Enough talk. Hole Earth. Its time for me to dig it. This is what happens next for the one who crawled. It is a sort of conceptual sequel, or sibling, to the crawl. I may crawl again in public, or in private, but first holes must be dug. I want to go further back, before crawling, back towards birth and before birth. I suppose I’m on my way back to conception but I don’t need to figure that out right now. I don’t mean to go backwards. But it feels like progress.
I have to confess that the other day I was watching myself crawl. I can go to the Crawling Home website and watch, and sometimes I do. Not often. Many months go by and then I want to see it again. The other day I watched the final crawl and my wife almost caught me. I clicked it off when she walked into the room and I pretended to be deep into some writing.
An October afternoon upstate at our place we call, Hihowahyah. Before I really get into this project I need to see how hard it is to dig a hole that will hold me. I choose a location, the field behind the house. I put on the crawl suit, which is now the hole suit, or the dig suit. The suit grounds me. We have a history now, me and this suit. It gives the action a formality and reminds me that each dig is a special occasion.
I check the time because I need to know, roughly, how long the hole takes. I’ve got a new shovel and a twenty pound five foot long spike to pick at the earth. Camera is charged. Step ladder is in position. This is the origin hole. A demo perhaps, but definitely the beginning.
My wife is away, overseas on a much deserved pleasure trip. My son is ten now, here with me, watching, helping, chiming in. This boy who still believes in Santa and the tooth fairy. The boy who just asked me why his blood tastes like soy sauce.
His favorite songs are still ones that I wrote. This won’t last for much longer.
The digging begins and as expected I can feel that the earth here is not so interested in being disturbed. In some parts of the world I’m told the earth practically jumps into your shovel, but not here in the hardscrabble Catskills. People have dug on this land before, long ago, and decided that maybe raising animals on the surface would be better than struggling to get vegetables to grow up from below. This isn’t soil as much as clay held together with stones.
I am reminded that I like to dig. I’ve had jobs that required digging, but not for a long time. I used to work landscaping around New York City, planting trees on the sidewalks or on roof gardens and in back yards. I could always shovel for a long time. I liked the smell of what is unearthed and the sound of the shoveling. When I worked as a stonemason’s assistant my job was mixing up batches of concrete with a shovel and that was painful work.
Here in the field the going is slow but steady and I start to sweat. My twenty pound five foot long iron spike is doing the needed damage. It is fifty-five degrees and sunny and the leaves are still turning. I take a break every five minutes or so and feel my heart beat and muscles start to sing and protest. My back is waking up and wondering what the deal is. Like with the crawling there are phases of warming up, phases of the body asking questions and demanding answers and then finally submitting to the task at hand.
Digging with the knowledge that the hole is literally for me to get into gives the task another dimension. I am not burying treasure, or searching for something once buried in the ground. I am not digging a bunker or a trench or a grave or a place to plant a tree. I suppose I am planting me, but only for a little while. I will not be covered up and left to hopefully grow. I am not just some man seed in a suit.
The hole is almost ready for me. I imagine this can change me. I imagine that if I listen closely when I am in the hole I might be able to hear all the burials and all the births all at once. Why am I so excited about getting into this hole!?!?
After about forty-five minutes I’ve got a round hole taking shape and it looks to be nearly deep enough. I sit down in it, roll over onto my side and curl up into a fetal ball. Mason informs me that my shoulder is sticking out above ground level. He gets up on a stepladder and takes a picture. I struggle to undo myself and get out of the hole. I dig some more, making the hole wider and deeper and then I get in again. My heart is pounding in the ground. The earth circle is holding me in position. I’m jammed in tight and all I can hear is my pulse and breathing and the wind blowing across the field.
Mason snaps a few more shots and I get out.
“Can I get in?” he asks.
This hadn’t occurred to me. Of course he can get in, and he does, and I climb to the top of the ladder and take some pictures of him inside our hole. There he is, curled up in the fetal position, floating in earth space. I recall the sonogram photo of him inside his mother in this exact same position. I stare down at him, mesmerized. He’s so still. Then, for a second, I am chilled by this vision. Then he pops out and brushes the dirt off. We decide this first hole should not be filled in. We want to see what will happen to it if it is left open and empty.
Later after a shower as the sun goes down I go out to the field and look at this first hole. I imagine all the holes out in the world that are not yet dug. I am bound for them with my shovel. I will dig them and get inside. I will reap what I sow.