Seeking Buried treasure 

I would like to draw long trains of thought but instead I am drawing blanks. By rights that should mean I can write with whatever I  choose but I don’t seem to have the Persistence or motivation to dig very deep just now. I am only an amateur detectorist when it comes to words. I do seek the buried treasure of my forgotten past, examining my language for things I might turn up, dig out and polish up. I don’t feel lucky but the words are there somewhere. This is why I love the metaphor put to use by Seamus Heaney in:


Between my finger and my thumb   

The squat pen rests; snug as a gun. 

Under my window, a clean rasping sound   

When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   

My father, digging. I look down 

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds   

Bends low, comes up twenty years away   

Stooping in rhythm through potato drills   

Where he was digging. 

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft   

Against the inside knee was levered firmly. 

He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep 

To scatter new potatoes that we picked, 

Loving their cool hardness in our hands. 

By God, the old man could handle a spade.   

Just like his old man. 

My grandfather cut more turf in a day 

Than any other man on Toner’s bog. 

Once I carried him milk in a bottle 

Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up 

To drink it, then fell to right away 

Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods 

Over his shoulder, going down and down 

For the good turf. Digging. 

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap 

Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge 

Through living roots awaken in my head. 

But I’ve no spade to follow men like them. 

Between my finger and my thumb 

The squat pen rests. 

I’ll dig with it.

Seamus Heaney, “Digging” from Death of a Naturalist. Copyright 1966 by Seamus Heaney.

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