A Hill to Live On

My home sits near the top of a hill. A big hill. Half a mile up, and pretty steep.

We moved here in 2001 after I stumbled upon the house on Mother’s Day. Our kids were not quite two and four, and I’d been getting them ready for brunch with my parents. When Bill noticed me losing my patience, he said, “Go for a drive. I’ve got this.”

He didn’t have to tell me twice.

I hopped in the car, cranked up the music, and started following signs for an open house.

The place needed work, sure; but that’s why we could (barely) afford it, our fixer-upper-ish house on a pretty steep street.

The yard came with a killer view.

The killer view came with some compromises.

Our kids couldn’t roller skate or skateboard or learn to ride their bikes in our front yard. We didn’t throw balls around much, either. (Attempts ended in too many trips half a mile down.)

Going for runs, walking the dog, strolling with the family to the frozen yogurt shop—the hill made these things more difficult.

17 years later, I’m still not used to it.

But did I mention the view?

Here’s the thing, though: Behind our house, the open space is crowded with trees—oak, pepper and palm—trees our home owner’s association limits us from trimming.

This means over the years, our panoramic view became obstructed.

The trees are beautiful. My home is lovely. I am not complaining. But the view that impelled us to buy this place evolved, while the challenges remain.

Whenever I leave my house on foot, I have to tackle the hill. I’ve recently started running again (after more than two years of not-running), and it came rushing back to me—memories of training for my first marathon a decade ago, what greeted me at the end of a 20-miler.

This isn’t even the bottom.Are we there yet? No.  Is this the end? Close enough.

The climb always feels interminable. Each time I think “If anyone I know drives by, I’ll take a ride.” (I’ve taken many rides.)

But I never let the hill stop me, and I won’t now, even though my view at the top has changed.

Most days when I return from a run or a walk, I head to the backyard.

I did today. And I’m still breathing too hard to distill this more clearly, but I feel there’s a metaphor here. Maybe more than one. Or maybe I’m mixing metaphors. Whatever. You get my point:

Our choices bring future consequences we can’t foresee, both positive and negative. The best we can do is figure out how to move forward. Onward. Upward.

Embrace the good? Reject the bad?

Surrender? Persist?

It’s up to us.

Metaphorical hills are everywhere.

Maybe you’re following a passion, writing a book, working toward fitness. Perhaps you’re changing jobs or raising kids, emptying your nest. Are you repairing a relationship? Taking on a political fight? Coping with the end of an era? Diving into a new one?

While you’re leaping, don’t forget there will be views and trees and climbs.

(Also, please believe I’m aware some mountains are too tall—some valleys too deep—for a silver lining. Straight-up loss is a different animal. I’m talking about hills that come with an upside.)

So whatever yours is, remember you’re not alone. Look around. You’ll find people ready to reach out, haul you up, share the view at the top. I know this because I’m one of those people.

And sometimes I’m short of breath and my calves are sore. Sometimes the fog rolls in. Sometimes I want to quit. Move to a flat cul-de-sac. Cut down all the trees hoping to see the forest better.

I don’t cut down all the trees, though.

I hope you won’t either.

Instead, let’s find beauty in our evolving views.

Let’s face the climb together.

Then maybe we can make the hill we’d die on a hill to live on.

To keep up with my writing news (and receive a free sample of my memoir, Running with Pencils) sign up for my monthly newsletter here.

To purchase Lily by Any other Name, go to Amazon  Kobo  iTunes Barnes &Noble.

To purchase Letters for Scarlet, go here.

To purchase Guest List, go here.

7 thoughts on “A Hill to Live On

  1. Diane

    Since my retirement I have come to know that hill more intimately. I remember when you first bought your house and hadn’t yet moved in, we rode our bicycles up that hill to see the new place. We met your wonderful neighbor, admired the view, and commented on how much climbing we had done to get to your new home. We continue to climb that hill on foot or in the car, running or walking; because the view and you are always worth the effort. I also note that when you and I walk with Scout, she helps pull you up that hill!

  2. Kay Moir

    Hi Julie, I started reading your posts, books and blogs after reading the beautiful tribute you write for Jackie, ( my ex sister in law). At the moment I am raising my grandchildren ( mother unable ) and this post touched me deeply for at this time in finding it difficult to see through the trees but I’m so sure that the sun is shining on the other side. Thank you for your wonderful writing x

    • Kay Moir

      Apologise for auto correct!

  3. Oh how I love your writing, Julie. (But you know that.) But what you may not know is that it is that it’s always so relevant. It’s always just what I need. Yes! We need to keep climbing that hill (some days so much harder than others) and appreciate that view, even as it changes. Love you, my friend.

  4. I totally understand buying a house for the view, even if there might be challenges to the house – for the view.

    Out of nowhere, I’m reminded of an old People’s Court episode where a guy was sued for letting his trees grow too large and impeding the view of his neighbors. I don’t remember anything else about this episode – just that it was on in the middle of the afternoon, during the summer, so my very-young-self would watch whatever TV he could find, as school was out.

    I’m left simply suggesting that there is *always* progress being made, when you chose to make progress. Even when you screw up – when you’re going up the hill and then bump down a bit – even if if feels like you’re undertaking a Sisyphean effort, you, at least, have the knowledge of the trek up the hill from the last time you tried it.

  5. Laurel Byrne

    Beautiful. I need this life metaphor today, Julie, as I begin to climb my new hill with its views and steep incline. Thank you for your words.
    And, oh! I’m a little afraid to even park on your steep street! LOL

  6. What John says. There’s also something to be said for the trees. What exactly, I think is up to the eye of the beholder.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *