Meaningful work … one shovelful at a time

Digging a hole

These days I do a lot of digging. Sometimes in the garden. Sometimes to fix the septic system. Sometimes as a first step in building.  

One of the things about digging… I find quite a few surprises. They feel important.   Hard clay gives way to softer soil then rock. It takes quite a bit of focused attention to chip my way through it. One small piece at a time. Sledge hammer, digging bar, pick. The going is slow, and I just know it’s going to carry on like that until I get where I need to.  But then, soft soil. I didn’t expect that.

No, I suppose it isn’t something to which many aspire. But there’s something in it that feels like it makes good sense. Like it’s teaching me something about this new life. You see, retiring wasn’t actually about stopping.  More like moving on to the next thing. A third act. Something meaningful.

Poet, David Whyte reminds me

‘Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.’

That’s the thing about digging.  I can’t repair the drain pipe before I dig six feet down.  It happens one shovelful at a time. No matter how much I want to build the deck, unless I dig holes for those footings, I just can’t. I will plant that new vine, but not until I dig my hole deep enough.  Start close in, start with the first step, not the second or the third.

“Retiring” was certainly not intended  to mean “retirement.”  More like seeing if there is a next adventure. A next chapter. Meaningful work.

After spending so much time at the center of a community, it’s hard to see close in.  It’s hard not to mistake another’s question for my own. And that’s it.  That’s the thing about digging. You have to start close in. The first thing, not the second or the third.  The step you don’t want to take.

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