When I was in grade school, West 37th Avenue came to an abrupt end.  There was a steel guardrail to mark the limits of civilization.  Beyond the pavement, the ground was covered with weeds and tall grass.  A path, curving like a question mark, slipped past the authority of the guardrail.  That path rose with the slope of the Hill.  


There wasn’t much to entice you upwards.  There was no beckoning destination.  The trees that grew above the scrubland were uninviting, nothing more than a jagged smudge of middle scenery. 


The forest was bigger than it appeared from the street.  It was home to all the mysteries and wonders of a temperate rainforest.  Some days, we went to the creek.  It was the home of frogs, and insects that skated impossibly over the surface of the shallow water.  Some days, we went to the sandy cliffs.  We would dig into the vertical surface with the screwdrivers we brought from home.  The sandstone crumbled, and fossilized seashells fell into our hands: petrified clams and the graceful spiral of primeval snails.  We stalked each other through forest shadows with carefully collected arsenals of pinecones.  We ran where the path was widest, for the sheer animal joy of movement.


This was the playground of my childhood.  We called it, the Hill.  When we were children, we didn’t know to call it sacred.  It was our summer hunting ground, a place without grownups or boundaries.


When I was twelve, my family moved halfway across the country.  One summer, we came home to visit.  The guardrail was gone.  The pavement of West 37th Avenue extended to the top of the Hill.  Most of the trees were gone.  They had been replaced by side streets and fire hydrants.  


My family was inside a car that smelled like cigarettes and Freon.  It was the first time all four of us had been on the Hill together.  We drove in silence.  There were no houses to be seen.  There were no lawns or gardens.  It was an empty neighborhood of bare earth.  It was surreal.  Later, we were told that a developer had put sewer pipes and electrical conduit into the ground.  He paved the streets.  Then, he ran out of money.  


At twelve, my vocabulary was insufficient.  But looking back, I think that’s when I knew that the Hill had been a sacred space.  The loss of that space was worse than robbery.  I grieved it like a death.
— Mike Huber