Four years ago Ruth was driving me home from an evening in Suffolk, where our Buddhist group had met at the home of one of us (for a Japanese tea ceremony, and that’s another story).

We had been talking about Life on our way home, witnessed by a barn owl that flew, spirit-like, across our path in the little lane. (Owl has stayed as silent companion to that friendship.)

As she pulled up outside my home, Ruth turned to me and said: “You’ll have to dig deep …” and yes, despite the challenge of an extra lumbar vertebra and postural strain; a partner who has undertaken all the major digging in our silty clay Cambridgeshire soil; and two-thirds of a century of personal earth to excavate, that’s precisely what I have been doing.


And that’s what I aim to witness others in doing, in this shared endeavour of life-writing companionship. It’s emerged as a young and vigorous shoot out of the diggery & pokery of my reflection, retrospection, and envisioning. For over twenty years now (with the ThoughtBooks, and hundreds of poems, as witnesses).

And now companioned by other bloggers, readers, followers, such as my friend Lady D. who writes of growing veg at home during lockdown – and by all accounts has been more successful with dwarf beans in the south of England than I’ve been in the north of Scotland. Although my spuds (potatoes) are a treat.

So today let’s look at the fruits of cultivation, or endeavour, of the work and effort we put into projects – paid or unpaid – in our lives.

Spade Aid

Take a piece of paper preferably A3 (A4 would do if you have small writing) and draw on it, as big as’ll fit, the outline of a digging spade. Handle, shaft, blade, not a work of art (unless you would like it to be). It’s just a framework for your Digging Exercise.

You could label the parts as shown, but with smaller, fainter writing.

Now get comfy; take your coloured pens, and invite in the Muse around the reflectice busyness of Digging.

Around, within, and beyond your outline spade, I invite you to brainstorm words, phrases, and even sentences that come to your Muse.

Remember that the stuff to be dug (or that you have already dug, this spring and summer) is at the bottom of the page, Grounded Earthed, fundamental.

The force, the strength, lies in the shaft of the spade. If the spade has a wooden handle, then the strength lies in all the parallel bundles of elongated cells (called xylem tissue, in trees) reinforced with a biological material called lignin, especially in heartwood.

For the fulcrum, the flexible swinging action of parts of your body, as you dig, is transmitted to the handle that you are grasping.

I stand to be corrected if any of the above is not precise enough for technically minded people. Please laugh (to rhyme with Kath, not scarf, as I am was born in the Northwest Midlands of England).

There’s more below about levers, digging and writing, but first complete this Spade Aid.

Go, write!

I am told that a digging spade is an example of a Class Three lever system.

For those inclined to mechanics and engineering (which I am not, although I hold the family’s highest academic qualification in physics, much to everyone’s surprise) here is a classification of the types of lever, using sports physiology and the human body as an example.

Poetry Corner

Here is Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) reading his poem ‘Digging’, in which he describes his father, and his grandfather, using heavy implements as they dug for potatoes, or cut turf for the fire. Whereas he lifts is his pen, the tool of his trade.

(If you use the subtitle setting, be aware that this has been done phonetically. The lines aren’t set out “properly” as in a printed poem.)

Brain Dump

optional & as literal or metaphorical as you choose

Sometimes the Braindump encourages us to explore our direct experience-in-the-moment, such as: what we are feeling, sensing, noticing, thinking – enquiring of ourselves kindly and with curiosity.

We thus include a mindul meditative element into the exercise.

In completing the following phrases, know that the outcome is for your eyes only, so you can be as honest as you want, as weepy, as un-edited):

“Today I would love to harvest the fruits of my work in/at …

optional (… by – date)”

“Today I’d love freedom from the burden, the load, of …”

“Today, my apiration, my autumnal planting plan, my secret garden of desire is (to/for) …”

Golden threadwork

Remember this from writing our way whole #7 ?

“My “Golden Threads” emerged … from the work of the mystic poet William Blake:

I GIVE you the end of a golden string;

Only wind it into a ball,

It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate,

Built in Jerusalem’s wall.…

William Blake ( (1757–1827). From ‘Jerusalem’

For Golden Threadwork today read back over what you have excavated with your pen today (in company with Seamus Heaney) and use any words

(of his, yours, or mine, or from Further Resources at the end)

to lead you into golden writing that matches the season.

You could even take a cup of something {Robert Burns (1759-1796) would advocate “a cup o’ kindness’} to your balcony, garden, front door step, local park, and do this exercise outside…

… which pleasantly leads into today’s appreciations, outdoors or in.

Today I am grateful for:




Further resources

Here’s a poem I wrote about excavators as they were demolishing a small block of flats, home for 16 single people, opposite our house. This is its first outing, four years later. On the site now stand 17 small houses.

The demolition of Fairview, Mothers’ Day 2016 Copyright Kathy McVittie 2020


When the flats were demolished –

clawed limb from limb

by the allosaurian digger –

there was a liberation in it,

that jagged skyline that they left

at close of play, 4.30 pm, Friday.

Come Monday, the structure – gaping wide

towards the rubble of its own downfall,

yet facing smugly solid to the street –

may have shifted upon its fundamentals.

So I, choosing to stay alone

for Mother’s Day, can face its instabilities,

can face our own – as near neighbours,

as arrivals at the Guest House*,

as visitors to this “home and aware” –

while on the roof ridge

a blackbird shouts its territory,

flying in where angels fear to tread.

©Kathy McVittie 5 March 2016

The Guest House‘ is a poem by the Sufi mystic & poet Rumi (1207-1273). It exhorts the reader to greet new arrivals [to our consciousness] as welcome guests, even “if they’re a crowd of sorrows … because each has been sent as a guide from beyond”.

Where Angels Fear to Tread‘ is a novel by E. M. Forster, which I studied for O-level English Literature in the 1960s, with the wonderful Mrs Myers. Its title comes from a line in Alexander Pope‘s An Essay on Criticism: “For fools rush in where angels fear to tread”.