Friday, July 10, 2015


You can't help someone get up a hill without getting closer to the top yourself. ~H. Norman Schwartzkopf

I don't know if you'll take the leap with me here, but if "the cardboard box" and "the stick" have been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, then certainly "the hill" belongs there as well. Of course, hills are not portable, which may be part of the definition of a toy. And if you admit the hill into the pantheon, "the tree" would undoubtedly be next, followed by "the wind" and "the tides."

When we moved to the center of the universe, we got a hill, a couple hills, in fact. The first thing many of the kids do each morning is run down the long hill from the gate to our entry door, some cautiously, up on tippy toes, while others pound down pell mell to the bottom. I've been thinking we need a stack of hay bales or something down there. 

The overall hilliness of our outdoor classroom was what inspired the two-level sand pit, down which our water flows, from the cast iron pump through gutters and channels dug into the sand, making waterfalls and eddies and floods. Some of the kids spend most of their day playing with this hill. 

If you went to a toy manufacturer to pitch this concept, I'm guessing you'd be laughed out of the office. "What's it do? There's an up and a down. That's it?"

But, you know, you never run out of the things to do with a hill. A gradual slope makes for a terrific place to work on summersaults. While a steeper slope is built for thrills.

It's easier to go down a hill than up it, but the view is much better at the top. ~Henry Ward Beecher

And just think what would happen if the toy maker brought in his attorney.

That would result in one doozy of a warning label, if he'd even let them go into production at all.

After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. ~Nelson Mandela

But you can hardly be considered educated without the wisdom of the hills; without the battle with gravity; without the dance with gravity.

Even the simple act of standing on a hill skews you, makes you use your body differently, forces you to take a different point of view.

Life comes before literature, as the material always comes before the work. The hills are full of marble before the world blooms with statues. ~Phillips Brooks

No, I take it all back, hills are so much greater than mere toys, abstractions of something real. Hills are the material of life.

They are opportunity and challenge and beauty and toil. They prove truth to the optimist and pessimist alike: a perfect symmetry of ups and downs. Hills are the balance of trudging and flying; running like the wind and falling like a stone. And let me tell you one other thing I know about hills: no one enjoys walking on them sideways. That's not the way humans are made.

Stop and get me on the ride up. Stop and get me on the ride up. Stop and get me on the ride up. I'm only going to the top of the hill. ~Tom Waits

All of life is about hills. If we're not in the process of going up or down, we're contemplating the challenge or taking in the view, but inevitably a hill is to be undertaken, at some point, one way or another, even if all we're doing is rolling things down it.

Hills are perhaps the first metaphor we're capable of understanding. In fact, it's one we're each lead to by our experiences with ups and downs.

At some point, you can't lift this boulder with just your own strength. And if you find that you need to move bigger and bigger boulders up hills, you will need more and more help. ~Vinton Cerf

Like stones rolling down hills, fair ideas reach their objectives despite all obstacles and barriers. It may be possible to speed or hinder them, but impossible to stop them.  ~Jose Marti

No one throughout time has misunderstood hills.

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Juliet Robertson said...


I so agree - the only way is up with hills. There's no down side whatsoever. An essential feature of any outdoor space.

Jason Sperling said...

Hey Tom,

I see that you have tires the children can play with. I recently had new tires put on my car and rather than pay the $3 fee to have the tire shop recycle the tires, I asked them to leave them in the back so I could use them with the kids. I'm wondering if you have any recommendations on how to clean them appropriately? Likewise for used bicycle tires..

Your blog is wonderful btw.

Thank you!

Teacher Tom said...

Hey Jason, We didn't do anything to our tires other than hose them off.

Jason Sperling said...

Ok- thanks!