Zen and the art of shoveling shit

April 23, 2009

manure

There’s roughly five months worth of feces in that photo. One cow, one sheep and two goats crapped inside one barn all winter, and today I took my turn mucking out the stall. I loved every pungent minute of it. I loved the way my rain boots squished in the mud/poop. I loved the sweet smell of the manure. I loved the way two hours went by and I didn’t even notice.

I found shit-shoveling—pitchforking, really—to be alot like clearing jungle brush with a machete. It takes a while to figure out how to be really effective at it and find the groove. Also, the hay that’s layered into the shit tangles itself into one giant mass, just like the vines of the jungle. In order to clear really satisfactory patches, I discovered it helps to work in circles, disconnecting the poop-hay or vine thickets from themselves and pushing them aside, or in this case, depositing them in a wheelbarrow and dumping it on the compost pile.

There’s something about the rhythm of the work: once your body figures out how to do the job, the mind is freed and imagination (or chatter) is also possible. Taking stock in the area cleared is infinitely rewarding. Just remember to wash the blood (or poop) off your hands when you’re finished.

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