• Tag Archives blog
  • Ancientrails

    Mid-Summer                                                     Full Honey Flow Moon

    Talking with Mark today it occurred to me, for the first time, that part of what was going on with him, maybe a lot of it, involved repatriation.  So, I looked it up on google.  Turns out repatriate adjustment has many facets, most of them difficult to integrate, often leading to feelings of isolation, alienation and just plain old bewilderment.  Especially when you return suddenly, as Mark did, from twenty + years abroad, the country of his birth has changed.  A lot.  In subtle and not so subtle ways.  I’m just beginning to understand this phenomenon, but as a brother and as a student of anthropology, it fascinates me and gives me considerable pause.

    Last night, during a violent thunder storm, our power went out and, presumably, our generator kicked in.  But, as life goes, at 4:45 am, our alarm decided it had to begin chirping.  And chirping.  Not the wailing kind of all hell’s broken loose kinda noise, but a persistent annoying chirp.  After muffling it and going back to sleep, Kate got up and called the company.  We had to replace the back up battery in the unit’s central box.  This is a twelve-volt battery with sulfuric acid like your car battery.  Who knew?  Anyhow the new one now rests where the faded one was and all is well with the alarm system.

    My History of Graphic Design course project, redesigning Ancientrails, has got me thinking about why I do this.  Do I do this for you, the reader, or for me?  I have kept diaries and journals since the early 70’s.  They vary in systematics and consistency although over the last 20 years I’ve kept regular journals on matters from spirituality to art history, reading the classics to daily experiences, thoughts.  Ancientrails extends and continues those, which were private, so in that sense this is a public journal, but a continuation of a private one.

    It is not, however, like the private one, unread.  Readership varies from peaks of around 200 a day to a more average 50.  There were some 1100 visits this month.  A small number for most websites, infinitesimal really, but considerably more than the one who read my private journals.  Having readers changes the content.  I’ve made four of five gaffes that have gotten me into hot water with family, lost me a job and caused certain allies to wonder about my discretion.  Each one of those events creates a certain amount of self-censorship, as does the possibility that anybody might read any of this at any time.

    Ancientrails is also a document on the world wide web.  That means html, tags, pictures, news, links.  These features create a more accessible journal, a deeper journal with ties to other webpages and direct access to information about a topic.  Not sure where all this goes quite yet.  Still thinking.  If you have any input, leave me a comment.  Thanks.

  • Warp and Weft

    Winter                                                                            Waning Moon of the Winter Solstice

    Other blogs seem to have a slant, a bias, a thing.  I suppose I do too in a general way, the idea of ancientrails, the Great Wheel, the garden, a po-mo pagan sensibility, but what I’m doing is more like an online journal.  On a bookshelf I have two rows of journals kept in various forms since 1971, many erratic in the entries, then, as life moved on, I became more regular.  At one point I had several journals.  A diary like one in which I wrote short entries about my day, a spiritual journey one in which I recorded my experiences of meditation, lection divina, contemplative prayer, scripture study, another in which I took reading notes while I studied Islam, the year after 9/11, several more with reading notes from a year + when I gave up writing and took to reading the classics:  Divine Comedy, Faust, Metamorphosis, works of that nature.  During the year I studied Islam I read the Koran twice, once just to see what it said and another time during the month of Ramadan as I fasted and read enough to finish the entire Koran in thirty days, as many Muslims do.  Yet other blank books contain notes on art history, taken over many years of continuing education at the MIA, ideas for novels, short stories, about writing.

    Writing is the thread, the weft I have chosen to weave the tapestry of my life.  The warp threads, stronger by far, developed in body and mind, feelings and thoughts as this Self has moved through life since birth.  The stuff of my daily existence has been the weft when shuttled through with the language I learned at my mother’s knee and my father’s typewriter.

    So, this blog is just another pattern,  a particular tartan for this phase of my life.  It may pass away at some point, I certainly will, but, as I wrote the other day, the Web may have granted us bloggers a type of immortality.

    When Kate I and were on our honeymoon, in late March or early April of 1990, the last phase of our trip which started a block from the Spanish Steps in Rome, we took the train from Edinburgh to Inverness.  Inverness is the capitol of Celtic Scotland, the northern reaches of the Picts.  The river Ness, from the storied Loch Ness, runs right through town.  On a stroll one afternoon, Kate and I made our way to a tartan mill, a place where tourists could go in and watch tartans being woven.

    That day, the master weaver changed over from one tartan to another.  What this involved has stuck me indelibly since then.  The master weaver carries in his head the particular combination of colors, of large spools of yarn, that make, say, the tartan of the clan Sinclair.  He achieves that  particular combination of colors and patterns not by computer, not by telling weavers what to do, but by placing, on a huge rack of iron hooks, individual spools of yarn.  The number of hooks across the top of the hook rack, maybe 25 or 25, below each hook came at least 20 more, maybe 25 more hooks creating a large frame of individual hooks slanted up.  By his placement of the spools the master weaver achieved his design for the yarn from these spools fed precisely into the looms which clicked and clacked behind them.

    Later than night, after we had finished our meal at the Station Hotel, Kate and I walked along the river Ness, tendrils of mist floating up from it, weaving themselves forever into our memory.

  • Compelling Writing?

    Beltane                                      Waning Planting Moon

    Each morning I get up, let the dogs out, open the garage door, wander down the driveway, pick up the newspaper, open it and read the front page on the way back, make breakfast, read and finish the paper (a geezer thing to do if I read the cultural tea leaves aright), the come downstairs.  When I get downstairs, no matter what else I have planned, I end up here, writing in this blog.

    (medieval blogging)

    I read a quote from Carl Jung the other day which said that any addiction, no matter what it is, is bad.  As much as I admire Jung, I had to wonder.  Perhaps the question is where does habit begin to bleed over into  compulsion?  My exercise habit, strong enough now that I feel a push to do it rather than not, is that an addiction?  Writing here in the morning, is this habit compelling me?

    My TV watching in the evenings comes very close to addiction, perhaps presses over the line.  In the Monty Python skit the comfy chair, a member of the spanish inquisition uses a comfortable chair with which to torture the suspected heretic.  “Seet here,  you scuum.”  My repose in my own comfy chair, literally, and in the pillowy bosom of broadcast television, occurs at my own doing, yet has a culturally activated and market reinforced quality, too.

    The other two?  Not so much.  I say this, Mr. Jung, from the vantage point of a former smoker and a recovering alcoholic now 34+ years sober.

    OK.  I can go now.

  • Scribo, ergo sum.

    Spring                                           Awakening Moon

    An outside day today.  Planting onions, garden planning and repair.  I’m itchy to get back to learning more Latin and translating the Metamorphoses, but the rhythm of nature waits for no one.

    Writing is always an exercise in self-disclosure, no matter what kind of writing you do.  The subjects you pick, the ones you don’t, the style you use, the one you avoid, the words you choose, the ones you don’t know all reveal inner workings most folks prefer to keep to themselves.  Even with my modest public writing–this blog, sermons, the Sierra Club Blog last year for example, I’ve gotten the occasional emotional jolt that comes when the inside becomes the outside.

    If you click on the comments about John Lampl, you’ll see an example of what I mean.  This comment came right out of left field, a comment about a post I’d written a year and a half ago about events in my life that happened, let’s see now, 36 years ago.  36 years.  What’s amazing about that is the rocket ride back to feelings of the past, that particular past, I went on when I read the post.

    To gauge the difficulties of those years is like comparing a Caterpillar 73f to a Tonka Truck.  Today is a Tonka Truck life in terms of angst.  Those days I bled angst from every pore.  I married a wonderful young woman, Judy Merritt, at the height of the sixties, 1969.  We got married on an Indian mound in Anderson, Indiana, received two pounds of marijuana as a wedding present and recessed to I’m So Glad by the Cream.  Butterflies landed on my shoulder.  Really.  Five years later my alcoholism had grown worse–ironically during my time in seminary–and I pushed Judy away.  No wonder Johnnie was there to catch her.

    There is, too, an inescapable amount of self-absorption in writing.  I’ve kept journals for years, I have three bookshelves lined with them.  The last five years I’ve kept much of my journal-type writing on line in this blog and its Frontpage predecessor.

    This post made me wonder why I do this.  Not from an, oh my god why did I ever do this perspective, but from a Why do I do this point of view.   The easiest and probably the truest explanation is that it is just what I do.  I write.  I write about politics, about fantasy worlds I create, about my life, about thinking through the liberal faith tradition, about art.  My dad wrote.  I write.

    Scribo, ergo sum.

  • The Internet and Personal Exposure

    Lughnasa                                 New Moon

    Every once in a while the internet jumps out and bites me.  I lost a potential job because I talked about the process on my blog and the congregation thought I had violated their privacy.  Last year on the Sierra Club blog I posted what I thought was obvious information about how our lobbyists planned to work a committee only to discover that it was supposed to be in house.   Monday I posted about the MEP, the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, meeting I attended.  They found it and called Margaret at the Sierra Club.  There was no problem with what I wrote, they said.  Except, they said there was no problem.  Of course, confidential material (which the lobbyist last year felt I had disclosed) is just that, confidential.  In order to retain trust we agree not to break confidence.

    This capacity of people to troll the web for whatever they want, especially things that concern them, is a blessing and a curse.  It’s a blessing when it allows a person or organization to track matters of importance to them.  It’s a curse in that it can have a chilling effect on communication.

    Margaret has a legitimate issue.  She wonders if I will be quoted or misquoted from my blog and then identified as a Sierra Club leader.  In that sense there is a persona management concern for the organization.  We’ll talk about it tomorrow.

    On a related matter, tomorrow I will install an electric fence, a device for making our dogs respect the boundaries we have established for them.  That’s what all this is about:  boundaries.  Boundaries are fluid, shifting from one person’s perception to another’s.  Respect for boundaries is an important aspect of living in community.

    Interestingly, it is at just this juncture that liberalism, with its focus on individualism, can run into problems.  Those of us on the bleeding edge of the liberal boundary can tilt toward too much emphasis on liberty, the negative kind that insists only on the right to do what we want, or, contradictorily, toward restrictions on individual liberty to achieve some other virtue, like justice.  This is also the precise intersection where equality, as fundamental an aspect of liberalism as individualism, can create social tension.

    In fact if we decide on economic equality as a necessary part of our political program we may move across the line from liberal to socialist, a communitarian model for economic justice.

    Actions for or on behalf of the environment demand human action and these demands often create the perception of curtailed liberty.  Why can’t I hunt whales?  Why can’t I build a dam where the salmon run?  Why can’t I shoot the wolf I believe killed my livestock?  Why can’t I drive my Hummer?

  • Who Is a.t.?

    Summer                                Sliver of the Waning Summer Moon

    Who is a.t.?

    a.t. is a personification of Ancient Trails.  Using these initials allows me to write about myself in the third person.  I’m trying it out, seeing how it feels.  Part of the notion is that third person would allow people not familiar with me personally to take more from this website.

    The website has had a consistent and satisfying number of hits each day, averaging 500 unique visits.  The number of pages per visit has increased over the last year, so readers stay longer and read more.  All that makes me feel good about writing this.

    I’ve wondered what might make ancient trails have broader appeal.  In one sense I don’t care at all, that is, I’m not earning any money from this, nor am I in competition with anyone else.  In another sense, the one that makes me write this at all, I enjoy the idea of more people reading.

    Anyhow. It might just be a phase.  Write to a.t. and give him your thoughts.

  • Writing Makes Its Own Space

    66  bar steady 29.79  3mph NNW dew-point 63  Summer night, rainy day

    Full Thunder Moon

    We had rain and storm, tornado warning and tornado watch.  A full thunder moon day.  The rain poured down, drenching the lily blooms, forming small rivers on the wide leaves of the acorn squash.  While I read the first chapter of the book on the Western Unitarian Conference, the rain drained from the sky and onto the azalea, the begonia, the several amarylis and a bed full of hosta.  Reading a good book while it rains or snows pleases me, makes me feel at home, in place.

    Kate harvested beans tonight, a few onions, too.  I used the onions with some beets I bought at Festival, delicious.  We also had a few early sugar snap peas and wax beans.  Some fish.  Some pasta with pesto made from hydroponic basil.  An evening meal.

    Kate works this weekend, as she does every other weekend.  Ten days in a row, a long stretch, but she likes the four days off it gives her.  We pretend she’s retired on those days.

    The Minnesota UU history piece has begun to take shape, get bones.  When there is a subject matter to master before I write, it usually takes me a while before I get a gestalt, a feel for the whole.  Once I have that I know where I need more information, or that I do not.  At that point I can sit down and write, usually in one setting.  A few days later, after its cold, I go back, reread and edit, revise.  Then I’ll put it away until I need to present it.

    This one has been a bit unusual in that history requires a certain precision and accuracy with details, chronological sequence, names and places.  This means the material that I use to illustrate and make my points must get reordered to fit my needs, yet remain accurate and true.   It’s part of what I love about this kind of work.

    When I have this kind of work, it pushes out everything else.  The writing work makes its own space in my life, creates openings and time for itself.  Just like this blog.  It happens each day, two to three times a day and often I do not recall having written here.  The breadcrumbs, though, are there, laid down in words and postings.

  • Bloggers Need Union?

    51 bar steady 29.68 2mph SSE dewpoint 36 Spring

                        New Moon (Growing)

    Don’t know whether you caught the article in this morning’s paper about bloggers.  It seems bloggers are the new cottage industry, working at home at piece rate, grinding out post after post after post in a grueling 24-news cycle that, this article claims, often leaves little time for sleep or food.  In fact, the premise of the article was that there might be a new cause of early death.  Blogging.  Yikes!

    Here I am, doing two to three posts a day most days, eating and sleeping and exercising, plus living a life.  Not to mention that I blog for free.  In fact, I pay for the privilege since Kate and I rent webspace from the nice folks at 1&1 Internet.  There’s also that 6.99 a year for the domain name, ancientrails.com.  OK, the price is cheap, especially for what we get, but still.  This article said some people make as little as $10 a post.  As little.  I could pay my entire internet overhead with 3 posts, maybe 4.

    Oh, well.  If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing cheaply. 

    This is more of a point than I make it sound.  The garden.  My novels and short stories to date.  Touring at the Art Institute.  None of it pays a dime, at least so far.  Yes, I did make $80.00 last year doing tours after hours at the MIA, but that hardly counts.

    None of this discourages me, but it does make me wonder if I could find a nice patron who’d like to hype ancientrails and pay me, too.  Wouldn’t turn it down.  Unless it interfered with my editorial prerogative, of course.

    Paul Douglas, who mentioned this website in a recent Star-Tribune weather column, got released from WCCO.  Several people wrote him notes.   He deserves it.  He’s a creative guy and a Minnesotan through and through.  Doesn’t sound like he’s gonna line up for unemployment either.

    Groceries this AM, then making CNS (Jewish penicillin) for my ailing docent colleague, Bill Bomash.  He’s the guy who broke his femur in five places.  The class will provide a few meals for him and his wife over the next few weeks.

  • Bloggin with Palm Trees

    18  89%  28%  0mph NNE  bar 30.12 steady windchill17  Imbolc

                  Waning Crescent of the Winter Moon

    Opened up my e-mail program today and had 29 messages.  A big morning for me is 5 or 6.  What the hell? 

    Another lesson in the cyber world.  There are bots that crawl the web seeking out certain words or phrases, then link their source to another web page.  In some instances that’s google and can help others find your website if the title words you use resonate.  In most instances and certainly the most annoying instances the links go back to such intriguing locations as Addiction Levitra, Texas Facts Auto Insurance, Mexico Amoxil and HCL Dosing Tramadol.  Each one linked by some $%#@! algorithim to the words I had inadvertently used as the title for a post:  damn it!   A month or so ago I had a post that had the words body and flesh in it.  This was about the earth and her products.  You can imagine the links I got then.  Cyber world folks call these ping backs. 

    I have had three ping backs out of hundreds that I kept, that is didn’t delete as spam.  One came in from a website for the Teaching Company from whom I buy the occasional lecture course, another from the NFL website and a recent one from Paul Douglas, the WCCO weather guy and his Climate Change website.  It’s a good thing wordpress has a straightforward, if not quick, way of eliminating ping backs.

    In case you missed it–like you live in Singapore or Bangkok for instance–today is Super Bowl Sunday.  I tried to find out much beer we consume on Super Bowl Sunday but according to the Beer Institute (I know, but there really is one.) it’s not possible to track single day consumption.  A spokesman did say, “the Super Bowl is a good event in the ‘off season’ (cold months) to drive volume”

    Each year I wonder why I watch football, yet, somehow, I’ve developed an interest and now have enough years watching to have a sense of historical perspective.  That makes it, for me, much more interesting. So, yes, I’ll be there in my seat, though sans beer, sans snacks and sans favorite, though I lean toward the Giants just because they’re the underdogs.

     Allison wondered if I plan to blog while in Hawai’i.  Yep.  Like football I’ve developed an interest in blogging, though this interest predates my football jones by quite a few years.  I have three bookshelves of journals of various types and sizes.  I imagine this habit came with mother’s milk, or should I say father’s ink and lead.  Dad wrote a weekly column for the Alexandria Times-Tribune, Smalltown USA, for many, many years. 

    There is something about being able to read the breadcrumbs of your life, sprinkled out at various ages and stages.  In some instances it’s revelatory, in others it’s “Oh, my god.  What was I thinking?”  I suppose its a similar feeling artists get from paintings and sketches made over many years.  Or photo albums and all those home movies.