the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Hole in the Ground

When you are stuck underground for a long time, in the darkness, under the grass and dirt and flowers, not dead but fully alive, all vital signs working except for your sense of reality, your first sighting of a pinhole-sized ray of light coming from a point above will not be a celebratory event.  It will be a message of fear.  Some ONE or some THING is telling you that there is a way out.  But you don’t want a way out.  You wouldn’t be sitting flat on your back in the cold dark dirt if you wanted a way out, right?

But a hole has opened.  And every day, this uneven circle will grow larger, the light will burn stronger and more focused, and the heat of the sun will create thirst and emotion in your still-alive body, forcing you to climb out of the black hole onto firm land and fresh air.  You will have no choice.  Better to do it now.

Once outside, in the slight breeze, you may recognize your surroundings, and you may not.  You have been under the earth for a long time, and your head will be dizzy.  You will not know for how long you were lying in the dirt, watching the ants as they paraded in front of you, like little soldiers.

Don’t move.  Just stand there, next to your hole — and wait.   Someone will pass by, seeing you naked and dirty, your knees bloody and scraped, and offer you some help.  It will be a nice older man, or better yet, a young woman carrying a bucket of well water, and she will offer you a drink.

“Why were you in that hole in the ground?” she will ask you.

“I dunno.” you will answer.

Good.  Be honest.  There is no reason for you to lie or weave dramatic stories.  You are a man who just clawed his way out from inside a hole in the the ground.  Why bother with tall tales?

“It must have been very uncomfortable and painful to be stuck in there,” she will whisper sympathetically, pouring the water into your cupped hands.

At that moment, you will feel the pain.  Her mere mention of the anguish will unleash the burning knife in your spine, your head, and your heart. Language has that terrible effect.  The agony will be acute because this is the first time you have felt that long-forgotten pain, the shivering that caused you to bury yourself in that hole in the ground on that fateful day.

What happened on that day?  Why did you hide yourself away from the goodness of Life?  You will not remember, but now you have returned.  You are standing on your own feet, upright.   That is a start.  It is time to live with the pain.

Drink the healing well water and then, using the bucket, wash yourself clean.


  1. Rene Foran

    and run like hell…like chief after he threw the sink through the wall in Cuckoo’s Nest

    • Neil

      Haven’t seen that movie in ages. I wonder if it still holds up.

  2. Suebob

    Hey, you smell pretty good. Want to go out sometime?

  3. Tom G.

    Man, I have lived at the bottom of that well like Baby Jessica, too many times to count. Thankfully, they put antidepressants in my well water bucket, and now I can wander about in the light.

    (As an aside, this post really reminded me of the book “The Wind up Bird Chronicles” by Haruki Murakami, where the protagonist climbs down into a dry well to find peace, and ends up finding so much more.)

  4. Stay At Home Babe

    I read this and whispered, “Wow.” Just wow.

  5. furiousball

    handfarts. that’s how i survived. they entertained me (you should hear me bust out some Blue-period Miles Davis) and also alerted the rescuers my location.

  6. Bon

    Neil, this is beautiful. and the part about language, about sympathy and feeling the pain? yes.

  7. Chris

    I love this. A powerful short piece, that left me feeling deeply. Beautiful.

  8. Catherine

    Yep. Been there. In my case it was not a young girl, but a badass, brilliant, dyed-blond, foul-mouthed psychotherapist, who offered me a drink and a way to be honest.

  9. Deer Baby

    That’s some piece of writing. Reminds me of The Vanishing.

    The sides of the hole are steep and hard to grasp onto. My hole can also be quite comfy at times, along with all my things I have got in there I have gathered round me over the years.

    So glad you’ve managed to get out and feel the sun on your face.

  10. A Vapid Blonde

    I keep trying to think of something to add and I simply can not.

  11. Karl

    Excellent piece, Neil. I’m in that hole all too often.

  12. MikeR

    Great post. I especially love the “Language has that terrible effect” paragraph. After the last line my mind went to “Then have a good, stiff drink.”

  13. Twenty Four At Heart

    Oh Neil, you just described my life in the (almost) five year aftermath of my car accident perfectly. Perfectly. I love you in a totally non-stalker, non-sexpot way. But you know that already ….

  14. Heather of the EO

    “your first sighting of a pinhole-sized ray of light coming from a point above will not be a celebratory event. It will be a message of fear. Some ONE or some THING is telling you that there is a way out. But you don’t want a way out.”

    This is such a good post, Neil.
    I’ve been in that place, where misery is comfortable and life is too big and bright and scary. And then some lovely people gave me a drink of that water…and something new happened. Not comfortable, but living.

    I just love this post.

  15. V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios

    I’m glad you were able to write this.

  16. Jennifer

    Wow, do I get this. And, really, just wow. xo

  17. anastasia mcdonnellism

    “Her mere mention of the anguish will unleash the burning knife…”
    I love this, the acknowledgment, the release.

  18. Jett

    This is some serious loveliness.

  19. Slow Panic

    I don’t know what to say. This is why I read blogs. This was exactly what I needed to read today. Because I’ve recently seen that pin-hole sized ray of light and it scares the hell out of me.

    Thanks so much for this post.

  20. Maggie, dammit

    Love this.

  21. Jane

    This is by far my favorite post of yours now. I halfway expected you to go the silly route with it and ruin the mood. I am so glad your penis didn’t start talking and that you didn’t notice the well-water girl’s boobs.

    Excellent piece, imo.

  22. Amanda

    Beautiful post.

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