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
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
. 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
. 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.”
LandC al BRE# 01061042 Maurie McGuire 805.403.8816 Scott Westlotorn 805.403.4313
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