Digging A Hole Big Enough to Sit In, by Twylah Nitsch

“I must have been under five when I spent one whole summer day digging a hole with a large spoon in the side of a bank near our house. I had to dig and dig because the ground was so full of roots and my goal was to make a hole big enough to sit in – like a cave. And that took a lot of hard work. Digging through all those roots was tough.

What I remember most about the experience is something my grandmother said. “When you take the dirt out, make sure you have a place for it,” she cautioned me, “because the dirt is used to being in that particular place, and it is at home there. Don’t take anything that is part of something and just scatter it around. Remember you are disturbing the home of the worms and the insects. You are moving them out of the place where they have been living, and you need to make sure that they are happy about where you are taking them.” So I would scoop the dirt into a little basket I had and take it around to various spots. “Is this where you would like to be?” I’d ask. And if the answer was yes, I would leave it. Otherwise, I’d pick up my basket, go to another spot, and ask again.

When I had finally made the hold deep enough to sit in, I would crawl in there and listen. I could hear the earth talking.”



(from her Facebook page)

The most simple mundane things we do have impact somewhere on someone or something. For child Twylah, it was every child’s favorite pastime: digging a hole. And it impacted the worms and bugs. I work with pre-schoolers and we have holes all over our playground. And they sit in them. The holes are like those Mamasan chairs that cradle the body in a quasi fetal position.

When the children find worms we remind them they have to put them back into the earth: they cannot become a pet or they will die.

When I was a child I “lived” in the woods in back of my house. I played for hours there…listening, watching, tasting, feeling, smelling. I could hear the earth talking. I heard her sing and laugh!

Now, all grown up, I can’t seem to hear earth speak so clearly any more. But I still see, feel, taste, and smell. And it’s different than it was over 50 years ago. There is a lot of noise…some is in my head, and some is in the world, but it is not Earth talking, or singing anymore. Why?

I feel, sometimes, displaced, like the dirt Twylah’s mother mentions……moved out of where it’s used to being.

How do you listen to earth? What do you hear? Where do you “belong”, and feel that you belong?