Last week I rescued three worms that I found while walking a well-trodden trail at Rancho San Antonio. I placed them gingerly to the side, urging them to find sanctuary. One had been smashed in half but, hoping for a miraculous healing, I set it aside as well. The next day, in a workshop on how to create healing stories, we were asked to find an animal ally from whom we could get solace and inspiration. The workshop theme was life on the edge, a reflection on our current state of unknown about the future with a president openly disrespectful of the global majority, women, environmentalists, journalists, the disabled, and anyone who questions or confronts him. We were guided on a visualization to find our creature. I closed my eyes and at first saw nothing. Then slowly, as my eyes adjusted, dim surroundings came into focus and I found myself peering through bits of dirt at an outstretched worm. He told me his name was One. I thought I’d heard wrong but later realized it was an apt description. As he told me his story, my appreciation for the hard work of his kind grew to such an extent that by the end, my eyes were moist with tears. He told me of his unconditionality in consuming all things, including the garbage and poisonous substances with which humans indiscriminately litter the earth.
It brought back memories of picking up litter as a kid on the beach and whenever my parents took me anywhere. I’d enlist them in helping me clean up, finding a sack to hold the bottles, cans, paper and plastic scraps. It also reminded me of my voracious hunger for knowledge and the sponge-like way I absorb much of the experiences I’ve been exposed to. Maybe I was more worm-like than I knew.
He showed me the fine diaphanous roots of plants over our heads and relayed their appreciation of the work of worms in transforming garbage into soil. We should all be taking our hat off to his ilk, I thought. What would we do in a world where garbage grew and new soil wasn’t created. He told me of his pleasure in the rain, that eating dry dusty earth is not fun, that he often has to find springs and other water sources to wet his whistle. He said that he can feel rain drops reverberating through his body as they hit the parched earth. Then he stretched out from tip to toe, aligning himself in such a way that his “head” was touching the “tail” of another worm. The luminous glow of worm bodies stretched as far as I could see in both directions to form a kind of neural network encircling the earth. He told me that this worm web could sense the heartbeat of the earth and was a kind of receiver of other subtle forces not easily felt or measured.
Again, I was led to self reflection about my worm-like characteristics. I have often been maligned for sensitivity. It seemed that I never shut my heart to grief over destruction of the earth. I wonder too whether I also felt the pent up feelings of others who had long ago shut theirs, perhaps functioning a wetland filtering pollutants. And similarly maligned for it. I wondered too about the time when, as I’d been preparing my garden, I’d inadvertently freed 3 tubs of worms that a friend had been feeding food scraps to over the years. For months after, I would see red worms wriggling their way into dark loamy soil, and I couldn’t help but imagine their little voices saying thank you. And mine saying thank you back.