When I was a child, I decided to dig a tunnel to China. Tales of the endeavor’s high failure rates had reached my ears, but I reasoned this was due to a lack of tenacity and perhaps to digging too close to the earth’s hot center. So if I just kept digging, I reasoned, and if I curved my tunnel once it started to get warm, I felt I could find success where others had not. I chose a spot in our backyard, by the edge of the garden, and started digging.
I laugh to think of it now, but what almost makes me laugh harder is that, to my recollection, I never thought about what I’d do once I broke the surface of Chinese soil and emerged, a small, dirt-covered, English-speaking girl. I must have imagined the moment of victory, and wondered where exactly in China I’d surface (the center of Beijing, a rice paddy in the country, etc.), but most of my memories are of the digging itself.
I could take you back, I think, and show you the very spot where I started my dig in that suburban backyard, and I could tell you where and how I sat while I dug, and how I worried about inadvertently dissecting worms one afternoon after a rain, and how my friend from across the street (the one I would later share my “the lunch ladies have been taken over by aliens” theory with in a genuine effort to save her mother, a lunch lady) sat near me while I worked, giving me a look I now recognize as apprehension. What drove me to start was the idea of creating a passageway to China, but what quickly engrossed me instead was the dig itself. The initial goal lost its importance.
But sometimes, when I ask, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason other than that they just feel like heaving some sand around. And while it doesn’t always happen this way, sometimes they’ll spend the better part of an afternoon, absorbed in the digging itself.
It was a bit chilly today for doing much digging on the beach, at least for my tastes. Instead, I sat inside this afternoon, wrapped in a blanket (LCB thinks I’m being dramatic). I sipped my coffee and watched the palm trees moving in the wind, noting how the sunlight shimmered off the leaves as they shook. I’d sat down intending to start writing a fantasy story I’d promised my kids, but I never actually started. I should have at least salvaged a small measure of productivity by taking pictures of the palms for the blog. But instead, I tree-watched, a pursuit even less constructive than digging to China.