A Hole is to Dig


Remember Maurice Sendak’s playful pen and ink drawings of children in Ruth Knauss’s A HOLE IS TO DIG? In that book, boys and girls roll in the snow and hold kittens and bow to each other in party hats.



The subtitle is “A First Book of First Definitions.”

During a month that has been shot full of holes, that little book of wisdom and its definition of “hole” provided a much-needed shot in the arm.

In less than a week, a dear friend lost two children. We went to her son’s funeral on Saturday then received word that her daughter had passed away the following Tuesday.

Another friend, young and healthy, with the next chapter of his life just opening before him, left swiftly after only a handful of days in hospice.

This week, yet another good friend, the poster child of good cheer and optimism, suffered a devastating loss that, in her words, left a “f’ing gaping hole.”


The graveside. The sudden emptiness of life. A plan that blows up right before our eyes.

What was WHOLE, is suddenly just a HOLE.

What to do with those horrible scary caverns of emptiness?

The urge is to fill them — and quickly.

Dust to dust; first a handful, and then the front loader or the backhoe or some well-meaning friends push buckets full of whatever is at hand — dirt, casseroles, gin — into the pit; the holes are filled.           

But Knauss and Sendak remind us: “A hole is to dig.”

Holes allow us to explore, get messy, muddy even. Pretend, or better yet BELIEVE, that by jumping into that hole and digging more, we can journey to the center of the earth.

Or China.

“Maybe you could hide things in a hole.” Treasure? Secrets? Some things are better buried. Maybe it’s time, at least for now, to hide some stuff. (Maybe make a treasure map so you can find it later.)

When confronted with a hole or two (or even more), consider that: “A hole is to sit in.” It’s good to be quiet and sit for a while. Sit and brood and then plan and dream, because it’s also true that “A hole is to plant a flower.” What is a flower but hope?

“A hole is to see through.” And guess what, you get to decide what direction to look. Up, down, forward, or even back. But get focused and really look. There may be a lesson, or a memory, or a glimpse of something altogether new that you are supposed to see.

And remember, too, that, “A floor is so you don’t fall in the hole your house is in.”  So be sure you have some support/structure around. Maybe a friend or two, or a dog (who Knauss says is there to kiss you) or a cat (who is there so you can have kittens).

And when you’re done digging, planting, or having your face licked by some sweet slobbery pooch, and you are ready to step out of the hole, know that, “A door is to open.” and also, “A door is to shut.”           


(And here’s some super good news: ROAR like a Dandelion, a brand new, never-before published picture book by Ruth Krauss is coming this October. I can’t wait!)