Digging Holes

I’ve been digging a lot of holes lately. Literally – I help the molerat field crew dig holes to trap molerats. It’s not part of my job, I don’t get paid extra to do it, and the trappers look at me like I’m insane every day that I offer to help. But they give me their spare shovel and I set off to look for the tell-tale mounds where the sand is pushed up out of the tunnels and I dig. It’s hot, sand gets everywhere in everything, a lot of times the tunnels are dead ends, and with nearly every shovel full of sand that is pitched out, half slides back in. But right now it’s exactly what I need to do. As if the Sisyphus syndrome that plagues my mind needs more fuel, adding a refilling hole of sand seems about right.

Life feels full of uncertainty right now, as I’m sure it does for everyone. Big plans have turned upside down – traveling the world, studying abroad, even getting a job. What am I supposed to do now? Where am I supposed to go? Where is there space for me in this changing, chaotic world? I swing between panic about what’s near or far into the future and acceptance that there’s really nothing I can do about it. Except make the most of the situation.

For now, I’ll stay away from the states – it seems scary over there. I’m trying to find Work-Aways in South Africa. One particular position that seems like a good fit is on a horse farm tucked away in the Drakensberg Mountains near the border of Lesotho – I could definitely wait out the pandemic somewhere like that. It will be winter in June, I could ride into the mountains and see snow again.

After that is a big question mark. Chile is still etched into my mind and I’ll find a way to make it happen. But I’m not sure when, or how yet. Traveling across borders with an American passport (even though I’ll have dodged being in the states as much as I can) seems like it will be tricky. I’m cannibalizing the proposal I’ve worked on for a year to tailor it to smaller grants and funding opportunities – it hurts but it needs to be done. Come what may, it will work somehow.

I’ve felt my time expiring here at the project. Of course, I am making the last month or so count. But it’s time for change, I can feel the restlessness starting to creep in. I’m training my replacement in the labs now; there’s a lot of information to exchange. I’m taking some extra time to spend moments with friends, even if it means doing nothing but sitting near each other. I’m not sure if and when I’ll ever see them again. I breathe in the desert air and focus on the feeling of sand between my toes. I watch each sunrise and sunset, every day. I’m starting to say goodbye.

It’s getting cold, like it was when I first arrived. Soon I’ll be zipping back into my sleeping bag in my bed, taking quick freezing cold showers, and wearing socks under my sandals in the mornings. I’ll see the plants and animal migrations I was greeted with when I arrived. Looking back at the person I was then feels like watching someone take their first steps into a new form. So much has changed and yet it feels like I’ve only just begun.

I like digging holes. I’ll keep digging until I find which shape I’ll shift into next.

October – Broken Bells

2 thoughts on “Digging Holes

  1. I can certainly understand your uneasiness about what is ahead, Kelly. It really sucks when you work so hard on a plan and it doesn’t come through. I also can understand your preference to stay away from the states at least for now. No one knows what’s ahead a month or 6 months or a year from now. I hope you are able to get home in August as you originally planned. Until then, take care and know I love you!


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