Wednesday, September 19, 2018

the others' world, and our own narrow path

empathy, the downside

empathy wonderfully enlarges my sense of self,
and connects my loneliness to a oneness with others,
empathy also can enlarge my anxiousness,
as others’ sorrows swallow my sureness,
and I lose the grounding of my footing as I move forward,
I feel a slipping, a slipping back and down, and away,

sharp is the edge, narrow the path,
where there is an ennobling sureness of my own way,
enough sureness to allow the buffeting
when I leap away into another’s world,
onto their sharp edge for a short time,
I work to have the wherewithal to get home,
back to my own path,
with the other still with me,
but a part, not the whole, of who I am.

by Henry H. Walker
September 10-11, ‘18

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

within the tempest-tossed sea. . .


what a mystery, 
to rise to where the abstract is real,
and we can consider the cosmos
and all the different places within it,
do we humans need to feel unique?
or are we less lonely if we’re on a continuum,
is the pressure on us less then?

the self can achieve a vantage point
where it becomes aware of itself,
as different, individual,
able to realize that that in the mirror
is a self distinct from the other,
others cascade in upon our awareness
and make us larger, and, also, somehow smaller,
each of us able to make decisions and feel different,
able to follow a path we at least seem to choose,

then how do we make each decision?

somehow feelings rise up in us
and claim the speaker’s staff,
the right to decide,
much of our brain like a computer 
which needs a programmer,
a part of us to rise to program our decisions,
we feel the programmer to be from the heart,
really whatever the part of us 
that feels more surely than thinks,

my emotions are as a tempest-tossed sea,
swells toss me up into a clarity and rightness of the light,
and drop me down into anxious doubt in the darkness
that waves high above me,

I am who I am,
but it is devilishly hard to know just who that is.

by Henry H. Walker
September 11, ‘18

Monday, September 17, 2018

the challenge of middle school

my dear advisee

middle school is a challenging time:
a time of great developmental upheavals,
as the child is called by the adult within
to metamorphose: physically, emotionally, metaphysically,
to rise up, to look around,
a time to allow people, ideas, change,
to cascade upon one’s self,
a self already tuned to the universe,
and then the universe changes,

my advisee, I promise
to see you,
to know you,
to help you,
as best I can,
as you give birth
to the best you
that can find the ways to reveal itself,
and then to change the world
in ways the world needs to change.

by Henry H. Walker
September 18, ’18,
Yom Kippur

Saturday, September 1, 2018

single digits

the next steps

when my future lived,
according to probability, in decades,
I tended to assume continuity,
that each year was less a step somewhere,
than a continuation:
what was = what is = what will be,

now my future, at least my functional future,
in probability, lives in single digits,
and I fear each step,
for a fall is inherent in the possibility in a step,

like a climb up a mountain, 
I seek to concentrate on the next step,
to give myself fully to the short term,
and, if another short term follows the next short term,
my indefinite future will reveal itself
as the way opens.

by Henry H. Walker
August 18, ‘18

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

what makes me me

I am from . . .

I am from mountains
who escape the lowlands,
I am from the harsh quiet of my brooding father,
from the soft arms of my grandmother,
from the Rice Krispie candy we would make together,
I am from the smile, the laugh, the giving of my mother,
I am the allure of an angel biscuit, summer transparency applesauce,
one more slice of cake to make it even,

I am from classrooms of enforced quiet
and the desperation in a paperclip on the desk,

I am from the conflict of Matthew and John,
the action of the Sermon on the Mount
and the simple key of John 3.16,

I am from doors opening in the mind, in the heart,
I am from doors closing in the mind, in the heart,

I am from dreams of an immigrant who sought “the city on a hill,”
and could not see the native peoples and yet saw witches in the woods, 
I am dreams of a better future of another immigrant,
I am also from the nightmares that build that future upon slavery,
I am the pestilential swamp that still pulls at us,
I am also the mountains that call us to rise above,

my genes are solely from the northwest of Europe
and then from the huddled tribalism 
of the male, the white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant,

my soul is pulled to the glory that is God
that also manifests in difference from the narrowness 
of what seeks to hold me,
for God is so much larger than gender, than color, than religion,

we can only hope to get a glimpse of God
if we open ourselves to grow 
toward the infinity of God’s manifestation.

by Henry H. Walker
August 21, ‘18

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

finding the paths

CFS and the Hill

the Puritans believed in a “city upon a hill,”
within which their faith would shine triumphantly,
the world made new by who they were,
and who they worked to be,

the light within, which Quakers know as God,
shining forth so as to inspire others 
to express their own light,

as a school, we are audacious,
believing that the whole person is our concern,
we believe that student and teacher is unique,
that we should celebrate and help enable such difference,
while at the same time building connection, commonality, community,

what can be hardest for us
is the discerning of how to use our time, our money,
the finite restrictions on the infinite reach of our hopes,
to feel the commonality of our dreams,
despite the self-centered brusqueness with which we can act,

the last two days, I have joyed in long conversations
with two other staff members whose vision of the city we hope to build
resonates with the hope I work hard to live,

each of us a frail vessel, beset by tiredness, loss, doubt,
yet each of us a scout who sees where we are and where we want to go,
we just discuss which paths lead more surely to the city on the hill.

by Henry H. Walker
August 14, ‘18

Monday, August 13, 2018

a mother bear and three cubs

over the edge

our cabin is comfortably walled
and creature comforts surround us within it,
it could be anywhere
that has umbilicals for electricity, water, waste,

yet where it is here, the wild is just outside:
a national park, a creek, the woods,
unfenced nature we can enjoy
just over our own fence of screen wire,

usually the world outside is of Eden,
with only insects to be annoying,

this summer, though, bears have come over the fence,
the one native animal still around 
whose strength and attitude can challenge us,
the edge a perch for us,
but also an opening for the bear
to hope to come into our world
for the food we have in abundance,
leaf and seed and bug not enough 
to fill the holes of their hunger,

last evening, a mother bear and three cubs 
wanted to come into the Cabin
where they could smell food,
the apple so tempting,
her impetuous nose in the lead,

her claws snd muscles scratched to find a way
to the food she knew to be just inside,,
her sense of smell so acute that one M&M can entice her,
this night bananas, candy, a chicken stir-fry,
all the food inside, drew her 
for she and her cubs need to eat,
Winter is coming,
and they need to be fat,
the storm door in the way 
of the imperative of the mother  she is,

our anxieties are often abstract, at a remove,
the bear reminds us that we are only sort of in control,
that concrete reality can come over the edge,
and we can be expelled from Eden.

by Henry H. Walker
August 8, ‘18

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

whimsy is not truth

Poetic License

poetic license?

what a ridiculous term,
at least in how it’s used
as a “get out of jail” card
if you want to stretch the truth
away from the actual
and toward what you want,

I like it as permission to get more real
than obsession with excessive detail might allow,

“poetic license” should not allow 
whimsy to pretend to truth.

by Henry H. Walker
August 2, ‘18

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

the high country

the spruce-fir world

the high country in the Smokies
is of Canadian evergreen,

of rocky ridges softened by the green of moss and fern,

amidst vertical columns of spruce and fir

who darken the feel of these woods
with their working needles all year,
grabbing the Sun as best they can,
shafts of sunlight transform solemnity,
lichen, mushroom, and all the fungi love this forest,

and jewel it with their creations,
each Indian Pipe we find 

celebrates the order life brings below and above
the surface rock and needled soil,

we find a bald where grass and flower show themselves,

the Cherokee in their transformative vision
described balds among the trees
as where dragons landed and brought fire to ridge top,

lightning and human action are more plausible to me,
but my understanding feels bereft of the wonder
that these worlds deserve.

by Henry H. Walker
August 4, ‘18

Monday, August 6, 2018

its dominating solemnity

The Big Poplar slips away

my granddaughter and I 
cross-country up the hollow
amidst ubiquitous drizzle,
every leaf wet and dripping,

high summer lies upon these slopes,
with stinging nettle up to my chest,
jewel weed up to my chin,
the surface for my feet hard to fathom,

the holes in the canopy from the Great Fire
add exuberant growth to obscure the way,

at the Big Poplar, poke weed fouls its base,
have their seeds really waited hundreds of years for this chance?
the great tree no longer has leaves to touch the Sun,

its bark starts to flake off,

it is of death now, 
not the last remembering of life I’d hoped for,

this great tree spanned centuries,
and I will miss the dominating solemnity of its living presence.

by Henry H. Walker
August 2, ‘18

Sunday, August 5, 2018

self-doubt can blight

I believe. . .

Tinkerbell starts to slip away
and Peter asks us to believe,
and Tinkerbell is saved,

at my best, that’s what I do: believe,
I see each student,
and I believe in who each is
and in who each can become,

self-doubt is an off-switch,
easy to reach,
as if the universe prefers the resting state of inertia,
as if creation threatens entropy and dissolution,
and they fight back,

I believe in my students,
I help them believe in themselves,
every moment I fight my own self-doubt,
sharing that struggle keeps
the edge of my awareness, keen.

by Henry H. Walker
August 4, ‘18

releasing the inner introvert

I feel as lone Lego

as the last of my family drives away,
I feel despair, loneliness,
I feel adrift:
one lone Lego that had been part of a larger whole,
slowly dismantled, uncoupled, from friends and family,
who, but a week ago, joined us all in the grandness
of our annual pilgrimage to our cabin in the Smokies
and then for the overnight at Mt. LeConte Lodge,

the half of me that is an extrovert has been in its element,
as I saw the shape and needs of each person
and found how to build wholeness with many of the disparate parts,

all that communal charge felt right, and important,
I was a star, on stage,

today the curtain comes down, the show over,
the last of the audience out the door,

I feel my exhaustion,
as if the muscles of my emotionality
have accomplished all they can,
I am on edge, a chasm beside me,
tears, anger, anxieties, close to my surface,
I need sleep and an intense walk in the high woods,

like a stream in the drought, I need to be replenished.

by Henry H. Walker
August 3, ‘18

Friday, August 3, 2018

nature the frame

not the Palantir

I sit above the freshened exuberance of a creek
the rains swept in and out, and keep the water full,
so that it can find the air enough to whiten the rapids
and background the sound of water falling over rock,

the outside not the picture I’m feeling now,
but the frame within which my inner world paints,

my spirit leaps far away,
like through the Palantir in Middle Earth,
though what is revealed to me
is how I can serve the good with my life, not Sauron,

nature has a rightness
that helps me find the rightness
I need to serve with my live.

by Henry H. Walker
July 23, ‘18

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Mt. LeConte and us

trek and overnight

how wonderful that my aging body 
can still ascend, and descend,
a great mountain in the Smokies, 
with every step up and down, I celebrate life
by being able to walk and to walk in beauty,
the number of years before me,
within which my systems will still work, 
I realistically hope for single digits,
I’d love more, I fear for less,
for now, I savor the steps,
the trail, the views, the flowers,

a sunset that quiets the tongue
and expands the spirit into joy,


our annual Mt. LeConte trek and overnight
fulfills my hopes and quiets my fears,
sunrise is of mist, 

the subtlety of the gray, the close,
a reminder that beauty is what reveals itself,
not just what we want,

the trails on the mountain work 
with what the mountain gives, when they can:
the way follows a stream, a ridge top,

often, though, the way has to be hacked out of the stone,

ascending steep slopes who do not like the trail
and flake it off if they have a chance,
this mountain runs east-west with rock promontories on each end
that serve as pedestals upon which to watch the sun
bring a glorious end to the day and to wake the next day with hope,
though clouds love to settle on the mountain and hide distance,

too little nature can act as a poison on our systems,
“nature deficit disorder” a new term
for an ache to be in the wild
where the flora can be as garden, 
but one without our touch,
where the fauna can enchant us:
a snail, a bird, a bear,

where the truths of our experience 
are those of our mother, the Earth,

our bodies need to work, and a mountain requires that effort,
our souls need to work, and a mountain helps us return to our roots,

the Cherokee called this great mountain Walisiyi,
we honor it, and it honors us, whenever we are together.

Top of Mt.LeConte, 7/28/18, just outside Dining Hall, our group of 43

by Henry H. Walker
July 31, ‘18

the fires still kindled

Science, not a liberal conspiracy

I descend five miles on a popular trail in the Smokies,
aggressively wearing a black t-shirt with a simple assertion in white on it:
“Science is not a liberal conspiracy.”

many of the hikers up smiled, agreed with it, and me, 

“I like your t-shirt!”
one man from Wisconsin took a picture of it
and seemed to view it, and me, 
as an oasis of open-mindedness 
in the arid wasteland of willful ignorance
many in today’s American seek to create,

I am a child of polio vaccine and penicillin,
of the Moon Landing and the Internet,
I love how minds can explore the heavens,
the mysteries below the atom,
the miracles of evolution, the secrets within DNA,

temperatures and oceans rise,
the weather becomes hyperactive with ridiculous storms and droughts,
and I believe in us, and in science
the we should boldly go forward into revelation,
and figure out what is happening, 
and what we should do about it,

Galileo was threatened with being burned alive
for supporting the idea that all does not revolve around Earth,
it shocks me that the fires do not feel abandoned.

by Henry H. Walker
July 30, ‘18