Thursday, February 27, 2020

a feeling of emptiness now without him here

Paul Brown

a friendly smile,
a firm hand,
an engaging eye,
one of a Bunch of Guys,

a draft counselor who helped me
reason out my options as to Vietnam,
the Big Muddy where country pushed on
and so many of our generation were lost,

Paul and Julia upstairs from us on West Club Boulevard,
we share a news break of a child on the way to us,
and they reciprocate with the same news for them:
our Aaron and their Arlo inseparable as toddlers,

years turn to decades:
Paul visits with my mother in Gatlinburg,
serving as accomplice to her political tilting,
those windmills out there all needing
the right political stance,
and getting it from her, and from Paul,
his whole life,

Paul called to helping people with his social work degree:
“All those Type A folks at Duke Hospital need a Type B like me,”
maybe his family’s Georgia roots
helping him slow down and sit a spell,

his love for rod and reel:
“Time spent fishing is not counted against one’s allotted life-span,”

hiking with our big group up Mt. LeConte,
even once adding a few miles by starting at the Cabin rather than trailhead,
he didn’t get around to being ready till all the rides were gone,

religiously attending our pig-pickings,
which he’d call “the one event on my social calendar,”

devoted to grandparent, to parent, to child, to grandchild,

Paul was one of those rare individuals
who was so true to self
that his life had a clarity to its sound,
a profundity to its meaning,
a feeling of being at home when with him,

a feeling of emptiness now without him here.

Image courtesy of Halll-Wynne Funeral Home

by Henry H. Walker
February 27, ‘20

Saturday, February 15, 2020

the ephemeral can be spectacular


art is creation, and destruction,

I have long felt that a play, a musical,
is ephemeral, a creation like the mayfly,
that lives a day and then is gone:

props, costume, lines, song, music,

exist but to help a moment happen,
to deepen the moment, 
to broaden the moment,
to help belief in story hold us in her arms,
and then, too soon, the story is over,
and a new moment will soon have its time,

tonight, Annie, the musical, lived,
and the audience was captivated by the pieces
coalescing into a whole that held them, moved them,

the darkness that seeks to swallow the light,
driven back by each kid on stage, transformed,
who demanded and created a fire of self,
within the blaze of a story that worked,
helped by each stitch, each brush stroke, 
each idea that strode forth, 
all became tool to enable the story to live,

the individual needs to shine, and shines brightest
when a collective needs each flame,
when the collective finds the way for each flame
to be a firework and together crescendo into the spectacular.

by Henry H. Walker
February 14, ‘20

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Jay Garner, the best within us, lived

a conscientious calling

imagine life as a symphony,
within which, at best, usually,
we track one instrument, one sound,
while we can strain to follow larger wholes,
the whole itself,

does the conductor really hold every individual part,
while also holding the whole, building?

that must be how we conceive God to be,
the One who holds us all
within a continuity that aches to stumble forward,

World War II inexorably ground itself
into the world of my parents’ generation:
choices narrowed, choices demanded, the country at risk,
France lost to the Nazis, 
England periled by German planes,
Pearl Harbor pummeled by Imperial Japan,

many of the best of that generation
stepped forward into service as soldier,
as doctor or mechanic, as nurse, 
as logistics to support the soldier,

they heard and moved to the rhythm that drove the war,
and I am in awe of their courage, sacrifice, and gifts to us all,

tonight I am drawn to those within the symphony
who heard, and sought to follow,
how Spirit spoke to them differently, 
how the Spirit spoke, as Jesus taught about loving our enemies,
about peace as the way and not just the end,
about self-sacrifice as a way to reach the other,
to help the other,
to help our selves find the greatness
that calls to us when we hear, and appreciate,
the larger symphony playing just beyond
the driving rhythms that are easier to hear,  

Jesus saw, and heard, the music the angels know,
Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr did, too,
the best within us feels the pull
to use the precious days allotted to us
to make the world better, purer,
closer to the symphony all of us can make, together,
if we but will,

I celebrate tonight the calling Jay Garner heard and followed
as a conscientious objector during World War II,
wholeheartedly participating in the Starvation Experiment,
the only controlled experiment, ever, in human starvation,
with volunteers who suffered mightily that others might benefit,
his body pushed to its limits with little food and maximum stress,
all of it monitored and studied so that 
doctors could know the path back to health
for those whose bodies and souls have been literally starved.

Jay Garner is to the far right, lying down

Jay Garner is on the front row, in suspenders

by Henry H. Walker
February 7, ‘20