Sunday, October 18, 2020

honoring the sunset of a life

Jasmine Ann Freeman Baker

when a person leaves us for the great beyond,

I hope for them to be remembered,

seen, honored, appreciated,

the Light of their life

still shining upon ours,

so that what we make with our own brief moments

can shine even brighter,

we can reach to synchronize

with how well they lived their life truly,

we can hope to do the same,

as we are inspired to follow their lead,

Jasmine Ann Freeman Baker

shone brightly with her life,

her joy in the moment readily morphing into laughs

that a grandchild described as contagious,

her joy, her light rippling out

to husband, to children, to grandchildren,

to her beloved horses and plants,

she loved the practical joke:

once carefully opening a bottle of wine,

drinking it, replacing the wine with water,

and repackaging it all as if the bottle still was full of fine wine,

what actually happened with the bottle

far less important than the joyous prank,

at the beach in Brighton

her ice cream on the cone was melting,

and she flicked bits of it at her grandchildren,

all of whom delighted in the whimsy,

Jasmine Ann was grounded,

in her parents’ world which saved us all

from the insanity of Nazi Germany

through the courage and perseverance of her father

and of her mother who held down the fort

while husband was away, both selfless in their service,

her father missing the first two years of Jasmine Ann’s life,

dance and photography a part of her, relationships vital,

place important to her:

the idyllic house and view, 

with the South Downs stretching before them into glory,

stretching toward gorgeous sunset after sunset 

for the whole of her married life,

the garden where tomato and cucumbers needed her tending,

even, just weeks before her death, the pansies planted,

year after year saving seeds for the next season

because it is frugal, and right,

she was literally and figuratively rooted in the South of England,

her daughter helping the next generations

know the practical and the forest,

cruises called to her, 

and she loved experiencing the world with her beloved husband,

her love of horses, grounded in the life of her past

and experienced exuberantly in the magnificent plumed black horses

her husband made sure were there 

to pull her hearse one last time

to where her life could rest,

and still resonate in the wonder 

that her daughters and grandchildren can still work 

to express with the fullness and joy of their own lives,

the cardinal points each have within them messages,

a Native American meditation speaks of facing the West, the sundown,

which calls us to live life as fully as we can

before our lives fade in to the night which calls us all,

our last moments, like the sunset, should be of glory,

Jasmine Anne’s sun has set,

and set with the glory of her life.

by Henry H. Walker

October 17, ‘20

Saturday, October 10, 2020

toward wholeness

person to person, eye to eye

the Universe has a center,

but, for me, it changes with my attention,

today we get back to school as person-to-person,

though with masks that block the mouth and nose

from expressing themselves,

nevertheless, the eyes are there, today, before me,

I come into a classroom,

and I can see the wonders before me

with more clarity than the Zoom world

can easily release,

each extraordinary person has been there

for the last month and a half of school,

being true to self

and to expressing who they are,

as best they could,

on the screen, in their shared words

in discussion and on assignments,

yet also having that mammalian furtiveness

that saved our ancestors when predators had to be avoided,

I come into the room,

I look into their eyes,

and I am undone with the power each lives,

despite the self-doubt that obscures the clarity each deserves,

I look into the eye,

and I see the center of the Universe

that deserves to be seen, appreciated, known,

eye-to-eye, despite how much the mask

can block the rest of the face from speaking,

I escape the prison of my own doubts and loneliness

to see the other,

 to feel the self burgeoning with power and hope,

and I know why I still teach:

every student centers the Universe for me,

and, more importantly, for themselves,

first is to center one’s self,

then to reach out to find and appreciate the other centers,

building friendships and community, 

all in the grand goal to reach toward wholeness.

by Henry H. Walker

October 9, ‘20

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Light within students


The Light Within

there before me on the desktop computer

I see four former students from my first decade of teaching

who are vibrant and real, even in the two dimensions on Zoom,

their personalities, their selves,

add dimensions of depth and time,

yet, most truly, they add the dimension of the Light within them

that blazes before me with a fierceness all should be able to live,

Henry Walker, Rebecca Laszlo, Lisa Long Jackson,
Michael (Misi) Polgar, Gretchen Klopfer Wing

they each know themselves, like themselves,

live their selves with a wholeness

I hope for all people to be able to find,

certainly for the students I still have before me,

they are each true to their own self,

and they each love the other as a part of who they are,

even the other they don’t know yet,

but who they continually realize is just as much

a part of the larger self as each of them is,

inclusivity, diversity, social justice:

wording that reaches to hold

the wholeness that calls to them,

I work in Zoom to let them speak

as to who they were and are within Friends School,

as to who they are now within the tumult 

of their present lives some forty years later 

than our earlier time together,

tomorrow, CFS middle school will welcome many students

back into person-to-person learning,

each student a bundle of hopes and fears, 

strengths and needs,

each a center of the universe,

the path forward for a middle schooler

is never as straight-forward as a line,

now the paths forward proliferate with possibility,

far too many possibilities and adventures 

those one would not choose if given the choice,

we believe in the Light within each student

that circumstance can too easily block from releasing itself,

whether the circumstance of their own lives or their schooling,

our goal tomorrow, and the next day, and the next week,

and every moment we are given with such amazing young people

is to help them find the Light within,

the Light that aches to shine forth from them,

just as that Light today shines so clearly

from my former students on the screen before me,

education is a sacred calling,

and the Light within students can answer that call.

by Henry H. Walker
October 7, ‘20

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

language and thought are wedded


freedom withers into greed

Milton had Satan realize the transformative power of the mind:

Heaven can become Hell, Hell become Heaven,

depending on the mind’s take on it all,

I think of Milton as I consider 

how the word and concept of “freedom” is used today:

the founders of our country wanted freedom

of religion, from religion,

of escape from tyranny 

where one’s life is subject 

to the whim of monarch, of government,

of escape from the past becoming destiny:

life of son to reprise life of father,

life of daughter at the whim of husband,

they sought freedom of thought,

of speech, of individuality,

now many minds seem to confuse freedom with license,

freedom equals greed, self-indulgence,

a fundamental reshuffling of the idea,

the lesser within people wants to not be shackled 

to community, to the other, to growing up:

I don’t want to wear a mask,

and I don’t care what that might do to another,

I don’t want to pay any taxes,

and I just want to spend on myself,

I don’t want to feel how my words can disturb another

so I argue for the freedom to be rude

and disparage politeness and inclusivity as “political correctness,”

such self-centeredness allows us 

to let the forests be cut down, to burn,

to let fossil fuels be consumed with abandon:

my car, my boat, my plane,

my unfettered tread upon the Earth,

more important than my grandchildren’s future:

supersize my gluttony rather than diet,

live for the summer and not prepare for the winter:

we can be the grasshopper and not the ant,

language and thought are wedded,

and I don’t like the cheating

that withers freedom into greed.

by Henry H. Walker

September 28, ‘20

Friday, September 18, 2020

almost Autumnal Equinox

 mid-September in the Piedmont

the air-conditioner just cut off,

and a bird asserts whatever its agenda is,

most of the natural world is quiet in sound now,

though loud in feeling summer ending

and fall impinging,

daylight lessens,

more birds argue their points:

territory? mating?

just wanting to be noticed?

in the garden okra asserts its usual exuberance,

pumpkins start to swell and ripen,

tomatoes hold on,

though only the yellow cherry 

seem to have their heart in it,

the tomatillos shout their presence,

the basil still gives but it’s tired,

the Kentucky Wonder pole beans are nearly ready

to release the string beans

that define their species at its best,

the buttercrunch lettuce germinates,

a second planting since the first evaporated

into but a few surviving seedlings,

in the yard black-eyes susans are glorious

in the beauty of their will,

I worry about the mountain laurel

who flared more and better than ever before,

and now has a yellow to its green where it flowered,

the year seems tired, or maybe I’m just projecting,

the next day cooler air braces me to wake up.

by Henry H. Walker

September 14, ‘20

Friday, September 11, 2020

dimensions call me

 pictures are windows

I fill the walls in our house

with pictures I have taken

when a place has felt special to me,

each a grounding in a memory

that flares a light

into dark corridors of where I was,

of who I was, intensely, at one time,

and who I still am if I but remember,

if I but realize that each step along the way

can open a window,

a window that lets my soul plummet through it,

and I am awake to the moment,

to another piece of who I am,

easily we can let present moments

hold us in the two dimensions

of the surface upon which we live,

as if we are but fragments caught in a river,

I want to add both depth and height: 

the churning levels within us,

the heights to which we aspire,

I want to add back the past

where I constructed much of who I am,

I want to reach toward the future

within which I hope to become even more

who I can be at my best,

the pictures on my walls and within my heart

remind me to give myself fully to life,

the universe gifts us many chances

to make the most out of who we can be.

by Henry H. Walker

September 10, ‘20