,

for me, the beach is a scary place,
for there the ocean is so much greater than us,
and easily something can cause it to rise enough
to overwhelm the tenuous fragility of our selves.

by Henry H. Walker
September 11, ‘15

(for the meditation, you can Google "they are the real lovers of God who feel others' sorrow as their own"),
Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite hymn from his own Hindu tradition, representing the highest ideal of the community to which he was born. This is a free rendering from the Gujarati of Narsinha Mehta (1414– 1481) by Eknath Easwaran.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

release the creator within

writing, as much magic as science

we English teachers can lose ourselves in naming,
in the pursuit of value and meaning in analyzed pattern,
in the hope that parts of speech and dissection of how a sentence works
can give the student the key to the mystery,
that such abstract form makes explicable
how words work to capture and reveal meaning,

I love to understand those abstract patterns myself,
beyond and below the concrete creation of the paper itself,

what bothers me, though, is that before and below it all
is a leap of faith that creates form from out of the ether,
and it’s that leap that is the sine qua non of writing,
I’d love to understand that leap,
yet I find it easier to believe in a muse
than in every individual writer mirroring God
in bringing order out of chaos, form from the formless,

I struggle to know when and how the mechanics are important,
for sure I believe that first we need to help the student 
find the spark and get it to flame true and sure,
then it can be time for the mechanics 
of how it can flame better, truer, fuller.

by Henry H. Walker
September 11, ‘15

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

a metaphysical musing

the disquiet of life

life disquiets the universe,

the material has the quiet of stasis and dissolution about it:
resignation, simplicity, only the binding of gravity and proximity,

life aches toward complexity
and piles block upon block, knowing they will fall,
but building up anyway,
as if hoping that going against the current of entropy
has the divine about it:
the bringing of form to the formless,
connection to resist loneliness,

each seed echoes God’s dream before the universe came to be:
there should be order, a naming,
a rightness to shout into the stillness,
a subjectivity to challenge objectivity,
a will to be, to assert,
to search for meaning,
to assert “1” when the universe sleeps toward “0,”

we of life disquiet the universe while we live,
we spread disturbance upon disturbance,
and we hope the disquiet leads us back
to knowing ourselves as good and right,
and that we bring purpose to the formless.

by Henry H. Walker
September 1, ‘15