I made a list. The things I’d do if I were going out and about this weekend. The free-of-leg-cast things.

There’s the NYC Unicycle Festival, which kicks off with a 13-mile single-wheeled parade across the Brooklyn Bridge to Coney Island and which includes a bout of unicycle sumo wrestling.

UniFest2012 photo creditKeithNelsoniphone_1654

Then, the art installlation by Olaf Eliasson, called “Your Waste of Time,” in Long Island City, at MOMA PS1, with chunks of Icelandic ice in a refrigerated room.


I could visit the Wolf Conservation Center north of the Cabin. Sit behind protective glass and watch a pack howl. They even offer overnights in a tent. The Center has babies, like Zephyr, born April 20th.


There’s a tug boat armada on the Hudson, more accurately the Great North River Tugboat Race & Competition, complete with a Popeye-themed contest for spinach eaters.

Jones Beach, its tawny sands burning hot in August, its crashing waves filled with quarter-size quivering jellyfish. We don’t care about jellyfish, though. It’s the last swim before fall. But no room on that crowded strand for a fiberglass leg cast.


The Breaking Bad exhibit at Museum of the Moving Image in Queens that displays the costumes, props and other accoutrements of everyone’s latest streamed addiction, one that has smoothed the way through these mellow weeks post-foot-surgery. The arc of the show was contrived as carefully as Walt crafts his blue rocks, not surprisingly, and “From Mr. Chips to Scarface: Walter White’s Transformation in Breaking Bad.” will show you how. The stuffed animal that splashes down into the Whites’ swimming pool was specially commissioned, it turns out.


Do you care to see the tighty-whities that Walt wore in season one, episode one? For some reason I do, but I don’t know if the terrain is maneuverable for me and my scooter.

I missed the Battle of Brooklyn last weekend – reenactors assembled in what later becamethe famous Green-Wood Cemetery – out of a dread of uneven grass and pebbly stretches.


There was supposed to be cannon fire and I know people were boiling pots over smoky campfires.

I must eschew places that wouldn’t easily accommodate what Gil calls “Jean’s crutches, sons of butches, or the Bloke, no joke.” What the ladies at the nail salon called my “motorcycle.” One was so nice she gave me an upper arm massage. I never knew that crutches kill your triceps.

Jean on crutches

But it’s all in the name of pampering that tiny metatarsal in my right foot, the one that needs some extra help to mend so that I can go on ever greater adventures. Who knows, next year a pair of hiking boots that actually fit. Kilimanjaro.

I am most definitely emerging today for a time to “help” cart Maud’s things for the year to her new dorm. She makes up in leggy activity, just back from sunny Spain, what I currently lack. Out catching drinks with friends, seeing music, buying notebooks, all new things, looking to the future.

maud spain

I am also looking to the future, though a ripple of boredom is creeping through me like a sweet rot. Day to day, I dive down into the Revolutionary New York research for my next novel and come up with gorgeous crumbs. And you need crumbs to make the rich loaf that is a historical novel. But that’s just a start.

I’m going to need a new couch after this recuperation, the indentation in the current one might not plump back up.

A walk down to the garden to dig potatoes would be great. Fingers — toes! — in the dirt. I remember the loam of mid-summer fondly.

potatoes soil copy

Oh, forking over potatoes today… would be amazing. The just-deceased Nobel-winning poet Seamus Heaney’s poem on the subject, “Digging,” is one of the great works of modern literature. Have a seat on my couch. Take a listen.

Between my finger and my thumb   

The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.


Under my window, a clean rasping sound   

When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   

My father, digging. I look down


Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds   

Bends low, comes up twenty years away   

Stooping in rhythm through potato drills   

Where he was digging.


The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft   

Against the inside knee was levered firmly.

He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep

To scatter new potatoes that we picked,

Loving their cool hardness in our hands.


By God, the old man could handle a spade.   

Just like his old man.


My grandfather cut more turf in a day

Than any other man on Toner’s bog.

Once I carried him milk in a bottle

Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up

To drink it, then fell to right away

Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods

Over his shoulder, going down and down

For the good turf. Digging.


The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap

Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge

Through living roots awaken in my head.

But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.


Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it.


Filed under Culture, Fashion, Film, History, Home, Jean Zimmerman, Nature, Poetry, Publishing, Writers, Writing

4 responses to “Digging

  1. Not for everyone, but we like it. Kind of horrific in an enjoyable way.

  2. Thanks so much. Warmed-up Chinese is the order of the day, I’m afraid. But I’ll be cooking again soon enough.

  3. MA

    Dear Jean,
    Betwixt and between I did stumble upon your blog several weeks ago and subscribed. Oh what pleasure I am having reading your stories, your adventures…even the boredom of your couch.
    Hope you get a hot steamy baked potato dripping with butter…a dollop of sour cream if you like…all sprinkled with fresh chives. Happy school year for your Maud and here’s to a couch potato with a wonderful way with words!
    ThankYou! MA


    I loved hearing his voice, Seamus Heaney’s.

    And I want to watch BREAKING BAD; like so many things that interest me, I’ve read ABOUT it, but haven’t experienced it.

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