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By Matt Treacy
Climbing a foggy hill in Richmond, Virginia, I find myself beside the sky, looking down over a winding river city and its bustling people. Here is a land of tremendous beauty and determined people. It’s a part of Richmond that reminds you to actually stop and see everything around you. Here, a quiet place called Church Hill is the highest point at the top of our world.
Turning a corner, I can almost feel a turn-of-the-century house crumble beside me, though it stands strong and solemn against the winter. To the untrained eye, the far eastern part of Richmond City may be an undesirable place. The old, historical buildings might appear decrepit if you’re accustomed to a modern aesthetic. Lacking the business of downtown, the Hill can seem slow, docile, even boring. Beyond that, it’s just plum hard to get to! The truth, however, is quite the opposite. Church Hill is a place of development and opportunity. For the budding family, the area offers a chance to relocate to an increasingly secure part of Richmond; for the individual, a chance to embrace independence, save money, or become a homeowner. There is a quiet here that reminds me of the small family farm where I grew up. Walking around the neighborhoods, I can almost smell the crabapples before a rainstorm. Alone on the sidewalk, I’m sure I can hear the train and the peeper frogs. Strolling through Chimborazo Park, I travel back to many afternoons spent with my father on the family property…
…ever since I was strong enough to carry a shovel, my father and I have been mending the potholes that plague our driveway in Hanover County. Heavy rain and vehicular traffic are the main culprits, washing away the gravel into the adjacent hay field. And so, a few times every year, we soldier out with shovels and coffee to talk sports and fill potholes. Once I asked him, “Why do we have to do this all the time?” “Because this is our property,” he answered. “It’s beautiful, so let’s you and me keep it that way.” As a child who really just wanted to hit rocks with a stick, I doubt that I fully appreciated his words at the time. But years later, when I heard this lesson mirrored by a politician, I sat up and took notice. During his administration, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell used to quote an old Boy Scout saying, “Leave the campsite better than you found it.” It was his way of asking Virginians to try a little harder, to give just a little more of their time and energy. The state departments embraced it, using the quote in speeches and always equating those words with the image of a “good Virginian.” For me though, I could only ever hear the voice of my father, guiding me in the ways of the world, and trying to teach me the value of shoveling gravel and dirt…
Climbing higher still, I can sense that old magic of Richmond’s past in the churches and in the air, a vision for our future reflected in the sprawling view of the city below me. Suddenly, I’m standing at the highest point of Chimborazo Park when a cold wind blows and I realize I am not alone. Powhatan, dressed in all his chieftain’s beads and ornaments, is standing with me. He smiles the smile of wise men and, for a time, we silently survey his territory. Then he turns to me and speaks with the voice of my father. “This is our land,” says he. “And it is beautiful.”
#Reflection #RVA #ChurchHill #ChimborazoPark #Richmond #History #City #Virginia