FEB 28/MARCH1/ 2015
The ground is frozen solid everywhere. I haven’t been able to dig a hole since the fall, but waiting for spring is no longer an option. A friend up in Provincetown sends me a picture of their latest epic dumping of snow and suddenly I see an opening. Holes are waiting.
I drive to Cape Cod the next chance I get. The snow is deep out there, especially the drifts in the dunes. I stop at a friend’s house in Wellfleet and we go hole hunting for a couple hours. Our first spot is on a harbor side beach. He’s got an apple-picking ladder and we bring that along.
My friend was a fisherman, but now he's an certified arborist who paints and plays piano on the side. He just beat throat cancer and quit smoking and he’s fighting off cabin fever. He seems to dig Hole Earth in that bemused “if you say so, buddy” sort of way. He’s got a daughter who needs to go to a birthday party so I only have him helping me for a couple hours. He asked me what kind of spot I wanted and I tried to describe it and then I just said, take me to a place you love, or a place you think might work for me. I see now that each hole can be a short rich collaboration with another person. I will be needing wingmen and wingwomen, just as I did with the crawl. And I know there will be holes that I must dig and enter alone in the middle of nowhere.
The blinding glare off snow and ocean makes me squint. Down on the beach we walk past arctic looking snow and ice formations the size of young whales, windblown on the beach. We head for a stout short jetty covered in five feet of lumpy dry snow.
I climb up on the jetty and test the snow. It is dry, light-weight and soft so I start digging and within minutes I’ve got a good hole and I get inside it. But its not quite big enough. I’m new at this and I still have to get in and try it on for size. Getting out is sometimes a struggle.
Snow is not earth. It registers as temporary and neutral. It came from the sky, from the light, and it feels like a visiting element. I get back in and the hole fits but maybe a little shallow. Nothing to be done. I’ve dug down to the stone of the jetty. I imagine igloos and eskimos as I feel my warm body temperature start to fall. It’s around 20 degrees and as soon as I stop moving I feel the sweat go clammy on my skin. I only stay in the hole for a couple minutes. My friend sucks on his vape smoking contraption and snaps a few shots with my camera.
From there he takes me to a place on the ocean side, a high bluff looking out over a huge expanse of ocean water. He tells me this is where he used to come every day in the middle of chemo and radiation when he was at his most ravaged. It is a soothing and mighty view. We sit there for a minute and stare out at the horizon in silence. I get out and look for a place to dig but the wind has blown all the snow out of this area and the sand is frozen solid.
We drive around and on a long straight road through scrub oaks I spot a deep drift made by a snowplow and I pull over. I dig a hole there on the side of the road underneath a tree. James scrambles up into the tree and takes a few shots. It feels dead inside the snow. It doesn’t make much sense being inside a man-made snow bank in this suit. With the suit on it suddenly feels like I’m some dicey noir guy in a hurry, trying to find where I buried the money. It feels so wrong and for a second I doubt everything. Can’t over think these things. This one is a wash. Got to keep digging and moving on. I beat back the doubt demons with my shovel. Some holes will be dead zones.
The next day I go to the dunes with another friend in tow. These are the big daddy dunes that roll on and on for miles alongside the ocean straddling Provincetown and Truro. In the summer there are rangers patrolling these dunes and dune tours. People wander around birding or looking for the beach or a place to have sex or a picnic. Not today. We are completely alone.
It is starting to snow sideways as we traipse our way into this wilderness. The landscape is filled with deep drifting formations of snow and windblown dune ridges, spiked with dry grass. In the shallow valleys we pass scrubby shrubs, pine trees and strange sand patterns. My friend crouches down out of the wind and watches me dig. We joke about what our little mission must look like from a distance through a ranger's binoculars. I was going to be silent as I dig but it feels good to talk and muse aloud. My friend has spent a lot of time outside sleeping on the ground and he is in no hurry to get any of this over with. We both are highly pleased to be out in the dunes in a snowstorm.
After one good hole and some pictures we hike up to a high dune ridge to reconnoiter. In the distance towards the ocean we can barely make out dune shack rooftops, but visibility is fast decreasing as the storm blows in. I spot a deep drift nearby and I go there and attack it with my shovel. I need to find out more about Geomancy. Why do some spots just call out and say, here! Dig here!
This is a deep hole, dug all the way down to the dune grass. Down inside I am out of the wind. It is completely still. The snow around me says nothing. It smells like sky, maybe, but I don’t know. It contains no stories, not like earth does. Not stories that I can comprehend. It just falls and gathers and waits and melts and flows away. The sound of my voice in the hole is different too as the acoustics of snow are a distant ethereal cousin to rock and dirt. The winter wind is howling across the dunescape and my friend is out there in it waiting for me to come out of my hole. I will come back here in the summer and dig again in the sand.
I leave this fine snow hole open and empty, like a white eye unblinking, waiting for more snow to fill it from above. We head back across the dunes and I feel primitive, like a half lost hunter, or some exiled shaman, banished from his tribe, still bent on conjuring something with a hole. My friend drags the stepladder and we leave our mysterious tracks on the white face of the earth.