By Tom Lowrey, Education Assistant
Charles Infante is a frequent visitor at the Trailside Center, and often participates in Tuesdays with TED or Lunchtime Learners. He is especially attracted to activities that make him think and challenge him to aim higher. Charles is a voracious reader and is particularly fond of good poems, many of which have found a permanent home in his amazing memory. Poetry has always been very important to him and he associates certain poems with various chapters in his life.
One of the first poems that Charles memorized, over eighty years ago, was a song called “September” which his third or fourth grade class would sing at the end of summer vacation. As he sung, he would look out the window and wish that vacation hadn’t ended!
The goldenrod is yellow,
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.
The gentian’s bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.
The sedges haunt their harvest,
In every meadow’s nook;
And asters by the brookside
Make asters in the brook.
By all those lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather,
And autumn’s best of cheer.
In his youth, he recited this stanza from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam to a girl he was dating:
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
Ah, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
During World War II, when his ship would come in to port, and knowing that his next deployment could always be his last, he would think of this one:
Open then the Door!
You know how little while we have to stay,
And, once departed, may return no more.
Charles has always had a deeply spiritual side. “I remember when I was probably four or five years old, I used to go out behind the house in a field that I played in, on summer nights, and I’d be out there by myself. And this one night, I was sitting in a little hole I had dug, and the sky was so clear and there were millions and millions of stars, and I thought to myself, ‘Here I am, little Charlie Infante, sitting by myself in this enormous world,’ and I got scared…And then I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to try to be a good boy, and I’m going to have friends and play and enjoy my life.’ And later on in life, when I went to church and learned about what God wanted me to do, I realized it was the same thing that I myself, as a little boy, had decided I wanted to do… be good, don’t hurt anybody…”
So the poems that Charles memorizes are those that inspire him to live a good life, and he thinks of them as prayers. “I listen to them, because I want to live my life based on what those prayers are telling me.” One of his favorites is one that he discovered in high school, when his assignment was to find and study something from India. It is called “Salutation to the Dawn.”
Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth;
The glory of action;
The splendor of achievement;
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today, well lived,
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness,
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
In the many years since, Charles has uncovered many more treasures and deposited them in his memory trove, to be pulled out often and enjoyed. Perhaps that can inspire the rest of us to go treasure hunting!