I’d memorized Seamus Heaney’s wonderful poem “Digging” (from Death of a Naturalist, 1966) some time before I happened upon footage of what turf-cutting actually looked like. It struck me as simultaneously more noble and artful and more humble than what I’d imagined from the poet’s words alone. Here’s a section from that poem:

My grandfather could 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, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

from “Cutting Peats,” by lyndafiddle/YouTube, 10 July 2007

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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