Did you ever use a shovel? I have a lot of history with shovels. I only ask because I think I live in a neighborhood here in Washington where familiarity with shovel use is less than robust. I am a little bit of a Beverly Hillbilly here in DC. A Jethro Bodine in a necktie.

I am the product of a city mouse and a country mouse. My dad came from the city, and his hands didn’t have a lot of calluses. My mom, on the other hand, grew up on a FARM, a real one. Okay, actually she didn’t have so many calluses either. But Grandma! Now there was another story! Grandma, my mom’s mom, lived with us and she was a strap of old leather if ever there was one. She tended our garden. She quickly sized up my older brother as a city-boy (he is a college professor now, of course). In me, she correctly recognized peasant stock when she saw it, so a shovel it was, for little Tommy.

And while I resented (what at the time was to me) rather arbitrary toil, the shovel thing grew on me over time. In the winter, in Buffalo, the trial of endless shoveling eventually reshaped itself into the heroics of reclaiming the civilized realm from the elements. In the summer, shoveling became a reward unto itself. It is slow hard work, but somewhat intoxicating in it’s realness. It is immediate and exhausting, and satisfyingly non-ephemeral. Dirt. Heavy, solid, thick soil. Can you smell freshly dug dirt? I can. Reshaping the ACTUAL WORLD. Sometimes it was digging up and moving an ENTIRE TREE from here, where it was not perfect, to over HERE, where it is! MOVING A TREE! With a shovel. No, I don’t expect many will share this reverie, but I point it out, because you may be unaware that something such as LOVE OF SHOVELING could exist. Ah, my callouses are fading! I could get a six-pack of annuals and a trowel, but it’s not the same.

In Washington they shovel other things.