I was standing on the side of a hill today cracking at it with a shovel, overlooking a brand new development in West Knoxville. This particular hill could be considered a foothill of the greater hills just to the east and as the valley floor piled full of morning sun I awaited it’s burning away the fog around me. My shovel is more of a sledging adz than a spoon for soil. The extended handle is solid steel and the blade is a flat ax. It weighs maybe twenty pounds, empty, and is the wrong choice for a job that doesn’t require delivering a solid blow in conjunction with a scoop. For the unwanted shrubs roots that I have met with this wrecking ball, I am sorry.
My lighter shovel is heart shaped and more common. It’s nice for ladling when you don’t need twenty pounds of impetus for every toss and tuck. And for a job that’s all about volume with the payload laying flat in the truck bed, grab the scoop shovel. Its the king of spades and looks like the seat of an old tractor, or the Mexican Mariachi bass guitar of shovels. A six foot bed of mulch can fly off the truck in about twenty seven licks or three minutes if someone can run fast enough with the wheelbarrow. Still, for a reason that I don’t understand I use the twenty pounder for almost everything; I don’t know if its laziness to switch or because its the one that can halfway take care of all of it.
I told myself I wasn’t going to start with the bad thinking today. Missing how I used to walk to the office coffee pot every five minutes. Sporadically curious if I had a new email or two. Wondering when I was going to write a song that begged itself to be heard. Stop it. Today the heat had finally broke and I was somewhere beautiful. There was the stash of plants to make it more so. Robert Frost once lived in a cabin for a winter to protect a cellar full of cider. An odd job here and there is what pieces together an atypical existence.
I’ve been reading “Blue Highways” by William Least Heat-Moon. I strongly recommend reading it only if you’re at the place where you can pick up and go tomorrow. Or else you’ll be restricting your breath by each turn of the page. Some can live vicariously, others strategize for their own distant one-days. For now we could be holding a shovel, a mousepad, or the neck of a trusty acoustic guitar.
I’ve got to stick with the good thinking. Heat-Moon’s 1978 adventure around the perimeter of America via tiny highways and unheard of towns wasn’t a story about him, it was a story about those he met. Those that wanted to show him their Maple sap trees, self finished houseboats, Kentucky log cabins hidden under paneled shingles. I ask myself if adventure is something I need to go finding or if I can be an attribute of one more silent, biting the hill with my twenty pound shovel.