Villa Maria 2014“Many Buddhists understand the round of birth-and-death quite literally as a process of reincarnation, wherein the karma which shapes the individual does so again and again in life after life until, through insight and awakening, it is laid to rest. But in Zen, and in other schools of the Mahayana, it is often taken in a more figurative way, as that the process of rebirth is from moment to moment, so that one is being reborn so long as one identifies himself with a continuing ego which reincarnates itself afresh at each moment of time.”      Alan Watts

“Through the years, a man peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, tools, stars, horses and people. Shortly before his death, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his own face.” – Jorge Luis Borges

Ancientrails began as an activity to fill time while my right leg healed from the insults of Achilles tendon repair surgery.  That was in February of 2005.  Since then, it has grown slowly, a word here, a word there until thousands of entries have built up, short comments and long ones, intelligent and impassioned, silly and contentious.

In truth I have no idea why I do this save for the therapeutic value of writing.  That is, it fills a need I have to say my piece, much like my newspaper editor father did for years in his column, SmallTown, USA.

As I’ve thought about ancientrails, a happy accident of a title, they have become evident in all parts of our lives.  Here are a few:  love, child rearing, politics, gadgets, history, gardening, bee keeping, making money, building a strong body and a strong mind.  I think of ancientrails as those long standing, if not always universal, paths that lead us where we think we want to go.

You’re on several ancientrails right now.  I don’t know what yours are, but I can identify a few of mine:  skeptical seeking, fighting for my beliefs in the arena of power, love (Kate), love (children and grandchildren), love (dogs), friendship (Woolly Mammoths, docents), beauty, self expression, tending to the vegetative world, bee-keeping, canine companion, traveler.

By naming these ancientrails I specifically say they are not unique to me.  They are trails laid down long ago by other humans in other places and with much different particular content.  But the trails are the same.

Francis Bacon in his Novum Organum offers a metaphor for the empirical method, which he championed.  If you are on a path, he says, and it is the wrong path, the faster you move the faster you move away from your goal.  The right path, no matter how slowly you proceed, will get you to your destination.

Choosing the ancientrails on which you travel may be the most important decisions of your life.  Welcome to the journey.

8 Responses to Who

  1. Fantastic blog. Have enjoyed reading your thoughts and wisdom. I’ll be back to read more. We share many of the same interests and opinions. Thank you

  2. Avatar Kathy Donahue
    Kathy Donahue says:

    I was born in Alexandria in 1954 and lived there until I graduated high school in 1972…..great blog and memories, thanks!

  3. Avatar Julie Zink Kaplan
    Julie Zink Kaplan says:

    Charles–I am so excited to be introduced to your blog. Your dad worked with/for my dad, Bud Zink, back in the day, and I loved his column. He also wrote the most moving and beautiful obituary of my dad when he passed in 1993. I have such fond memories of your dad–he was the quintessential newsman, with his short-sleeved button-down and his glasses on the end of his nose. I am happy to see that you’ve inherited his gift for writing and are sharing it with the world. Much luck to you!

  4. HI Julie Zink!- great to hear from you- I knew your parents well & your Dad also wrote a beautiful memorial tribute to our mother Trudy Ellis which is in a frame on my desk in Singapore! all the best to you too.

  5. Avatar M. Soderberg
    M. Soderberg says:

    Interesting how you have this romantized view of Alexandria which is far different than my own. Your glasses must have had different lenses than mine. I remember it as a small town with small minded inhabitants, where only the “right” people were allowed to achieve, where teens who stole hubcaps and had D’s on report cards were voted into National Honor Society on the basis of their last name. This time of year with graduations and schools across the nation closing for summer break, I occasionally remember my years in Alexandria but with few fond memories. What did that speech about a shovel mean anyway?

    I did enjoy the library.

  6. Hello,

    Memories are tricky. And any memory recalled represents only a slice of time, a slice of recollection. I have happy memories, sad memories and unhappy memories about Alexandria. In these last three or so posts on Alexandria, I concentrated on my childhood, when I was happy. This was in the 1950’s and it was on a particular street, Monroe, and at the time my family was a happy one, too.

    So, for me, at least, that time and those memories are not romanticized, they are just my memories. Sorry you had such an unhappy experience. Hope life’s going better for you now.

  7. I am privileged to have shared a friendship with Charlie for nearly 30 years. A great emotional field has been plowed by the two of us in those decades, with landmarks established by many friends, losses, insights and, importantly, revisited memories. The impactful notion of “romanticized” memories is, for me, an invitation to greater awareness, both to what was and, most certainly, to what is. After Charlie’s reflections about growing up in the 50’s I shared with him that, from my current perspective, much of what my “going out” of the house was about was escaping a murky, alcoholic environment which offered only a shadowy perspective of reality. My best psycho-spiritual guess is that I was actually romanticizing the experience in the moment, for, if I hadn’t, the consequences could not have been handled very well by that small lad. I therefore carried with me a fear of being me that has been larger than “me” at many times through the last 60 plus decades. This is not sorrow, remorse, or bitterness. It is, as near as I can parse out, a stepping into the Tao, with a sense of the sublime dancing with absurdity, casting a smile on the face of my life.

    Thanks, Charlie — it’s a great community dialog.

  8. Avatar Harry Finlay
    Harry Finlay says:

    Dear Charles,
    I discovered your blog by googling Black Swan Coffee House Revival.
    I was one of the originators of the Black Swan in 1961. The enterprise ran in Stratford for 15 years, a pretty good run for a coffee house, and the revival, beginning in 1991
    has run longer than the original. Reading of your 1963 experience evoked in me a surge of warmth that someone had reacted, responded as you relate. Pleasing indeed is it to be
    rewarded so directly some 50 years after the event, and while at the time we couldn’t
    have so clearly articulated what we hoped to achieve with our programming approach,
    the folksinger you would have heard(Cedric Smith) and I are still close friends
    and collaborating on pulling together the 24th Black Swan Coffee House Revival!
    And so, my purpose now is to ask for permission to reprint your Black Swan story to a) promote the revival, and b) show a clear and inspiring example of how
    effectively we were doing our work in those early days. May we reprint your Black Swan story?
    I hope so. In any event, I am already enjoying ancientrails. I hope you can respond quickly. Thanks- Harry Finlay