Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

This morning, we were standing around the campfire, those of us that had spent the night on the mountain, drinking coffee and getting warm, trying to keep the smoke out of our eyes, and my Dad told us this story.

He had taken a group of his students up on the mountain a couple of years ago, and they were three or four days in. It was morning, and he was teaching a class, and he noticed they were watching him with more attention than usual. When he looked down, he noticed a caterpillar crawling up his leg. Without thinking about it he reached down, let it crawl onto his finger and set it on the branch of a nearby tree, which is where it had been heading in order to cocoon itself.

And in that moment it occurred to him, that it would build a cocoon and inside it, it would die. And then it would be reborn, with no memory of its previous existence as a caterpillar, and live on as a butterfly. And he thought to himself, that one purpose for this metamorphosis must be for us to learn from it. Surely, in an organized universe, and we certainly seem to be living in an organized universe, there is an easier way to make caterpillars. But it happens this way, and we learn. We learn that even though we don’t know it, and won’t realize it, and won’t remember anything, that after death, comes rebirth, as something new. That this caterpillar will no longer crawl along the dirt, being flummoxed by every branch and puddle in its path, but will instead, spread its glorious wings, and fly away, with no recollection of anything other than flight.

I looked across the fire and watched each face as he told this story. Joe, Mary, Suzanne, PL, Don, Jim, Kelly, Pat, Margaret, Matt, Scout, Leon, and Tom. Everyone was smiling. Some of us had our eyes closed, some of us teared up, but everyone was smiling.

Dad finished, and we were silent, listening to the crackle of the fire, and the sound of woods in morning. The sun continued to rise, and then it was time to go.

Yesterday afternoon, Kelly, PL, Matt and I hiked up to 4032, where everyone was gathering to take the picture and have a party. Most people drove, but the four of us strolled through the autumn woods, breathing heavily of the earth, and pine, and moss.

Kelly and I talked most of the way up, just the two of us, catching up on 20 years of missed history.

After we arrived, we assembled around the stump where over 30 years ago, when we were very small, we had stood, flowers in our hands while our parents took a picture. There must have been 20 people taking the picture this time, and as each shutter clicked we embraced each new addition to the family, until finally the five of us had become all of us.

The sun set slowly and majestically over the Selkirks, and fires were lit as the darkness crept in from the woods on all sides. More people arrived, more faces familiar and changed, and in the flickering light we ate and talked and told stories that had been told so many times, and gradually the flames began to die down, and people drifted away until it was just the core group of us.

We settled on the side of the mountain, nestled in sleeping bags under the blazing moon and talked until our voices dropped to mumbles and we slept, to awaken to a sunrise reflected off the surfaces of the western mountains, and we stumbled to the fires for coffee.

This was the moment Tim had asked for. We took up his couch, the old chaise lounge we carry around for him, and he sat by the fire and beamed, his ravaged smile more beautiful than at any time in his life. He made this possible, asked for it. An incredible gift, and one that grew over the course of week to touch so many people. This, he said was the one thing he wanted to do before he died. Just this.

As Kelly and I walked down the road this morning she said, “I hope this was everything Tim wanted,” and I said, “I think it may have even been more.”


At 3:33 AM, Blogger Oozing Class said...

It's difficult to know exaclty what in life is regarded as important. Unfortunately we have to decide solely for ourselves. I just want you to know that you documenting your feelings and the overall mood at the top of School House Hill is important.

It is important to me who is not certain of very much right now.

I guess I never told Tim exactly how I feel. I am sure he knows, which is why when I was there I chose to keep the conversations less deep. Ok so I kept them juvenile, but that is my style I guess, and I think Tim appreciated it.

But reading what you are writing and being insecure myself sometimes, I wonder if I should have told him how I feel.

I wish I was there still, but at the same time I was there watching Tim's
family surround him with love, it made me miss mine terribly. Great, now I feel selfish and can add that to the tossed salad of feelings that has been the last few months.

If you get Tims attention today maybe you could tell him two things for me that about sum up how I feel. Tim was a Best Friend and a Mentor. In life those are truly priceless. Tim is Priceless in my eyes.

Anyway I will stop rambling and just tell you thank you for sharing your words and that I love you.


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