Back to blog
Share your work with family and friends!

Once or twice a week, I hike the hills near my condo. I wend through suburban streets to Kuss Road and climb half a mile up to the Eugene O’Neill Historic Site. O’Neill’s house isn’t open at the moment, but I can enter the garden. A lovely small garden, with grass, low hedges, a few plant beds.

I leave the garden and walk the path to the barn (now a small theater). Along the edge of the gravel path, etched in concrete, are the titles of the plays O’Neill wrote while in Danville: A Moon for the Misbegotten, Hughie, The Iceman Cometh, Long Day’s Journey into Night, More Stately Mansions. He was prolific. His third wife, Carlotta, kept him up in the hills, so no Eliot’s Bar for him, although his son, Eugene Jr., frequented the bar and suffered from the same alcoholic tendencies as his father.

I walk beyond the path and go through the gates to the Madrone Trail, wide enough to be a road, wide enough for a vehicle, which must come by periodically to scrape up cow pats that dot the road. Droppings that large can’t disappear by themselves.

On the trail, I head north round a canyon. I’ve been on that trail so many times, I know every curve of the road. About half way, through a gap in the trees, I can see the hills south of Mount Diablo. Later, a fallen branch looks like a hand emerging from the road to stretch down the hill, its fingers lightly touching the ground.

After that, I crest a small mound and the rest of the trail descends to Camille Lane. After that it’s a straight shot home, along the lane, down Camille Road, and back to my condo along the Iron Horse trail or the side of Danville Boulevard.

I’ve seen a lot on that trail. Tom turkeys in a mating “dance” (definitely a war-like one), deer and does and young fawns, even the birth of a calf. Walking along the trail one day, I heard “moo” up ahead. I walked on, heard another “moo.” After the third, I realized that these were the “moo”s of labor. I rounded a bend to find the cow standing on the edge of the road where a narrow verge dropped steeply to the canyon below.

I’ve been around cows, so I wasn’t afraid to go up to her and try to convince her to move. I stroked her nose, showed her I was a friend, and urged her to come away from the edge. I envisioned the calf falling down the slope, the mother not reaching her to lick off the fell, the calf suffering broken bones unable to stand and suckle. The horrors went on, but the mother wouldn’t budge.

I watched the calf emerging, the cow licking off the fell, the calf rising, suckling, all on the precipice. I thought of O’Neill, his property behind me, this place where he explored the edge of his alcoholic family in the written word, one he wrestled with each time he wrote a play.

I recall the incident often. Edges. We all have them. A place where we could tip over into a darkness that we can’t or don’t want to face. Edges that are literal, figurative, obvious, hidden, always there. On the news recently, we’ve watched two people cling to a departing plane only to fall to the ground and die. We’ve watched an over loaded plane take off with people in desperation and terror. We understand and feel for them because we know what desperation and terror feel like, even if our own experiences are not as dramatic. Life itself is an edge and we are always on it.

Leave your comment...