Barbara Banta Stakes Mining Claim
Digging is instinctive with children.
As a child, all I needed was an old spoon and I'd dig happily in
the dirt for hours. If a spoon wasn't available, I'd scrape away
with a sharp stone, or a stick.
Although it was many years ago, I can
still distinctly recall the reasons for digging and the emotions
that accompanied my actions. Growing up before the age of technology,
I had heard that if I dug deep enough I would reach China. Well,
not ME----I knew I couldn't dig that far with a spoon--but the POSSIBILITY
of someone being able to dig that far existed, I was certain.
I gave up on China, (the dilemma over
whether the Chinese would be found walking about upside down on
their heads was too much for my young mind to face) but there were
other reasons to keep digging: adventures and riches awaited, the
earth held treasures, knowledge and mysterious stories . I unearthed
strange rocks sparkling with mica, flint layered like strudle, red
and black pigmented rocks that could draw on cement. A lead soldier,
buried in a long forgotten war forced me to ponder who had come
My favorite finds were mud-encrusted
marbles. Rubbed on my overalls, they emerged as pristine as the
day they'd been lost, but I was quick to hide the milky-white and
green or red agate in my pocket before any boy could see or, invariably,
my treasure would be claimed as their favorite shooter lost in that
My friends and I dug holes with connecting
tunnels and called them towns, unknowingly imitating ancient cave-dwelling
ancestors. Weeds were left to serve as trees, excavated dirt became
hills and look-out towers. No adult needed to remind us of the dangers
in our world. We knew that at any minute, a giant spider or centipede
could send our lilliputian townsfolk scurrying from their underground
homes, or a disgruntled playmate could turn on us and pound our
intricate network with a Gulliver heel, bringing it all crashing
I began by stating that digging is instinctive
with children, but is it still, or are they so plugged into video
games, computers and cell phones that a spoon and a a few square
feet of earth holds no fascination for them? In my crowded town,
how many of them even have the luxury of a backyard?
Children must fit the timeframe into
which they're born. I'm happy I was born into mine, and even happier
that I still get the chance to dig in the dirt when gardening, as
well as to dig metaphorically with thought, memories, and words
in the Alluvial Mine at Soul Food. There are always the possibilites
of cave-ins and fearful shadows deep in the dark, but there will
also be treasures to retrieve and wondrous stories that have lain
buried for years.
By Barbara Banta
Mine is the property of Heather Blakey and Miners who have generously
shared their work. Please do not replicate any part of this mine
without written permission.