"Our" hill

I've spent the first half of this week in a lot of reflection over a dear friend who passed away unexpectedly in the past week or so. I've had a chance to reflect on the amazing blessing of having others touch our lives. I am certain that, as individuals, we are often unaware of who we have influenced, inspired, and touched just in the course of living our lives. I think it is particularly difficult for quiet unassuming individuals to realize how much they may impact others just by being who they are.

When we first moved in to our house, we were particularly enamored with the semi-rural location. Even though the house is situated on a regular suburban street, the street actually ends in a cul-de-sac up against a hill. At the base of the hill is the county canal that carries water from one part of the county to another. And above the canal is an open rolling hillside that is owned by the oil refinery as buffer land around their storage tanks. Just over the hill are the waters of the straits that run out to the San Francisco Bay. Over time that hill has become "our" hill. With the security and protection it provides, it has become something we feel a fondness for and rarely take for granted.

The first spring we lived here, we were pleasantly surprised when we heard the lowing of cows up on "our" hill. We went out into the front garden and looked up the street to see the livestock grazing up there. Some were bellowing quite loudly. I was particularly thrilled to be so close to a rural setting--something I had longed for since I had spent time in a rural setting as a child.

Every spring, the cattle have lowed and sometimes bellowed. We've always welcomed the sound with an exchange of words like, "The cows are talking again."

It wasn't until just a couple of years ago that we were to discover that the cattle we were hearing belonged to a friend of ours. He told us that he leased the land from the refinery and used the pasture for a holding place for half-grown steer that had been weaned. The lowing and bawling would happen each time a new group of "teens" were moved into the pasture and would last for the first couple of days. Once we were aware that we knew the owner of the cattle, our fondness grew deeper for both "our" hill and the cattle grazing on it.

But for the past year, "our" hill has been quiet. The cattle have been absent. Our friend told us the refinery imposed added security restrictions on access to the land so he had to pasture his cattle elsewhere. "Our" hill has remained empty, and we've missed the lowing of new residents.

This friend is the friend that passed away in the past week or so.

Now that our dear friend has passed on to the other side "our" hill is a reminder of a meaningful friendship built on simple things like kindness, trust, a smile, and a handshake. The silence on the hill is even more poignant now. Every time I look up the street at "our" hill I will think fondly of a dear friend that led by quiet example, that loved without strings attached, and that epitomized the ideal of the western gentleman. And he would have humbly and unassumingly denied being all those things.

Just as we will never take for granted the security and protection "our" hill provides, we will never take for granted the blessing of having this man's life touch our own. Thank you, Bob.

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  1. All I can say is "thank you", Bob, for helping us to feel that we are part of the community in one of the most important ways imaginable: belonging to the land.

  2. Wonderful tribute to a fine man.

  3. I'm sorry to hear about your loss of a good friend. And the loss of what once was on your hill.

    Sending you hugs.......

  4. What a beautiful tribute post. You made me cry a little.

  5. Such a wonderful tribute Cindy. I'm very sorry that your hill is silent now, it must be deafening now that your friend has passed away.

    To Brent: belonging to the land is the most important way to belong. Glad you both do!

  6. What a shame that the land can no longer be used for grazing. 'm sorry about the loss of your friend.

  7. I have tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat after reading your beautiful tribute to your friend.
    With sympathy for your loss,

  8. what a wonderful memory..thank you for sharing this.

  9. What a lovely tribute to your friend and yes it is good to stop and take stock and enjoy what we often take for granted.

  10. I'm sorry for the loss of your friend, Cindy; what a lovely remembrance of a man who was obviously very special.

  11. What bittersweet memories of such a lovely spot. Words feel so inadequate. I am so, so sorry.

    That is truly a beautiful hill and the lombardi poplars lend a European flair that I find particularly attractive.

    Such a lot of loss this week. My heart goes out to you & Brent.



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