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#2312 - Friday, November 11, 2005 -
Editor: Jerry Katz
Highlights reader Millie Miller sends today's contribution, which is about her brother Tim who
passed away a month ago.
"....he enjoyed the little things, the things that count, like walking in the woods and parks hand
in hand with his wife and daughter, and maybe catching an occasional glimpse of turtle."
A walk in the woods, with recollections of a brother named Tim (who died October 10, 2005)
by Millie Miller
It was a marvelously sunny but quite windy morning, just this past November 1st, and I decided that
a walk in the woods alone would be ideal. Bundled up in a heavy sweater, jeans and a pair of old
boots, I traveled the long pathway that leads from one end of the nearby woodland behind my house
to the other, at times hustled along by wind gusts at my back which seemed to delight in pushing me
along the path with helpful little nudges. My hair was a mess and my makeup (which is just a mask I
hide behind) was non existent; I didn't care. Hell, I'm old.
It was pleasantly cool but not cold, and the smell of wet leaves mixed with smoke from a woodfire
burning nearby lent the air an aroma totally in keeping with how we think of a day in the woods in
mid autumn in Cincinnati Ohio. In this part of the world, as in many parts, it is harvest time and
also it was the day after Halloween, a time when children dress up in funny costumes or, if they
were poor, as we were (though we didn't know it), dressed like hoboes or gypsies in old clothes
once belonging to grandpa and grandma, and went door to door trick or treating for candy. It was
innocent, and I remembered what it was like when I was a child and did the same with my older
sisters and my much loved little brother Timmy, who was my pride and joy, as they say, and who, by
the way, just recently died, (taking a large chunk of our hearts with him, I might add..and oddly
enough, his cat).
I remember when he was little, how I'd come home from school and take him out for strolls around
the neighborhood almost every afternoon. He loved to ride in his "Taylor Tot" which was his
stroller, and we'd usually set off for the nearby park called Fleischmann's Gardens which was our
favorite place to go most days. I was a loner and a woods rambler then as I am now but he was
always welcome company even as a baby. He used to like to go sit by the pond and look at the
various wildlife around us, rabbits and squirrels and birds with an occasional raccoon who'd
forgotten to go home with the dawn. I'd hold him in my arms and sit on the ledge by the pond as he
tried to spot "Too doos".... which was his way of saying "Turtles". Funny how something like that
can make even a little girl's heart catch into a knot and a lump rise in her throat. Yep, he was my
pride and joy all right, old Tim.
Now, here and there in present time, with the sound of my boots crunching thru the brush, the smell
of dead leaves rises to my nostrils and sets up a feeling which is like some sort of nostalgic
yearning, but for what I don't really know. As a far off train whistle blew, a male cardinal
swooped suddenly over me, landing for a time on a low sunlit branch, quite unexpected and startling
in its brilliance and beauty. A little later, a family of squirrels began having a terrific free
for all, with much conversation full of tail waggings and loud chirpings in the nearby trees and,
sitting down on a large rock, I watched for about an hour as they chased each other, leaping from
limb to limb and tree to tree with wild abandon and absolute fearlessness, jumping ahead without
seeming to even look, trusting totally that a branch would appear beneath their feet wherever they
landed, and one always did. I could not tell whether it was a friendly territorial dispute or just
joyful and exuberant play but one could clearly see how unplanned and completely spontaneous this
display was. I found myself wishing that my "little" brother (56 years old), was here to see it
Animals make no plans for the future; they don't preach of gods or heavens and hells to each other;
they don't worry about how their fur is thinning on top and they do not mourn their dead. They have
no ambitions, plan nothing except perhaps the burial of a nut or two for later, then, as is the
case with squirrels, promptly forgetting where they'd planted them, which is good because usually
some other animal or bird will end up harvesting their crop for them on some future day to come
anyway. And not captured in memory, they will never be missed.
Today, the leaves were falling in large abundance and as each gust of wind blew by, it seemed that
thousands of them, maybe millions, in gold, red and brown, came swirling to the ground all at once
in great gobs. By late afternoon, one knew that there would be few leaves left in any of the trees
and autumn would, for all in tents and porpoises, (as someone once said), be over and done with.
The sky was a brilliant blue with only an occasional white puffy cloud passing overhead, and the
sound of crows nearby lent an air of haunting mystery to the day.
I have here parts of a J. Krishnamurti quote that I've read recently which makes a lot of sense to
me. He started with a question, asking:
"Is it not possible to live in this world without ambition" he asked. "just being what you are? If
you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a
transformation. I think one can live in this world anonymously, completely unknown, without being
famous, ambitious, cruel. One can live very happily when no importance is given to the self; and
this also is part of right education."
And, "The whole world is worshipping success. You hear stories of how the poor boy studied at night
and eventually became a judge, or how he began by selling newspapers and ended up a
multi-millionaire. You are fed on the glorification of success. With achievement of great success
there is also great sorrow; but most of us are caught up in the desire to achieve, and success is
much more important to us than the understanding and dissolution of sorrow."
My brother Tim didn't spend his life worrying about becoming a great success or a big moneymaker,
he worked, made a living and helped make a home for himself, his wife, Diane, and his much loved
daughter, Lisa, but he was no career man. He, like myself, would probably be called a failure by
some, for he certainly didn't have any money at the end, but he was happy, because he'd enjoyed the
little things, the things that count, like walking in the woods and parks hand in hand with his
wife and daughter, and maybe catching an occasional glimpse of turtle.
I was pondering this sort of thing that day when suddenly a tiny chipmunk scurried across my path
and, as I was sitting quite still upon a boulder, he did'nt notice me at all, but stopped and
foraged thru the leaves nearby for an occasional acorn or mushroom, or whatever might be found
within that was munchable. I remembered as a child trying to chase down such a one as this, with my
brother sitting by in his stroller, laughing and yelling excitedly, in his baby voice, and cheering
me on with great glee. And I remember my great one track minded longing to capture it, take it home
and keep it for a pet. Luckily for the chipmunk, (and probably for me), I never even came close. He
ran to a nearby woodpile and it became a hopeless case. I remember running up the stairs when I got
home though, and yelling breathlessly, "Mom, mom, I caught a chipmunk" followed by a rather more
subdued, almost an afterthought, "almost!" Well, she and my sister rolled with laughter and
obviously thought the whole thing very funny, as I do now, but at the time, my disappointment was
great. We humans seem hellbent on capturing the things and people we love, holding them tightly in
our arms, keeping images of them in books, and never wanting to let go. Now that I am grown,
sometimes I still try to capture and hold on to things that are dear to me.....but I mostly only do
it with a camera. But why do we try so hard to hold on to things and people, even just in memory? A
memory is not the real.....it is not alive.....and held greedily onto soon is seen to be the dead
thing that it really is. I could look at pictures of my brother now but what's the use; , it's not
him, is it? He was a once in a lifetime thing; no replica of him ever existed before nor will one
ever exist again, similarly to what Wayne Liquormann recently said of his cherished friend who
recently died (only he said it much more poetically). I might as well say my goodbyes here and now,
in these woods....and hope that if there is anything left of my brother, it walks peacefully beside
still waters and has many opportunities to pet the turtles and run with the chipmunks.
The wind has begun to die down now, and the heat of the day begins to rise, so I shake off my
sweater, knot it around my neck, then continue wandering thru this woodland, blissfully without a
plan for the day except to wander alone in the welcoming aura of nature at play on a brilliant
November day, with memories of a dear little brother named Tim beside me.
I know he is gone; I cannot keep him alive even just in my head, nor would I try to hold on if he
were still here....he'd suffered greatly, lost a leg and a half to diabetes, both kidneys, and was
rapidly losing his eyesight. He'd also just had a stroke. Another walk in the woods had become an
impossibility years ago. I just seem to want to hang on for a little while more to the memory of
one who added such a joy to a little girl's life. Then, I'll let him really go.....really, I
will.....only not just yet.
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