Of all my parents' children it was I who lived the most years with them on The Hill. Forty years ago this summer my family moved to that place my folks still call home. I left for college, then for a short-term out-of-state job, and to live alone in an apartment, all the while spreading wings which were formed in my wild home. Between wanderings I returned to regroup in the nest that nurtured me until confident wings took flight for good.
The Hill, as it is affectionately called by those of us who've lived there, was my friend, my teacher, and sometimes even my foe. In roaming its face I discovered contemplation and solitude and the benefits to be had in letting nature and seasons envelop me. Hiking through wildflowers - buttercups, Queen Anne's lace, wild roses and flowers whose names I do not know - a trusting of cycles formed. Growing, dying, growing anew, resting, reproduction, steadfastness. Beauty. Strength. And courage.
My cousin, Denny, artfully cut two roads on the hill before my uncle, aunt, and parents began to build. Should he make a pilgrimage to the hill I think he'd be pleased to see how well those paths have done their jobs! The lower road became my first running track. I remember the first morning as a mid-teen when I'd donned sweats for the first time, walked down to the dirt road, stretched to warm-up, climbed over the gate, and began to run. It was a cool early summer morning, the grass was wet, the sky was clear blue, and the cows watched me while they chewed their cud. I sweat. I smiled. I did it!
As the years rolled on I ran in rain, in mud, in summer's heat. My ankles became strong from encountering uneven terrain, my legs and balance improved from sliding on mud while staying upright, and my calves and thighs became accustomed to springing me over the occasional cowpie or poison oak clump. A confidence grew that has served me well all these years.
This past weekend Tom and I traveled to the hill to help Mom and Dad cut firewood and trim tree limbs too close to the house. Mom and I provided refreshment, encouragement, and hot meals while the 'boys' reveled in logging.
It was the most pleasant weekend I can recall in a long time back in the arms of my parents and the hill. Dad worked hard, pleased with the progress he and Tom made. Mom was more like her old self since her health took her into a strange place last summer. She was spunky - in a good way - strong, alert, as if she has finally awakened to herself again. She even went outside on her own without her walker to water her flowers which surprised Dad. She looked at him like, "So what's the big deal? They're thirsty." I drove Mom out to the point where the guys were cutting wood and she said excitedly, "I haven't been out here in years!" Her eyes brightly surveyed the scene. While I snapped photos and served lemonade she sat on the tailgate and watched the men cut firewood with a contentment that softened the edges of what has been a very long year.
Mom is back. Once again the hill worked its magic! Dry summer grasses waved greetings, breezes gently caressed Mom's skin, delicate-looking flowers greeted her eyes, tall evergreens directed their aroma to her senses, the sun dappled through the mossy oaks energizing a woman who still has fire in her belly and the determination to care for this land she calls home and let it sustain her for as long as God wills.
And Dad? He worked hard and felt supreme satisfaction that he could still - with Tom's help - maintain the safety of his home and harvest his own firewood. He looked at the piles of wood they'd created with relief and a bit of pride.
None of us knows what the future holds but we do know this, that within life's struggles are lessons valuable and necessary and unique to each of us. Persistence is the key.
Always, always, always determine to get back up.