Sunday, October 29, 2017

what a man!

Silas Mayfield

when I was a year old, a state away from me,
a second child was born in Durham, NC,
to loving parents, George and Lottie,
four more children joined the fold,
and I can imagine the joy, and challenges,
of so many children blossoming into themselves
while contending with each other
and how to divide up the light of their parents,

one day Paul just leaves,
while his first-born son, Paul,
is off serving the country,
and Silas becomes the patriarch,
the one to help Lottie hold the family together,
all without a dad at home to help him know what to do,
who to be, how to support, how to assert,

many of us who have spent many years without a father close,
feel a bitterness at our fate, not Silas,
he endured, with grace, and forgave his father for his absence,

Silas used his own life to minister to youth who needed mentoring,
being as father to them,
as well as being a good father to his own son, Silas,
and finding joy in being grandfather to Armanie, and another Silas,

an entrepreneur at heart, Silas has had a will not to be denied,

as a young person he found a way to be paid 
for mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow:
almost any job one can imagine,
his mom needed his dollars to help out,
and he needed his dollars to help himself out,
even school activities needed money,
and he found a way to earn it,

school called to him, a way to a brighter future,
always a good student,
always with good grades,
even running track at Hillside High School,
in 1968 running the mile in 4.17.3,
this October he expects to be inducted
into the high school hall of fame for his speed,

college called him,
though he knew his mom couldn’t pay for NCCU,
so he found whatever pick up jobs he could to pay the bills,
finally his dream of a law degree had to change,
he took a job at Duke
but felt a pull away from the desk and into photography,
being so good at it he created his own business, SLM Photography,
his photography could capture person and event with power,
and he and his clients prospered,

as the two of them did when he and Dee Dudley found each other,
and married March 1, 1997,
each devoted to the other,
helping each other complete the self that calls to them,

a man of deep faith, Silas perseveres with unshakable courage,
as he has done for nine years fighting the cancer
that wants to take him away,

as the battle has recently intensified,
his oncologist has worried, worried more than Silas,
who has been comforted by God 
not yet telling him it’s his time,

a joyful spirit suffuses Silas,
he endures with a stubborn will
to make the most of whatever is available,

I have seen him through the eyes and loving heart of his wife Dee,
a partnership joined together by God,
may the sacred moments continue with the grace each lives.

by Henry H. Walker

June 19, ‘17

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

clicking away from reality

a bout with vertigo

the day started off well:
meditation in the predawn outside,
an intense, wonderful, fast 3 mile hike with my faster wife,
a good breakfast of waffles and eggs,

then my lower areas started feeling unsettled,
I considered getting things done,
but decided to just doze in my chair,
we got a call from our son,
and I enjoyed the oral visit,
afterwards, though, I felt more unsettled,
the world and me not quite one,
and it was I who was distancing himself
from comfortably clicking into the moment,
my attachment mechanism glitching,

I headed back out into our Great Room,
where my wife was sitting and reading,
and plaintively announced I was feeling off, weird,
I sat back in my chair,
and the world started to shimmer,
the world outside my eyes not stable,
but shifting from right to left,
as if the frame of the movie within which I move
were possessed by a recursive glitch
that denied stability, continuity,
a sense that I fit into time, seamless,
rather I was falling down a rabbit hole,
and only Lewis Carroll seemed to know
the malleability of reality that my eyes insisted upon,

as if to ground me, my stomach turned queasy,
the EMTs got here and capably, sweetly, dealt with me,
questions and tests of heart and blood,
all to see if I was being carried away
quickly from this reality,
no big alarms sounded,
and I visited with them pretty well,
discussing pictures of the West, and our trip to Iceland,
a month before one of the EMTs had been there,
I dropped the name of Gullfoss, an amazing waterfall there,

we get to the Emergency Room,
spend 6 hours there,
with nausea asserting itself,
vertigo declining in power, then roaring back,
my sweat pouring off me,
as my stomach emptied and re-emptied,
my wife wonderfully supportive and grounding,
CT scans of head and lower abdomen,
blood work, vital signs—
all refused to tell the end,
I closed my eyes, drifted back toward normality,
they released me after 6 hours, 
after 4 hours of possession by nauseous vertigo,

for some reason an exorcism worked,
my system threw off the demon
assaulting my inner ear,
the world again with me, and I with it,

the chasm is still out there,
and sometime its call will be real and final.

by Henry H. Walker

October 23, ‘17

Saturday, October 21, 2017

love hurts, heals

the light seems to slip away

the truth of the loss
grabs at her, shakes her,
I feel the pain behind each word,
each hesitation as she reaches
to find words to describe
what words can only hope to hold,
she works as hard as she can
to answer my questions,
to call up details of her father’s life,
the essence that seems to slip away
like quicksilver that can’t be held,

so much of who she is a gift from him,
a reflection of the light he lived,

I understand how tricky the footing
when you want to sympathize, to empathize,
with a world full of such pain,
and you fear to add to it 
with your clumsiness,

love can support you both,
as love can also hurt
more than seems possible to bear.

by Henry H. Walker

October 19, ‘17

into the larger whole

Lorman Lundsten

Lorman was an extraordinary man,
a soul with deep grounding,
with a sense of purpose, of rightness,
a surety of what to value,
a sureness of the humor possible,
a dedication to his students at St. Thomas:
if a student struggled, he was there to help,
not because such help is ubiquitous at a university, it isn’t,
but because he saw the student, knew their possibility,
and knew he could help,

born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1942,
the Swede within him coming through his father,
the French and Canadian coming through his mother,
his career for a time as vice-president at his dad’s plastic factory,
his dad using “Swedish begging” to get him there,
for a time, the family in Arlington, Virginia,
as he worked in Washington for the Comptroller of the Currency,
then he followed a calling to teach marketing at St. Thomas in Minnesota,
his professorship there a door into helping students,
and into finding time in Russia as part of career, interest, enthusiasm,
the food and drink and camaraderie of Russia another calling,
the St Paul restaurant,“Moscow on the Hill,” 
where food and the social, even grieving there,
could speak to what he wanted,

imagine him as a student at Northland College in Wisconsin,
where he found Kate, the love of his life,
the choir there where they met,
her voice and his rising to be part of a larger whole,
even this last September, as Kate was gone,
a reunion of that choir still drew him,
the choir in St. Paul still pulling him into singing these last years,
the choir a way to rise into something larger,
a greater whole that called to him,

his grandchildren also called to him to that larger whole,
though he loved one-on-one more than 
the tempestuous group behavior of kids in the fullness of play,
the Sunday dinner a tradition that started when Betsy began college,
a place to share food, connection, to slip a few dollars to his daughters,

there was a deep privacy about Lorman,
a caution as to how much to come out, to reveal,
though his twinkling eyes revealed how present he was,
and his students knew how much he cared,
how much he was there for them,
he much he loved to solve problems,
to use his woodworking skills to create,

in Meyers-Briggs, Lorman was an INFP,
the “F” a way to describe how feeling
can be the lens through which to understand the world,

with his heart he reached out to the world,
and it was his heart that finally needed to let go,
how sad to consider all the projects he had in mind
and how, just before the end,
he felt better than he had in ten years,

Lorman no longer is physically with us,
may we honor him in the twinkle of our own eyes,
and in our reaching out to those
we understand how we can help.

by Henry H. Walker

October 15, ‘17

Sunday, October 15, 2017

truth from George Fox?

that of God within?

Quaker understanding embodies hard truth:
can it really be that each of us
has that of God within us?
if so, then how about what else is within us?
how do we differentiate between the different leadings
and thus find and follow the path
back toward the divine, forward with the divine?

I love to help produce a play, a musical, 
to support the performing arts,
for me, that of God within is strikingly visible
when a young person gathers the best within
and ventures forth a bit of song,
a fragment of a play, an expression of a movement,
then the fragment can metamorphose into the production,
climax, and pass on,
what I love to remember is how well the best within came out,
to let us joy in the expression of what can be released
when we acknowledge and express
the drive to rightness inherent
in what the Quaker world sees 
as “that of God” within.

by Henry H. Walker

October 13, ‘17

Thursday, October 12, 2017

obliged to answer

I answer the calling

I think education is a “calling”
far more than it is a job,
for me, it’s the spirit that infuses the universe
that calls us to connect, to resist dissolution,
that calls us to make our school 
a place where each student
can birth their best self,
the spirit, the soul, of each student
calls out to be seen, to be valued,
to be helped to come into the power
that the universe hopes will be the birthright of all,

I still hear a calling from students I don’t yet know,
and I feel obliged to answer as long as I can.

by Henry H. Walker

October 9, ‘17

how we got to now

the student’s backstory

who we are is not Athena,
sprung full-grown from Zeus,
rather who we are is
the sum of our experience,
including with what we were born,
how we’ve been treated,
and what decisions we’ve made,
that long painful journey
from before where we are now,
to the challenges we live these moments,
to the hopes and fears the future throws back at us,

I want to live the moment with my students,
I can live it better if I understand the backstory.

by Henry H. Walker

October 9, ‘17

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

the four-year-old's world

will and self

I feel for the four-year-old:
so much of his world
plays by rules he just can’t quite buy into,
he feels them arbitrary, capricious,
he feels duty-bound to resist them, reject them,

the rules of physics work for him,
for physical actions have consequences that just are:
dropped things drop,
he has to adjust his climb, his moves on a structure,
guided by an understanding 
that gravity cares nothing for what he wants,

the rules of people seem to be fungible,
open to possibility of change,

the self an artist and the parents’ world a canvas
upon which the ego can work its will
to create whatever the self, at the moment,
imagines to be most pleasing,

I applaud assertion of self,
for we must be the self as individual
before that individual can choose to follow love
into the larger, the self in connection,
will, in ignorance, though, can be as King Canute
who ordered the tide to not come in,
and how did that come out?

the four-year-old, in contrary mode,
asserts a self-centeredness that seems to beg to be thwarted,
controlled and disciplined by a dominant parent,

how much harder, and better,
if the parents use all their creativity, patience, and love,
to help guide the self into learning what’s out there,
learning when to lose because the battle isn’t worth it,
and learning how to win when love is the referee.

by Henry H. Walker

September 30, ‘17

the four-year-old and imagination

the alternative universe of play

the four-year-old, racing toward five,
lives within his imagination:
possibility explodes into action,
scripts write themselves,
plastic, metal, wood,
battery, magnet, facsimile,
all serve to make the toy real,
to give substance to the alternative world
his creative self conjures up
with every focus of his attention,
when the imagined is more real
than the humdrum we adults most easily access.

by Henry H. Walker

October 2, ‘17