Monday, April 29, 2019

students, and teaching, living

life as unscripted movie

every person’s life is an unscripted movie,
with the star challenged to find action and word
to get through each scene
before the next scene challenges anew,

as a teacher I am gifted
with a front row seat for some of the scenes,
I clearly see the actor
and revel in the quality of self revealed
in intent, in word, in action,
I can applaud with my own word and care
the quality before me,

then the movie shifts location, 
to be filmed away from me,
I often know little of how it turns out,
maybe an occasional review by someone who has seen later scenes,
sometimes the actor flashing back to a visit,
and my appreciation of the quality of the self living its story
reprises for a bit,

today I visited for a time with a former student
who will not be denied in her quest
to create a career with the songs her soul writes
and her voice and hands release to the world,
the meaning and music of her words
ethereal and grounded at the same time,

one song written to a mother fighting cancer
before and after the birth of her child,
Caitlin was asked for help,
and she writes a song,
and she performs a song,
and she shares a song,
mother and child make it through their scenes so far,

how wonderful that my former student knows her power
and uses it to help others
make it through their scenes,

the movie rolls on,
and we all can hope 
that the script we write with our lives
will be worth the screen time we use up.

by Henry H. Walker
April 27, ‘19

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

a brilliant mind, a committed heart

Jamie Hysjulien

I sat in on a senior seminar one time,
a brief period of asking questions of the student
who was venturing a take on truth,
based on what they’d been studying
and what the student ventured as thesis,

Jamie revealed himself then:
a brilliant mind, a committed heart,
a devoted teacher who joyed in the student’s
brilliant mind, committed heart, devotion to truth,

as I sit outside now, it’s a perfect day
of deep blue sky, of brilliant late afternoon light
reveling in the revealing of the oak tree above,
just coming fully into its power,
like the student in the senior seminar,

how strange it feels to have the world around me
not reeling from the loss of such a fine man:
a devoted partner, a devoted parent,
a doting grandparent,
a colleague who lifted more than his share 
of students toward the light, 

I imagine kid after kid becoming adult after adult,
each coming more fully into the power within them
that Jamie helped refine and release
into a world that needs brilliant minds and committed hearts,
who know how to become and be,
in no small part because Jamie
saw them, loved them, helped them,

may each honor Jamie with how well each
sees the world, sees themselves within that world,
and finds the ways to make a difference, for the better.

by Henry H. Walker
April 22, ‘19

Thursday, April 18, 2019

birds, birds, birds

frenetic birds amidst the swell of spring

birds awake in early spring,
as if on speed:
before daybreak, they call as if to wake us all up,
two male bluebirds this morning blur in a frenzy on the ground,
some kind of dominance fight
with females flitting nearby,
maybe a challenge as to which couple 
gets the bluebird house for their eggs, and then young,
by dinner time, one male stands atop it,

and only barely tolerates me 25 feet away,

a tufted titmouse can’t figure me out
and comes closer and closer,
as I need to be dealt with,

two mourning doves write quick paths
from tree to tree across my view,
a hummingbird pauses on branches,
and then zings to our sugar water feeder,

our ginkgo and one of our oaks are early in their leafing,

the red maple halfway to full leaf,

as are most of the oaks around us,

last week’s pine pollen invasion
mostly washed away by a near foot of rain,
though our car still has edges stained gold,

in the garden I have trusted that
“the early bird gets the worm,”
so a dozen and a half tomatoes, 
ones I started from seed inside,
are rooting into the fertile soil,
held up by nestling leaves,

red potatoes and sugar snap peas are hard at work,

the buttercrunch lettuce and first basil
have been subdued by torrents of rain,
squash, bush beans, okra, and pumpkin await their time,

sour cherry and blueberry are setting:

the redbud has finished, the dogwood is full,

our grass needs cutting,
the columbine is triumphant:

the plant kingdom is like the early adolescents I teach,
swelling with the pride of becoming,
not yet into the full power that comes
before the long decline.

by Henry H. Walker
April 17, ‘19

Saturday, April 13, 2019

the instruction book?

analytic vs generative

consider a game and its rule book:
how much interest do you have
in the ins and outs of the instructions
until you’ve watched it being played, 
or played it a bit yourself?
there comes a time when the rules are interesting,
but not till the game itself captures you,

as teachers, we can forget early developmental stages,
we can fall in love with the structures
that appear so clear to us now,
and we falsely imagine that taking apart the whole
would help the young create the whole anew,
the ascendancy of the analytic over the generative,

I watch kids and I seek to learn from them,
I sought to help a kid write a poem,
and I inspired myself to write the poem instead,
ever since I have trusted the impulse
to shape thought and feeling into coherence
as the prime directive,
to bring forth a whole
that wants to be born
if we can but release 
ourselves into the shaping,

I watch kids and I seek to learn from them,
for me, a kid should write poems first,
working on idea, on feeling, on memory,
on authenticity,
and then figurative language can be tools
to capture meaning even better, 
not as words and technique to learn first,
for then a poem is made of Legos without a story
to bind them into the magic of meaning,

my grandson knows how to construct things
into a whole with a story,
of such is the challenge of an educator:
to learn by being, and doing,
to be of the whole that only later knows the parts.

by Henry H. Walker
April 12, ‘19

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

from the core of the wildflower

the ephemeral of early spring

a particularly poignant name
to call the wildflowers of early spring,
we seek them where memory and opportunity
whisper they might be,

and there they are:
fringed phacelia, 

like a young snow,
profusely carpet the understory 
of an old cove hardwood forest,

the ground peopled by
white trillium, geranium, trout lily,
anemone, miterwort, spring beauty,
squirrel corn,
Dutchman’s breeches, more,

up the valley ginger rules,
in its understated way,
the maroon cup of its three-pointed flower,

the gold below the green rainbow of its leaf,

all within what Southern Appalachian folks
call a “hollow,” 
an absence and a presence between ridges,
where the earth speaks with life,
instead of resistance to erosion,

the next day we quest after blood-root,
a favorite of ours, who hides herself
behind a brief flowering time,
and a persnickety need to not go 
too high on the mountain,
and there it is!

more bloom than we’ve ever seen together,
just by the road, all congregated as if at a service,
my cameras indulge themselves with glory revealed,

spring wildflowers are ephemeral,
and so are we and all our moments,

we can only hope to bloom with the wonder
that the phacelia and blood-root speak from their core.

by Henry H. Walker
April 5, ‘19

to bend the twig

good parenting

as I sit on a rise
above the tumbling creek,
just at the edge of where
pavement yields to trail,

a young family enters the woods before me,
they choose to follow the old path
down to the creek,
where they spend long minutes
enjoying exploring, throwing rocks into the creek,
the dad rock hops to the other side
and follows his own whims for a bit,
while the mom, baby on back,
enjoys the edge of the stream with her two daughters,
I notice a few rocks splash,
and I hope the magic works for them,
“as the twig is bent, so the limb’s inclined,” 
advises Alexander Pope,

these parents bend their kids 
to appreciate untamed nature,

as they walk away, 
they notice me 150 feet away,
I lightly wave at the dad,
he returns the wave,
then the mom does, too,

I appreciate them, and their parenting,
their kids are lucky.

by Henry H. Walker
April 5, ‘19

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

let us be ever new in our sameness

us, and a waterfall

falling water draws my soul,

like our lives, a tumbling stream
is ever new in its sameness,

our ears and eyes are tuned
to water over and upon rock,

every waterfall makes the world better,
in its beauty for those of us who see it,
and its gift of oxygen 
for fish and crayfish downstream,

may each of our lives do so well.

by Henry H. Walker
April 4, ‘19

Sunday, April 7, 2019

ADHD: climate change?

how to care about what matters

difference attracts us,
and repels us,
we can get bored by familiarity,
and terrified by surprise,

I sit in the woods and wait,
I want to feel the gestalt of what is,
so that then I can notice a change,

I often hope for a bear to visit,
a pileated woodpecker to land nearby,
the wild turkeys to fly in or wander near,

that same alertness can ready me to notice a threat,

birds know the potential of their death
in every anxious swivel of their heads,

our progenitors must have, like the birds, known
that death could suddenly visit their world,
paranoia can keep us alive, or haunt our dreams,

a kid these days can be diagnosed with ADHD,
a hyper-active attention to everything around them,
however, we reward focus on the task before us,
and penalize those too alert 
to what’s outside the moment and the task,

how ironic that a generation that can need help dealing with ADHD
also notices the real threats to our future
that lurk just outside what we want to care about.

by Henry H. Walker
April 4, ‘19

Saturday, April 6, 2019

it calls me home

The “Cabin on the Creek”

for my brothers and me,
home is first, and last, the “Cabin,”
it’s where we children spent our summers growing up,
where we, and our parents, had time for each other,
where land and rock, stream and forest,
were our friends before technology and screens
filed a void we didn’t know we had,
or maybe created a void in us,
after we had them, that only they can fill,

as both of my brothers slipped into their final days,
Cabin and parents called to them to come home,

my own psyche centers itself here,
the last homely home
before nature and mountain
swallow and expand the wanderer.

by Henry H. Walker
April 3, ‘19

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

as disciple to a master

Earth As Teacher

“Earth teach me. . .”
a recurrent call through a Native American prayer
I often use to direct and center me in the morning,

I want to be as disciple to the master
who was and is before I come to be:
the Earth of rock and water,
of the first life and the latest life,
of death and loss and new birth,
of sunrise and light on our paths,
of sunset and the fading out,
we hope in glory,

for years I have wandered the woods,
sat at the feet of great trees,
pondered the messages of flower and stream,
listened to the stories animals create with their lives,

I can love our human world,
and get lost in the wonders and disasters we unleash,

I contend that we need to take the time
to let Earth teach us what we need to know,
even though we don’t quite realize what we’re learning,
the way that all that is not human
is more the world than we are

I watch a hawk for 15 minutes as it waits,
high in an oak tree,
for a meal to appear below it, nothing spectacular,
I slow down enough to wait for a beaver to reappear,
and I appreciate subtlety in the slow turn of the stars.

by Henry H. Walker
March 31, ‘19

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

coming into herself

Rachel is 14

my granddaughters are coming fully into themselves,
now each is at the age I teach,
they are within the developmental range
within which I know 
many of the right currents and also the hidden shoals

tonight the young adult of 14 visits with me,
and I am struck by how well she moves
within the troubled waters of adolescence,

opening herself more to the empowering of possibility
than to the short-circuiting of anxious fear,

our society needs the power within such young
to release itself and help lead us away from the darknesses
the adults’ lack of courage and vision have visited upon us.

by Henry H. Walker
April 2, ‘19