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Tom and Linda took a hiatus from their nonprofi

efforts in Africa and moved back to Santa Barbara.

He worked as a consultant on various humanitar-

ian projects while together they continued building


Oakleigh, meanwhile, evolved as a community

hub: “a place for people to come and reenergize,” as

Tom puts it. In the wake of the Tea Fire, members

of the Mountain Drive community found solace

in its oak-shaded meadows, a lush counterpoise to

the charred foothills. Traditional Mountain Drive

events, craft fairs and the like, were relocated to

Oakleigh and grew increasingly common as the

healing process continued.

Tom and I met here on several occasions. A day

prior to my first visit, eight years after the Tea Fire,

he had handed a renter the keys to a freshly rebuilt

house on Banana Road. Later that week, he would

travel to Niger with permaculture designer Warren

Brush to teach communities about “regenerative

and resilient agriculture.”

To be sure, Tom Cole’s story is not about plants

or humanitarianism or community. It is, as he

says, “all interlinked.”

I ask if anything stands out. “My greatest pro-

fessional achievement was naming

Aloe lukeana


he replies without hesitation. Th n he pauses,

looking down at striped socks before stammering

through an afterthought: “Just…you know, the fact

that…in perpetuity, right?”

And, yes, I do know what he’s trying to say.

But there are no words to express it. So we watch

silently as raindrops settle on the highlighted tips

of a nearby

Aloe lukeana

. It is a beautiful specimen,

regardless of the deeper implications of its name.

As we wind down, Tom returns to the subject of

Colin Turnbull. He’s done this several times dur-

ing our conversations, reiterating that the anthro-

pologist’s book created longstanding reverbera-

tions in the Ik community.


Th Mountain People

was published in

1972; Hillary Lokwang hadn’t even been born.

Was there something in particular about the book

that burned into the tribe’s collective psyche?

In many ways, Tom replies, it boils down to a

single word:


. Turnbull had called the Ik a

“loveless people,” and nearly a half-century later,

they still felt the sting.

He leaves me with an image from a recent trip

to Mount Morungole: Hillary and his Ik wife snug-

gling quietly in the backseat while he drove the last

35 kilometers of dirt road north from Kalapata. A

man grown from a child with barely a crumb of

food, Hillary doesn’t ask much of his worldly friend.

But he broke the silence with a simple request.

“Tom,” he said, “if you could do anything, just

tell the world that we are full of love.”



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C al BRE# 01061042 Maurie McGuire 805.403.8816 Scott Westlotorn 805.403.4313