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Since they were very young Bernard, Jess and Larkin hiked up Hillcrest Trail every January. It started as a fun way to make New Year resolutions from atop Colburn Hill. However, the boys that began the ritual became men whose lives were equally complicated, making the January event on Hillcrest Trail into a therapeutic ceremony these days that purified the past and energized the future.
“Watch it, Jess, this is where part of the trail has collapsed,” warned Bernard. “Yup, I got this…” reassured Jess. Just two years ago Jess was on the fast track to becoming a successful center left outfielder in the minor leagues before injuring three of the four major ligaments in his knee. Before the accident, he hadn’t realized that his entire identity was not as Jess Hargrove, but as a ball player. In order to move forward he was going to have to figure out who Jess Hargrove was. He shot a look at Bernard and smiled. It was just like Bernard, thought Jess, to watch out for them; Bernard took on the responsibilities, and the worries, of the world. At times overwhelmed, Bernard used drugs to deaden his acute feelings. Rehab, family, friends, and Colburn Hill helped Bernard learn to manage life differently.
“Is this trail getting steeper, or is it just me?” Larkin panted then continued, “You guys notice that every year Hillcrest Trail seems different?” Larkin suffered from debilitating over-achievement. He did everything that was expected of him by others and he did it exceedingly well, but it resulted in him being tired, and tiresome, these days.
“That’s because each year we’re different…” clarified Jess.
As usual, the three stumbled and laughed and shared stories the entire three-hour hike to the hilltop but no matter what time dealt nor what they emotionally carried, their responses to the view at the summit remained consistent year after unusual year.
The position of the afternoon winter sun cast long shadows upon the valley floor. Light atmospheric haze filled the basin and the bite of cool air on their noses and the lack of city noise triggered the solemnity they hiked Hillcrest Trail to pursue. For ten minutes they stood with only the sound of wind and the screech of a soaring hawk to remind them of moving time.
To begin their annual ceremony, Bernard removed a thermos from his backpack prompting Jess and Larkin to follow. Each poured their hot coffee into a cup and held it up. Bernard looked down upon the valley and said with a smile, “I’ve made some mistakes but that’s because I am unique and there is no how-to manual to being me.” He raised his cup above his head and announced, “I acknowledge my vulnerability, am grateful for my sensitivity and look forward to my sensibility.” He turned to Jess who nodded with approval. Jess stepped forward and looked out upon the hazy horizon. “Man, life has turned into a wild ride, hasn’t it? I had definite plans before my injury and now I can’t see what’s ahead but I have to believe that I’ll be okay…” He turned to Bernard and Larkin and raised his cup. “I acknowledge my fear, am grateful for my ability to still walk and look forward to my new career.” Jess smiled at Larkin who briskly stepped back towards the trail.
Larkin pivoted on his heel and looked down at the path with disapproval. “I don’t like my life right now. I hate….well, everything about it.” He took a deep breath and turned back to his friends, ”Thank you for letting me hate it. You guys are the only ones that allow me to consider changing it.” He held his cup high and declared, “I acknowledge my dissatisfaction, am grateful for my friends and look forward to change!” The steam from their drinks wafted upwards as if delivering their messages into the ether that would address them. The three drank then sat down on various boulders in late-afternoon silence.
Whatever your viewpoint and wherever you stand, rest assured every January the skies atop Colburn Hill marvel at the resilience and courage of humankind
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