In the process of putting plants in the ground, I have dug a great many holes in my yard.
If a hole is one foot deep, the job is relatively easy. I use a shovel to pierce the topsoil and remove the underlying clay. The hole needs a width of only about a foot, because then it’s wide enough to allow a shovel to pry the soil loose and lift it out. And I don’t have to lean over very far, nor do I have to lift the soil more than a foot vertically.
If the hole is two feet deep, the work is much harder. The width must be greater, because it’s harder with a narrow opening to use a shovel as a pry bar. About eight times as much dirt has to be removed for a two-foot hole, compared to a one-foot hole. I also have to bend over more—two feet below the surface of the ground—to dig the hole, and the dirt at the bottom has to be lifted twice as far vertically.
Years ago I had to dig a hole twelve feet deep. This proved to be a monumental task:
* In order to get down into the hole with my tools, it had to be ten feet wide at ground level.
* The clay became very hard several feet down, so I had to use a pick to move every cubic inch of material.
* At a depth of about eight feet, I hit bedrock, and then I had to use a ninety-pound jackhammer—driven by a large compressor—to break up the rock.
* The deepest materials had to be lifted twelve feet from the bottom of the hole to ground level.
* An enormous ramp had to be dug to easily get in and out of the hole.
* The total volume of the hole and ramp was roughly 5000 times the volume of a one-foot hole.
* The dirt and rock had to be carried a considerable distance horizontally from the hole, which roughly tripled the work of simply digging the hole.
* At a depth of about eight feet, ground water began to seep into the hole, which had to be pumped out and into an adjacent creek.
* The total effort of a 12-foot hole was roughly 15,000 times that involved with a one-foot hole.
* Many days were required.
* A great deal more strength—not just total effort—was required. Working a 90-pound jack is no small thing.
Despite the enormous effort, however, there were benefits:
* I had the beginnings of a fish pond and waterfall.
* I grew stronger with the exertion.
In summary, as we dig a hole deeper, it’s harder to dig, more strength is required, and more strength is gained.
I have watched many people do their emotional work: face the pain of childhood, face the anguish of present circumstances, recognize and deal with unproductive and unloving behaviors, replace the lies of the past with the truth, learn to heal the pain from the past and present, and learn a new way to live. Some people want only to dig one-foot holes, and that is their right to choose, but the use of one-foot holes is limited to the planting of small bushes, occasionally the repair of a sprinkler head, and burying dead squirrels found in the middle of the road.
If we really want to do our work and create a life capable of enormous growth and joy, we have to dig holes deep and broad, which requires greater effort, more strength, and more time. But we also become stronger in the digging, and the subsequent possibilities multiply exponentially.