New Hampshire Home July-August 2023 - 115

AT HOME in New Hampshire
The Hole in Our Yard
RECENTLY, my eight-year-old daughter decided she wanted to
dig a hole in our backyard. Believe it or not, this actually seemed
reasonable to me and quite in her character.
We've raised her to be close to the dirt, to not be afraid of black
fingernails, to be curious. That her curiosity has led her to an
appreciation of the soil is also not surprising given her mother's
miraculous green thumb. Put the two of them together near a
garden bed in the springtime, and they are guaranteed to return
home filthy.
What did surprise me was, well, how big the hole is. I use present
tense because, as of this writing, the hole is still there and
continues to expand. The hole is so large, in fact, that she can now
stand in it up to her waist. I'll soon have to put orange traffic cones
around it. By the way, before anyone gets all " Dig-Safe " on me, the
hole is in a corner of the garden that used to be an in-ground pool,
so no wires or pipes to hit!
Speaking of a pool, the hole is so large, Little Bean had another
idea in her head.
" Daddy, " she said excitedly, " what if it rains and the hole fills
up, then we'll have our own pond in the backyard. "
Unless there's an actual pond in one's backyard, the idea of a
pond suddenly appearing in there can be a terrifying thought, but
for her, that was a natural next step.
Exploring the waterways of our state has been another one of
her passions, so she's well used to the feel of sand and mud. She's
explored the tidal pools in Rye and Portsmouth. She's made a
hobby of swimming in every pond and lake presented to her.
From Weirs Beach to Sunapee to Silver to Forest, find her some
water and a bucket to collect shells and stones, and not much
more is necessary.
Meanwhile, back at home, I watch from our sunroom as my
daughter fills up a watering can, steps into the hole, and begins to
pour the water over her feet into the dirt. I begin doing the logistical
calculations in my head about how I'm going to get her into
the tub later without leaving a trail of mud through the kitchen.
I also consider a quote from Walt Whitman:
There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day
Or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.
I wonder how long that connection with the natural world will
become her. Will she carry these days, these memories of dirt in
her hair, into next week? Next year? Will she be sitting in her own
backyard someday watching her own kids in her own pond?
What will be part of her?
Later that evening, long after her muddy clothes are tossed in
the wash and the streaks of dirt have circled the tub drain, I ask
her what she's discovered.
" What's important about that hole? " I say. " How deep are you
going to dig it?
She gives it a moment. " Well, we can't dig through to the other
side of the planet, right? "
" Correct, " I say. We research where we'd end up, though. Turns
out, going straight through would put us in the Indian Ocean, just
west of Australia. " Besides, the Earth's core is something like ten
thousand degrees, so we really don't want to go that deep anyway. "
She nods. " Well, we did find a plastic toy and a coin. Oh!
And grubs! "
" Grubs? "
" Lots of them. So many of them! "
Turns out, she scooped the grubs out and spread them around
the yard, near the bird bath, alongside some of the flowery bushes.
Why? Because she wanted to leave a treat for the birds.
My eight-year-old spent three days digging a hole, scooping
out tons of grubs, and fed the birds. That's a strange thing to be
proud of one's daughter for, but I admit that I am. This feels like
a worthy pursuit, like something maybe even Whitman himself
would approve.
Because at least for now, for this summer, my daughter began
to understand the dirt. And all it took was a shovel, a hole, and a
whole lot of grubs. How simple. NHH
BY DAN SZCZESNY | ILLUSTRATION BY CAROLYN VIBBERT
112 New Hampshire Home | July / August 2023

New Hampshire Home July-August 2023

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