Saturday, October 12, 2019

the Hispanic Festival at Carolina Friends School

Kelly releases the best of who we are

the teacher has a vision,

a way for who she is
to release itself even more fully within the school,
a way to make even more of a difference,

her whole self engages with her lower and middle school students,
helping each move forward in their understanding and use of Spanish,
and then to enter into understanding
the countries, peoples, cultures,
for whom Spanish is the way thoughts are formed,
love expressed, connections made, life lived,

today, for the second year in a row, she is the major force
pulling off an Hispanic festival at Carolina Friends School,

as students, parents, visitors, and staff enter,
an enthusiastic greater shouts: “Hola!” at all,
dancing with a welcoming poster,

within: booths of food, information, games, flags,
a program of song and dance, of enthusiasm and Spanish,
with students announcing each part in Spanish, then in English,

the afternoon is of joy and multicultural celebration,
of individuals risking to be enthusiastic,

of groups coming together and bringing us along
with the power of their movement and song, and expression of self,

a part of our community celebrated as who we are,
a model of how our school can be one with the many.

by Henry H. Walker
October 10, ‘19

give them the chance to triumph

middle schoolers and self-doubt

an advisee blurts out:
“Why are middle schoolers so anxious 
about performing in front of others?”
some answer they don’t know,
one answers that it’s simple: 
“They are middle schoolers.”
I answer that in the middle school ages,
people click into a new understanding, 
a new realization of self,
and self in relation to others,

rather than empowering the optimist within,
too often such a change empowers the pessimist within,
the syndrome of the imposter can permeate them,
the fear that changes without and within
are distorting the formerly unblemished child
into a budding adult with acne on the face and in the soul,

the face and body that were perfect for parent and grandparent,
distorted toward the wrong,
and they fear what others see in them,
for each cannot see self in a real mirror,
but instead they see self in a funhouse mirror,
all wrong and funny-looking,
what a school needs to do
is to accurately mirror back to the student
the extraordinary self that is already there,
and can become even better
if believed in by others, and by the self itself,

beware the smudge, the flaw in the view,
believe in the new which builds upon the old,
and can triumph if but given the chance.

by Henry H. Walker
October 10, ‘19

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

ADHD reality

living life at a different speed

I remember a Star Trek episode
where the crew of the Enterprise 
had to deal with a humanoid life-form
who lived life faster than they,
an hour to us maybe a second for them,

this episode comes to me
as I empathically leap into my students’ worlds, 
we come up with an acronym, ADHD,
and that seems to help us get the challenges faced
by a student who is hyper-aware,
who lives her/his/their life
with different governors within:
beware the predator who attempts to sneak up on them!

they live their life   
doing the best they can 
to please parent, teacher, self,
yet they’re living on a tightrope
with pulls of attractive stimuli to every side,   

I can attempt to insert myself and my ideas of how to move forward,     
but I can then often get a perplexed “What?” in response,

I believe in each child and their drive to do well,
I am challenged by my own drive to do well,
and my feeling out of sync with the student,
as they seek to figure how to succeed in a game
whose rules only vaguely appear to them,

I feel like Captain Kirk in that Star Trek episode,
knowing there’s a different reality out there

and aching to understand it.  

by Henry H. Walker
October 5, ‘19

Sunday, September 29, 2019

are we a melting pot? or . . . ?

A Metaphor for the U.S.A.

traditionally, we are a melting pot,
where all differences dissolve into a collective whole,
with individuality of group lost,
subsumed into the larger,

maybe, a tossed salad, with each group
keeping its differences but together making a unity,
though mouth and stomach make it into a melting pot,

maybe a stew, with each group retaining some uniqueness,
but at the edges slipping into the whole,

maybe a choral group, where the individual voice shines
within a larger shining of the wholeness of the piece,

in our private school, we trumpet the value of diversity and inclusivity,
still we require that members of the community
accept our unifying philosophy which chooses some truths as not relative:
love over hate, 
peaceful problem-solving, not violence,
empowerment over disenfranchisement
the rights of non-traditional genders
over the rigid denying of a fundamentalist belief system,

how much are we as a country a confederacy
of separate but equal subdivisions,
with no common purpose, no common set of values,
a hundred flowers blooming?

it seems that now we are stuck
in a schizoid country with two different realities,
between which we have to choose,
as if we are not really part of the same whole,

we need to find common ground, and build upon it,
whatever the metaphor that best describes who we want to be.

by Henry H. Walker
September 29, ‘19

Friday, September 27, 2019

on a cusp

middle school, and anxiousness

what a gift it is
to witness and cheer on
the middle schooler awakening
into the power of mind and heart,

the middle schooler, though,
has settling down on them
more than their fair share of anxiousness,
a fear that each is an imposter,
just faking it
while others must be real,
thus school can be a source of tests
that cannot be passed,

how sad it can be to wake up into fear,
to turn a corner and be hugged by anxiety,

no wonder that silliness and avoidance call to them,
just as with many of us, each can be on a cusp,
and the mature side of the choice is heavy.

by Henry H. Walker
September 26, ‘19

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Day and Night, Half and Half

Fall Equinox ‘19

a curve of Moon rides high above me in the pre-dawn,
one satellite slips to the east,
near it another slips to the north,
the air is cool but more appetizer than promise,
as the 80s will ride the afternoon,

in the garden yellow tomatoes endure,

as do the Kentucky Wonder pole beans,

Native pumpkins, like peachy tan Easter eggs,
hide among their ever-diminishing leafy vines,

most of the basil has given up the ghost,

but the okra still offers tender pods each day,

Summer has been long, hot, and dry,
the tropics keep spawning storm after storm,
fed by the too-hot salt water beneath them,
and, for now, the capricious airs above us
hold them at bay, and mid-ocean,

the climate is changing, and not for the better,
the Equinox should be a time of balance,
with day and night, half and half,
that is still true,
this year, though, 
half the people demand we deal with our problems
and half the people deny there are problems,
despite rising oceans and epic storms,

winter reaches toward us but can’t yet get here,
just as common sense can touch us but not rule many,
the dogwood leaves seem to feel winter coming,

and start shifting away from green,
our red maple is even more prescient and forgets color
as it prematurely drops its leaves,

I have the half-chocolate, half-vanilla cookies at the ready,
but even I, who created the Sol Pole,
almost forgot to celebrate the Equinox at celestial noon,

I am reminded of it all by the artist on our staff,
and we chant:
“Equi, Equi, Equinox,
Day and night, half and half,”
then eat our cookies,
and quickly return to routine,

how like where we are as a culture:
momentous realities cascade upon us,
and the moments of our individuality
eclipse the collective truth
that we cannot quite deal with,

one of my students writes of an upcoming birthday party,
which draws her more than an “existential crisis,”

the celestial universe, the dance of Earth and Sun,
insists there is balance,
while our human world 
denies any truth that isn’t comfortable.

by Henry H. Walker
September 23, ‘19

Saturday, September 21, 2019

the great city of New York

a country mouse in the city

I am excited to be in New York,
me, a child of nature,
who most feels at home
where the buffalo roam, or did,
me, like Davy Crockett,
who found the smoke of a neighbor’s fire
telling him to go further away
from the contagion of people,
me, who loves to be alone on a mountain top,
alone exploring a stream, a flower,
the enigmatic schedules of a bear,

I love being here in New York, 
where canyons are made by human construction, 
buildings which rise straight and presumptive,
where people are everywhere,
each different as a snow flake,
each also me if I let my self soar
into imagining how very alike we are
in our dreams and in our fears,
how each difference in us is like a spice
that helps me awaken a sense within me
that loves to savor how incredible the world is
that we humans can envision and create,

New York City shouts of the hope
our species needs to endure, and prosper.

by Henry H. Walker
September 13, ‘19

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


children and will

how can we as parents
survive the reality of the independence of will
of the children who come from us,
who are of us,
yet who are also themselves,

I heard a story once of a radical leader
who looked outside and saw his people marching in purpose,
and who then declared:
“Those are my people. 
I must see where they are going, 
so that I might lead them.”

as a parent, 
I love,
I hope,
and I have to let go of control,
for I don’t really have it anyway,

I have to trust my children
and let them go where they will,
hoping I have helped them
know themselves,
know reality,
and know well enough how to choose,
and then how to deal with the consequences.

by Henry H. Walker
September 13, ‘19

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Aaron Sorkin and the characters' voice

To Kill a Mockingbird, 2019

Calpurnia declares that the “good people” of Maycomb, Alabama,
entered the court as monsters and left it was murderers,
Atticus says he knows these people,
Calpurnia declares that she knows them better,
Calpurnia challenges Atticus’s defense of Mrs. Dubose:
a woman full of hate-filled prejudice
who is fighting morphine addiction,
Atticus excuses her hate and 
Calpurnia declares that addiction does not excuse her venom,

Harper Lee’s gripping story still works to pull us in,
into a “coming-of-age” tale
where decency and empathy and love
run into the stultifying inertia
of convention, of avoidance, of the tribal,
where the hope that fuels an optimism in the young
can run out of gas when adults look away, and don’t act,

Harper Lee created the characters and the story,
and Aaron Sorkin honors them with even more of their own voice.

by Henry H. Walker
September 14, ‘19

Monday, September 16, 2019

it slams into our consciousness

Hamilton: The Gestalt

the story of the past is no transparent, linear
recitation of how things came to be 
back then and into the now,
timelines and narration can give us the illusion
that how things came to be
is all rational and accessible
to a consensus of agreement,
rather, reality can lurch from the improbable through the fantastic, 
and only touch upon the predictable,
we can look backwards and trick ourselves 
into thinking that we can know the cause of the effect,

Hamilton is devastatingly powerful
in its telling of people, events, relationships,
Hamilton slams into our consciousness 
with the surety of scripted choreography,
driving orchestration and song,
with its spectacular staging, 
as levels and lighting and costume
frame the virtuosity of score and performance,
of the living, and dying, reality before us,
personalities and conflicts reduced and expanded
to what can fit on stage,
to what can be told without nuanced subtlety,
the visceral leap into this world so gripping
that theaters fill as countless of us make a path to their doors,

what is important in Hamilton is the power of the presentation,
as personalities harmonize and conflict with each other,
as the human world wrenches with ideas:
flesh-and-blood in the throes of the abstract,
the abstract intermingled with the physicality of self and ego,
as those of color embody those of the past,
even those who could not see past their own blinders,
the actors of color are fully there and real to truth,
what a tribute to New York, and America,
as where one can define one’s self anew,
just as actor and medium here define Hamilton’s story anew,

I cannot quite know that the gestalt of this musical masterpiece
elucidates or obscures individual pieces of the truth of the time,
I do quite know that the gestalt of this musical masterpiece
opens doors into the past and present
that takes our breath away
and opens us into the power of its truth.

by Henry H. Walker
September 16, ‘19

Thursday, September 12, 2019

middle school, and moving forward

To My Advisees

I believe in the best in you
that wants to come out,
that seeks every moment
to choose the positive over the negative,
the building up over the knocking down,
the taking the risk 
so that you might get to the reward,

I also know that self-doubt and difficulty
can knock you off the path for a while,

my goal as your advisor
is to help you stay on the path,
to celebrate your victories,
to help you live with faith and courage,
to help you come into the power
that should be your birthright,

I believe in you.
Let’s move forward!

by Henry H. Walker
September 12, ‘19