Tuesday, September 27, 2016

John Walker, Jr., passes away


a father,
from South Carolina’s Low Country,
where the soil is rich
and so is the burden of history and heat,
gifted with an intellect that set him apart
and enough football skills 
to get him to college,
the first to do so in his family,
football skills and a master’s degree
 make him marketable as a teacher,
so he escaped the Low Country for opportunity
in the cool mountains of East Tennessee,

a mother,
rooted in the rich farm life 
of East Tennessee
and the intellectual will
 of a New York grandfather
who escaped the cold 
and the limited opportunities
 of a 14th child,
gifted with an intellect 
that set her apart--
devoted to learning and to her family,
burdened by the restriction of choice
when culture forgets truth,
and thinks being a woman 
narrows your possibilities,

man and woman found each other
from out of the loneliness 
that too much intellect can create
and from an equal excess of heart
that flowed from each to the other,
 and to all,

a son is born
and all their universe centers upon him,
as he grows, he, too, can feel set apart,
as his intellect drives him to places
few others around him seem to see,
his heart, too, big enough to hijack him,

so much of the man we saw
is the mind in full flower,
yet fertilized and directed by the heart,

racing to figure, to connect dots,
even those no one else sees,
in his last years when illness and stroke pummeled him,
his doctors pronounced that Johnny with half a brain
had more brain than they with a full brain,

a drive to him, as to so many first-born,
and maybe even more 
to those named junior
to someone extraordinary as senior,
excelling in school, 
his brilliance rewarded with high grades
and a ticket away from East Tennessee to Duke
where he again excelled in class
and then won a ticket to Columbia Law School,

Daddy died before he could know of either success,
of the honors that showered upon Johnny in school
and in the practice of law,
brilliant in understanding bankruptcy law
and for decade after decade  his law firms successful
due to his knowledge, his skill, his hard work,

the teacher in his parents also in him,
the occasional course at U.T. Law School
and the annual refresher of law
 across the state,
Tennessee Law Institute,
the inexplicable made accessible,

like Grandmother,
 he could not abide English mistakes,
there is a correct form
and woe be unto any who don’t follow it,
including protocol rules of seating
 at a wedding, or at a Thanksgiving table,

his approach to God best facilitated
with the rules clear and God manifest
in the Word and in the Practice,

his thirst to know, to learn, to experience
rewarded by A.F.S. with a summer in Switzerland 
that led to a lifelong love affair 
with people and place of that extraordinary country,
a passion that drove him to return year after year,
even taking his mother there once for holiday,

returning to ski slope,
to tradition, to being honored for being special,
to mountains that draw him to their beauty and to their power,
to pull him from the ordinary into wonder and grace
and away from the humdrum and limiting
that birthplace can be for one,
a driving need to be differentiated from the other,

our ancestors must have felt within them
a call to be elsewhere, to the different,
to the opening-up of possibility
that a change of place, a change of longitude, latitude,
can allow if one can but grasp it,

and Johnny grasped it, 
in his schooling, in the pull of Europe,
in his politics, so contrary
to what cultural homogeneity counsels,

politically, the different, to him, 
important to include in the whole,

a cook who knew the male can provide
for his kids, for the family, for the taste buds,
a father who doted on kids, on his kids,
 and on his grandkids, on his nephews, his niece,
and who loved any time
 Duke sports overwhelms.

he did the best he could,
can any of us wish for more?

from his brother, Henry Walker

Sunday, September 25, 2016

what we need as a school

in a new head of school?

our school searches for a new head of school,
and four fine candidates have emerged
from a larger pool of possibility,

I have my druthers:
leadership that is first among equals,
one who knows when to follow, when to lead,
and how to pull consensus out of contention,
an understanding that we are one school,
that we range from 3 to 18,
that every child works hard to be and do their best,
I hope for an understanding of child development,
that the seed planted and nourished in the early school
is what we tend in lower, middle, and upper school,
that when we celebrate a flowering or fruiting,
we should celebrate the gardening of spring and summer, too,

what now, though, do we need as a school?
what is calling to the better angels of our nature?
what candidate is best poised to help CFS
continue to meet the challenge of who we want to be?
I fear for nostalgia ruling us,
that we might seek a repeat of a former head,
and thus miss out on a different combination
of strengths and weaknesses that might be best for us now,
I want a head of school to help us realize 
and appreciate what we already do well
and gently help us to get even better at what calls us
to even more closely embody our philosophy in our practice.

by Henry H. Walker
September 23, ‘16

Saturday, September 24, 2016

I hope my soul can still stand tall

continuity and change

near 50 years go by,
and I both remember each year coming and going,
and I haven’t a clue that so much time has carried me with it
down the years around the sun,
many of us get together to honor 
a group of individuals 2 years my senior,
and I am struck by continuity:
how Mark still tilts at windmills,
can’t tally up much success,
and refuses to disengage from the good fight,
many I know and love are just as warm and giving as ever:
true to self, to heart, to being real,
to fighting the good fight,
however that struggle for rightness
can manifest in each of our lives,

Bob looks at me and exclaims that I, too, am shorter,
2-3 inches for each of us,
hair grays, falls out, torso can thicken,
children abound, and grandchildren,
bundles of hope love sends out to waken the world into caring,

the band’s music calls us back to the Fifties and Sixties,
our hearts move more exuberantly than our bodies,
how important it is to be real,
and to stay real over the long decades
that seem to fly by,
my body may be shorter,
but I hope my soul can still stand tall.

Big Funk, late Sixties, Durham, NC

by Henry H. Walker
September 23, ‘16

a heaviness to the feel

Fall Equinox This Year

our chants of 
“Equi, Equi, Equinox,
Day and night, half and half”
are enthusiastic and the clouds do part
to let the Sun shadow the Sol Pole onto the carved sidewalk,

e kids enthusiastically celebrate
with our half-vanilla, half-chocolate cookies,

yet today doesn’t feel like the Equinox:
day time temperatures still like to embrace the 90’s,
night time temperatures still don’t dip deep into the 60’s,
persistent drought has morphed into persistent drizzle,
weather more a holding pattern
than Summer flipping to Fall, then back again,
contrast swallowed by sameness,

the Earth warms and the Jet Stream
doesn’t have northern cold as much
to tug with southern heat
and thereby vary the drive that drives the weather,

even with the dryness, most of the trees
seem to think it’s still high summer,

though the sour cherry has dropped most of its leaves,

some tulip poplar leaves transform and drop,
only a few other leaves seem to believe that change is coming,

though I regularly write to commemorate the solar milestones,
this time I write more out of habit and duty than of drive and inspiration,

there’s a heaviness to the air, to the feel of the day,
I write this in air-conditioning rather than outside,
where I would be immersed in what nature’s doing,
hummingbirds still love our feeder,
a few years ago they would, by now, be gone, back to the tropics,

our politics can’t deal with our selfishness:
the cliff awaits, will we follow each other over it?

by Henry H. Walker
September 22, ‘16

Monday, September 19, 2016

community: difference and sameness


diversity is objective reality,
a word to describe the flurry of the unique
within which each of us moves—
at best knowing who we are,
and then, maybe, knowing how we differ from the other,
maybe Venn diagramming ourselves and others into groups,

inclusivity is subjective reality:
a word to describe how to embrace the other
while being true to both our smaller and our larger self,
knowing who we are now
and embracing who we can be in a pluralistic world,
a world within which we somehow find
how we can be both different and the same,
how we can build community,
a community dynamic and wondrous
in how much it can include.

by Henry H. Walker
September 19, ‘16

Saturday, September 17, 2016

self-doubt, and the divinity

to open to the power

self-doubt can save us from losing our edge,
from losing our knowing that we are small
within the infinity that is outside us,
yet that same self-doubt can blind us
to the infinity within with which
we can touch divinity and still live,

it can scare me
when I realize how well I can see a child,
I work to wait to take their picture
until the spirit within twinkles in their eyes,
and I am always a bit saddened 
when the young person crafts a persona in a pose
rather than the authentic wonder the parent can know,

it can scare me
when I listen to my experience,
and/or to the words of a loved one,
and I can then craft a word picture of a  person
that understands and reveals them enough
to at least briefly touch the wonder that lives, that lived,

I hope I can continue as a teacher
as long as I can see each child
and find the paths to help that self come into its power,
I have no illusion that it is I with the power,
yet it is I who can help open to the power,

and it is good,

and it is scary.

by Henry H. Walker
September 13, ‘16

Friday, September 16, 2016

at the heart of a middle school

thank you, Kip

we Quakers have an ambivalence toward leaders,
we know that each of us
can be a conduit through whom God can speak,
how then can we know who gets it better?
to whom God speaks more truly?
to whom God speaks less surely?

as primal to the middle school 
as a child to parent
is advisee to advisor,

enter the head teacher, the leader,
who seeks to know the students and the advisors,
from the kids’ input of words and thoughts
and from the head teacher’s understandings of all together,
the head teacher seeks to balance how individuals and collectives
might somehow coalesce into the groupings most right
for how to best use student and teacher, advisee and advisor:
the goal to create wholes,
wholes that can best allow each young person
to express the whole inherent within them,
within a whole that is without them,
at its best, the journey is hard,
but at its best each of us uses care and love
to help the whole become itself,
each of us inside the whole
better for the work and play we do together,

thank you, Kip,
for how well you’ve testified in your work,
and brought us closer to our goals.

by Henry H. Walker
September 15, ‘16

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

a radical: back to the roots

in a head of school

what do I want in a head of school?

I want a radical:
a leader who will be there with us
back at the roots of what a Quaker school should be,
to feel and act upon George Fox’s charge
to “walk cheerfully” and to respond to
that of God within each student, within each staff,
and thus find space to transform the world
with the power of each individual witness 
to what can and should be,
and the community that holds each individual
and builds a whole far beyond the sum of the parts.

to concentrate, to focus, on each individual learner
and on how a school can transform itself
to be there, most effectively,
to help each and every student
break free from any shackles
that deny the power within
that strains to release itself,

a student’s relationship with the world,
with the teacher as mentor,
with the self within and the self without,
as sacred as anything that I can imagine,

a school at its best works hard to get back to the roots
for only then can the child grow high and reach
for the light without that calls to the light within.

by Henry H. Walker
September 12, ‘16

Friday, September 9, 2016

the essence of a school

what should be our birthright

what do I want in a head of school?

I want that person to be “called”:
to hear and follow a charge
from that which is deepest in the soul,
a charge to come and meet the challenge offered
with the full force of the burgeoning ability within us all,

to meet the fire within the students
with one’s own fire
so that all together flame
and the school brightens in the light,

the world thus brightens
as it escapes from a darkness
that denies both the foundation and the heights
that should be our birthright.

by Henry H. Walker
September 8, ‘16

connecting the 3 year old to the 18 year old

the community of the school

as the institution of our school ages
that which binds units together seems to weaken,
as we can lose ourselves 
in the daunting charge that is our work:
those students within our direct reach,
a mighty challenge that can consume us,
to know foundations laid in earlier units
and of soaring heights possible in later units,
are steps that can seem too far,

yet when we can know and appreciate
the work of the 3 year old
and connect it through the school
to the work of the 18 year old,
how much richer we are as a school
and how much more we embody as a community.

by Henry H. Walker
September 9, ’16
inspired by Joan Walker
in yesterday’s meeting

Friday, September 2, 2016

Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences

to hold the multiple within the one

consciousness allows us to consider the world,
and to realize that we are considering it,
to see a reflection and realize
it is “I” looking back to “me,”

empathy is a wonderful too for consciousness to use:
to leap into the others’ shoes,
to feel as the other feels,
to imagine how the world might look through another’s eyes,

Howard Gardner did so
and started to realize distinct patterns
in how the world appears to us
and in how we might act upon that world,

as a creature of words, of course I write this to understand,
as a lover of numbers and logical relationship,
I want to identify and catalogue the different paths to knowing,
the intrapersonal in me wants to understand how I’m configured,
the interpersonal in me wants to understand 
how others are configured, and how we might connect,
the musical within me is listening now to Rosanne Cash as I write this,
while the naturalist within me looks out at my garden while I write,

the artist’s take on the world can most challenge me,
for color, shape, and the gestalt of the world through an artist’s eyes
are only hints for my empathy to imagine
as to how the universe manifests to an artist,
only in my photography do I regularly embody in my life
how to use what the artist in me sees to pierce the fog 
that keeps many of us from seeing the world true,

the bodily, the kinesthetic, is even more distant to me,
action, movement, the key to allow the physical
to mostly clearly express life in the material,
so that the abstract, the ethereal,
can ground itself in what is most real
while we can still be here to realize it.

by Henry H. Walker

September 2, ‘16