Digging Holes

My doctor told me I needed to get more exercise and she recommended I do some activity I enjoy so that I’d be more likely to stay with it. If you don’t like running, for example, you shouldn’t run as a form of exercise or you’ll soon quit. If you find some activity you like, you’ll be more inclined to stay committed to it.

That’s where the trouble started.

I’ve always liked digging holes. It gives me a sense of completion to dig a hole. And it’s easy to fill it up. Put the sod back on top and all you’ve really done is aerate the soil, which is healthy for the lawn. That’s why golf courses aerate their greens and often their fairways every year.

Digging a good hole is like painting a wall or building a bookcase. You can see the progress you’re making as you work, each spadeful piling onto the previous ones as the mound of dirt grows. A hole three feet in diameter and three feet deep is basically a cubic yard.

You have to use a pickaxe to get at the deep, compacted soil. Pickaxe, then shovel, then pickaxe and shovel: you work different muscle groups as you dig. Shoulders, arms, legs, back and stomach – you’re using pretty much all your big muscles while at the same time creating sheer nothingness.

There’s a kind of joy in creating a hole, and another kind of joy in filling it in. Taking away and then giving back, leaving behind nothing more than the outline in the sod and some stray particles of dirt that will soon settle back into the ground.

Sometimes you find buried treasure too. Oh, not money usually, but animal skeletons or fossils or rocks submerged by the passage of a glacier thousands of years ago. All these things interest me, so I was sorry when I had to give up the digging.

The reason I had to quit was because my neighbor called the police, who came out and issued me a citation, threatening to have me arrested if I continued what I was doing. I tried to explain that it was no big deal, that I was actually making the ground healthier, but they insisted I cease and desist.

In retrospect, I suppose I should have dug the holes in my own yard.

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