Tuesday, July 17, 2018

a school should be audacious

the child is central

I still feel the “calling,”
a charge that we can be so audacious
as to care for the whole child,
as to reinvent ourselves and our curriculum, 
every moment,
and still to maintain the best of ourselves, 
throughout that reinvention,

at our best, 
what we are about is holding,
at the same time,
seeing who exactly each student is, now,
plus seeing how that student 
can come fully into her/his powers,
and, in addition, 
the envisioning of how to use our school
to best serve what the past, the present, the future,
call to us to be for the child,
the child central to it all,

whenever I get too much into routine,
into taking a path more because it’s easy than right,
I work to listen more keenly to the call
for us to be fully there for the students,
whenever I feel we’re off the path,
I hope to help us find our way forward,
to listen to what is right, not just to what is easy,
to resist the conventional unless it’s the better path,
to center the universe around a student,
than around another student,
and thus we live education as “calling.”

by Henry H. Walker
July 16, ‘18

Sunday, July 15, 2018

steps forward versus steps backward

superstition still can rule us

2600 years ago
some Greeks in what is now Turkey
found a way to use their minds as detectives:
faced with a world of mysteries,
they discovered how to think clearly enough
to grasp at answers as to how the world works,
to find the rules, the causes, before the effects,
the causes no longer just capricious gods
whining their way through our world,
thus were born: logic, mathematics, geometry,
excessive irrationality now treated as superstition,
as myth, no longer comforting, instead, obfuscatory,
red herrings that could lead us off the trail to truth,

as I watch hearings in Congress this week,
as I watch our determinedly willful President this week,
I see them as being ruled by fear and obstinate ignorance,
the heirs to the worst the Greeks thought to transcend,
the nightmares that we carry within us from our prehistory,

I hope that we can move forward with more steps
than the steps backward the lesser within us urge,

there is greatness within us,
how tragic it is that we can choose “leaders”
who call us only to the ignorant evil, also within us.

by Henry H. Walker
July 13, ‘18

Love your enemy?

“them” and “us”

“Love your enemy” is a hard command,
for it’s easy to see the other as enemy,
and to feel righteous in dismissing another
as wrong, as opposite, as irredeemable in their flaws,
it’s easy and comfortable to know who we are
because we know we aren’t that other,

what I work on in my soul
is another path to sureness,
a drive for connection,
to see the other as a source for commonality,
to see excessive individuality as a trap,
just as much a trap as excessive “us” opposed to “them,”

I hope for “them” to become “us,”

I know perils exist that can sunder connection,
that hate pulls at us just as much as love does,

I think Jesus wanted to help us be as one,
every time we choose gratuitous acts of kindness,
we choose love over hate,
and Jesus should smile.

by Henry H. Walker
July 9, ‘18

Saturday, July 7, 2018

the bear and I up the hollow

up Grassy Branch

for near two hours I pull myself 
up into the mountains above the cabin,
I push through heat and humidity that force the sweat from me
so that my body is pounds lighter,
though my spirit is pounds lighter, too,

I explore how the woods are recovering from the Great Fire,
much of the trail being swallowed by exuberant new growth,
poison ivy reaches for me at every step,
blackberry vines grab at my arms,
and prick my blood into flowing,
annoying bugs dance before me
and seek to fly into my eyes,
no amount of swatting can keep them away,

after I’ve climbed high up the hollow,
and explored the views and muddy horse trails,

I head back,
as I drop down, I see a great bear
also leaving the higher country,

his path set to intersect mind just where
overgrowth increases the chance I will surprise him,
a possibility his size and history make concerning,
this is a large bear, coming down from a sheltered hollow
my wife and I explored in the winter,
noting pile after pile of scat along the way,
and a large log, high up the hollow,
full of a bear’s scratches,
Scratch Log Hollow, I name it,
the scratches, maybe art? that’s what I’d like,
maybe assertion of self, that seems more right,

I sing to the woods, “Morning has broken. . . “
to let him know I’m around, 
my heart beats faster,
for he could easily make me into a meal,
that truth, that we humans might not be in charge,
shakes me at my foundations,
and I still love these moments.

by Henry H. Walker
July 2, ‘18

Friday, July 6, 2018

A.I. and us

intelligence, artificial? absent?

what profiteth a species
to have the answer to a billion questions,
readily available,
but not the means to know how to ask the right questions?
and the desire to do so?

accumulating knowledge does not coalesce wisdom
from out of the mountains of facts,
we people can still be ignorant, and stupid,
if we pick and choose what to notice and what to ignore,
gigabytes within Wikipedia do us no good unless we access them,

we are fascinated by artificial intelligence,
the way our tools will not just implement directions,
but be able to make decisions themselves,
to be able, amidst a cascade of possibilities,
to see a better path, and choose it,
I wonder how much A.I. intrigues us
because we know, deep down, 
how little we use our own intelligence to make our decisions,
and instead rely on the prime directive from our emotions,
our limbic system in charge, not just in advisory capacity,

I teach middle school,
and every year I watch the empowerment of the mind 
come into its power,
while the hormones course
and Mr. Hyde supplants Dr. Jekyll,

as a species, we need to use our mind 
even to make sense of our emotions,
so that can listen to the advice of the heart
to help steer us in service to the greater good,
the heart without the mind is just as fallible
as the mind without the heart,

somehow we need to program ourselves,
to build upon the surety of our awareness of self
so that the prison that can be the ego can find the open air,
where the best that is possible
shows itself to us as a shining light
that can lead us to the hill where the light will not be hid.

by Henry H. Walker
July 1, ‘18

Thursday, July 5, 2018

what nature deserves from us

overwhelmed by nature

what a word!

I am out in nature,
and it’s as if
a slide-show of amazing moments 
rushes at me,
I have no hope
of really seeing it all,

I do hope to slow down, and differentiate,
to see and know one frame,
to hold it in my attention long enough
for me to appreciate how awesome it is,
and, by extrapolation, to imagine the awesome whole,

we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium:
I could not fathom the whole, though I wanted to,
instead, I loved what I could feel a bit
as moment after moment,
overloaded my sensors of awe,

in nature we need to differentiate
so that the animal, the flower,

the way water dances with the rocks,

slows down for us,

we are overwhelmed as if in church,
at least in church in the way I feel 
God would want to make it so.

by Henry H. Walker
June 30, ‘18

summer transparency apple, sauced

continuity, through the apple

I love to feel a continuity
with those who preceded us:

there is a special apple, summer transparency,
grown in one orchard, I know of,
in these East Tennessee mountains,
my mother with a lot of slicing, trimming, simmering,
pressing through a Foley Food Mill,
and adding more sugar than seems right,

that apple she would render into the greatest of applesauces,
as did her mother before her in these same mountains,
and probably many more generations before her,
I feel my mother, my grandmother, and mothers on back,
working with us as the celestial high summer of June
is celebrated in the tart sweetness of this early apple sauced,

even more important to me in the maintaining of the continuity
is the belief in the child,

in the belief that life is a gift,
to be honored in the twinkle of the eye,
in the raising of the child,
all savored within the tart sweetness
of this June apple celebration.

by Henry H. Walker
June 28, ‘18

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

doom on the mountain side

the adelgid, our cousin?

the hemlock adelgid is hungry,
and, unchecked, they unconsciously kill countless hemlocks
in these Smoky Mountains,
great brown red barked trees
crash down in every storm,
lichens hanging onto their fissured bark
as if foreshadowing their fall,
like ghosts on the mountain side,
dead hemlock march up and down slope after slope,
whispering at us a sense of potential doom,

the adelgid did not evolve in these mountains,
so natural controls on its population aren’t here, yet,
no predators, diseases, serve as conscience
to help it not doom itself by destroying its own food source,

how like humans it is,
we who forget that population and environment
need to find a balance,
the imperative to reproduce is a vital drive,
but one that needs some kind of governor,

I fear we can be the adelgid’s cousin as we over-reach.

by Henry H. Walker
June 30, ‘18

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

I am pulled up and up

a redwood grove

I feel like a toddler in a room full of adults,
huge adults with their heads too far up for me to see,
above and beyond any world I can hope to understand,
my eyes pull up and up toward the sky,

my head tilts back,
my body and soul open into awe,
as if here the spirit can close the distance toward God,

I am humbled with the power of these giant pillars of trunk,
needled dark and full, great ferns below them,

the redwood grove has a cool darkness to it
that somehow makes me feel more toward the light.

by Henry H. Walker
June 24, ’18
Katherine and Bryan’s house,
Mill Valley, CA

Monday, June 25, 2018

an inner need to write

re creation

the school year sputters to an end,
I think, and feel, and throw words onto documents,
in hopes I’ve captured insights about students worth sharing,
worthy enough to be gifts to the village
that knows these kids and hopes to be right for them,

. . . and we’re off. . .

this time to the Central California Coast,
my inner need to write, to create,
to release my take on it all,
fulfilled as pen moves upon paper,
as fingers move upon computer keyboard,
as my camera finds photos
who find themselves as illustrations,

I need to write my poems
and to release them into the ether,

for the life of me, I can obsess about getting it right,
are the trees before me, Monterey Pines or Monterey Cypress?
its truth is the same whatever the name,
the auditor within me needs to get details right,
names for millennia have been much of who we are,
poetic license should deepen the revelation, not distort it.

by Henry H. Walker
June 22, ‘18

Friday, June 22, 2018

a wonder of profound moments

Summer Solstice ‘18

I first celebrate this day of abundant light
by getting up at 2:30 a.m.
and going out on the deck
at this house by the Pacific Ocean:
the sky is clear
and hundreds of stars pinprick the blackness,
the Milky Way a faint band above me,

dawn comes clear and cool,
the ocean like a sunbather ready for the rays,
sea and shore birds all filled with purpose,

the early sun caresses the plants and rocks of the shore,
and reveals a brilliant whiteness to the breaking waves,
till quickly subdued a bit by a rising mist to the east,
contrast ramps down as a gray filter
rises between us and the rising sun,
the mood of the day is fickle so far,
typically mercurial for this part of the California coast,

a constant: the rocks who jut out into the waves are contorted
as if frozen screams from millennia of plates
grinding against each other,

I imagine the pressure when they were on the seabed
fusing them back into stone,
then the lifting, the twisting 
as continental and ocean plates each asserted a will,
some magma intruding to fill cracks, visible as bands now,

we celebrate the high point of the year
by driving down the coast to Point Lobos,
a protected marine reserve,
where the land abruptly rises from a bountiful sea,

so rich that rafts of otters lounge and feed
among the floating mats of seaweed,

harbor seals cavort and then sleep off 
their big meals on rocky islands,

a raucous calling from the gathering of sea lion males, 

adults and juveniles,
who cry out into the air 
as if they’re the loud English House of Commons,

even the plants seem caught up in the extravagance:
mats of lizard’s tail and bluff lettuce, with quantities of 
monkey flower, yarrow, and paintbrush,
myriad of other flowers greet us as we walk,

we stroll to the Bird Island overlook,
great rocks thrusting straight up from the water
with no connection to the mainland and its predators,
so hundreds of Brandt’s Cormorants nest there, 

close to the fish they easily catch,
we watch two black heron’s nests

through the enormous camera lens of a friendly volunteer,
who also points out where peregrine falcon often perch,
and we see one! and hear it screech off into the air,
with a mate?

the sun decides to brightly reveal this luxuriant world,
releasing blues and greens with the clear water 
that stretch what the palette can envision
and that clearly etch every line of animal and plant and rock,

mist comes back in again and again
and then goes away again and again,
as if to cleanse our palate between courses,

this Solstice is full of awe,
and we need  a pause in between courses of the bounty
so that we can hope to appreciate the next moment,

this Summer Solstice is a wonder of profound moments,

as the sun sets on the day
we hold the brilliance of its moments as long as we can.

Crab, Tidal Pool, Point Lobos

by Henry H. Walker
June 21, ‘18