December 30, 2007

Cut short

On the same hill overlooking a verdant valley where I entertained unplugging thoughts, a bench made of stones put in place marks the crest, with two other large stones on each side. I climb the hill from behind: it is short but steep and the surface is soft. As I struggle up, and I do it twice, I'm reminded of the (much higher, much softer) dune I climbed in Sossusvlei, Namibia.

Once step up, two down, it seemed on that interminable mound of fine sand, nearly vertical as I approached the top. When I finally got there, I was so worn by the effort -- even though I was in about the best physical shape of my life -- that I fell to my knees and threw up. Then I looked up and there was my travelling buddy at the time, Jan of Nuremberg. He had chugged up the dune twice as fast as me, and had spent easily the last half hour sitting on top and admiring the scene ... and smoking.

My travelling buddy this time is Unni of Austin, and he has got to the top of this one ahead of me, but not fueled by smoking. He wandered over here while I was occupied with a call elsewhere. When I get there, he points me, first to the cellphone tower I mentioned earlier, second to the two large stones.

Each has a rectangular plaque embedded in it, and here are what the two plaques say.

In Memory of
Patrick Michael McAfee
C de P 1985
Died piloting his plane to his class reunion
June 8 1990


In Loving Memory of
Cameron Sinclair Duke
May 25 1965 - February 21 1990
Casa de Piedra 1983
From his family and friends

We stay there for a while, thinking of young lives cut short.


Anonymous said...

hi, I knew both Pat and Cameron. Pat was a year behind me in high school; Cameron, a year ahead. I liked both of them and still miss them. Although they were not particularly close to eachother, they shared offbeat humor and could be called iconoclasts or just individualistic. Both died in small aircraft crashes, within about 6 months of eachother, both close to the high school.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Thanks for your comment! I remember standing on that hillside above Ojai feeling so overwhelmingly and inexplicably sad over these two young men I never knew.

Why the "Inshallah" on Cameron's inscription? Was he Muslim?

My thoughts to the families, if you know them.