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New Year's Blessing 

I like the walk I take up the hill, behind my home, very much and for many reasons.  It’s about an hour long, a nice amount of time, and there’s a steep hill at the beginning that gets your heart going.  One of the few regrets I have about my dog’s last days, when she was dying but I didn’t know it, is that I would urge her up that hill, even when she was so very tired, from the internal bleeding that was hidden from me by her faithfulness. Occasionally we would go back down the hill, and abort our mission.  But mostly Lucy would soldier on, loyal dog that she was, and we’d stop to catch our breaths in the shady spots.  It is on this walk that I miss her most. Sometimes little sobs still escape when I walk it, which surprises and embarrasses me.
The trees and brush on the hill make it smell good, of bay and sage, and deer are there and quail and hawks. The views of the valley are there and of the river going to the bay.  I’m not the only one who loves this walk. There’s a bench someone put up, with a beautiful brass plate that says “So... Sit,” that’s all, that’s its only message.  More often than not, Lucy and I would obey this imperative and I would sit on the bench, and she would lean beside me, as I looked out over the valley, the rows of vines, little cars traveling somewhere they think is important, and the clouds wisping around the mountains.

The walk is rarely solitary. My neighbors, and I think of them that way even though they live in expensive houses and I do not, love this walk too. But I have never seen anyone sit on the bench till my walk on New Year’s Eve. A young family was there as I turned the curve, a young father and mother with a baby on her lap. As I approached the baby reached out his hand to me, as babies do. I reached out my hand in a wave and he smiled. His mother said, “Happy New Year” and I took that as a sign that this year will be a good one.


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