Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Walk in the Woods

It was New Years day and my brother Herb had a rare day off. He has been operating his own restaurant for nearly 3 years now and the Parkhouse seems at times to occupy almost every minute of every day of his life. Despite the challenge of the work it does seem to be a perfect fit for him, at least in my eyes.

It seemed special to me therefore that on that singular day off he suggested we go for a walk, not indicating where we were going. He asked if I had brought boots with me. When I showed him my shoes he gave me a mischievous smile and suggested, "they might not be good enough for where we are going."

Of course we brought his dog Moose who settled comfortably on his lap during the drive out of town. I wasn't sure where we were going but quite frankly I didn't care. We hadn't spent much quiet time together during my visit and it seemed like a great opportunity to be out in nature for a while, something I rarely get to do in Queens where I live.

He parked the car near a snow bank, created by a plow on a quiet country road. It was a place where the driver decided he needed to go no further, because no one lived beyond that point. I wasn't sure how the young dog Moose would handle the snow and from the non verbal sounds of Herb after we had not gone too far I began to have a growing concern for him as well.

He told me we were going to a cabin on a small river about a mile down the unploughed road. The hike wasn't that difficult for me, who runs most days, but it became clear pretty quick that Moose was no sled pulling Husky and would from time to time need to be carried. This of course we took turns with but it is surprising how quickly a little dog in your arms starts to feel bigger and bigger by each snowy step.

What catches your attention so quickly on a walk like this is how the absolute stillness of the bare fields and stands of snow dusted evergreens can remind you of of the absolute power of nature. We did not talk much but I remember Herb saying, "Boy it is really still out here." Other than fallow wheat fields and a few lonely fence posts there was little sign of civilization whatsoever.

For a guy from New York city it was heaven. Truth be told you could not call the day beautiful. There was a heavy gray dullness in the sky and the air though calm was bitter cold. But for me the walk brought back long and deeply treasured memories. Of going fishing with Herb during our young summers back on the farm. Of crossing the fresh cut hay fields and entering the quiet canopy of summer trees. Of the coolness there and our steps rushing forward with Laddy, the frisky farm dog and continually diving deeper and deeper into the fragrant forest. Of heading so far into the wild and ancient growth until, just as we began to loose our nerve, we heard the first sweet murmur of the trout stream. With that, our spirits and confidence swelled, until as we rushed forward, we could at last see the crystalline inviting babbling waters.

Truth be told we did not cover too much ground on this little cold tramp. Maybe a mile at best and yet it seemed much longer in some ways. Herb was not used to exercise such as this and Moose had not the energy or spirit of a farm dog. But it was fun, it was relaxing, and the presence of my brother at my side stirred up tender thoughts inside my heart. I found myself peering into the deep and very personal side of our relationship. It made me ponder in part the mystery of the unshakable and timeless bonds of family life itself. It was to me just so unmistakable how strong our connection was. I clearly saw how deep my feelings and love for my only brother really went. And it made me wonder as well about the unfathomable reality that breathes and binds in timeless fascination perhaps all families. That no matter how little we share of our lives these days there is still nonetheless a deep inner connection that yet is still so sweet and dear.

We eventually got to the camp perched on the lip of a precipice overlooking the swirling icy river. My brother and Moose stayed up above in a little woodshed and I was compelled to climb down steep iron stares and see the water, like some gigantic slushy, slurping swiftly down towards Lake Huron.

The walk back to the car was now just a little easier. Our previous footsteps in the snow made the footing more certain . Moose also perhaps sensed that a warm car was not too far off and was inspired to walk more on his own. The walk back seemed to take not tim e at all.

Later I will question Herb about what he felt about our walk. He tells me what impressed him most he said was, "the stillness." He will not mention that he was tired or reveal any personal thoughts about the walk might have meant to him. But in his eyes I saw it clearly just the same. We are Brothers bound for life, not just on short snowy paths, but also all the way, on the great journey of our Souls existence.

Physical brothers

Appear and disappear,

But spiritual brothers

Follow the path

Of eternal friends.

Excerpt from Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 240 by Sri Chinmoy.

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