Sunday, August 24, 2008
It's not like I'm ashamed of it, but it is a little embarrassing. I'll be walking along on the sidewalk and I'll see a worm wriggling in fright stranded in a desert of cement. What am I supposed to do— walk on by? The problem is that I kind of don't like the people walking behind me to see me do it. It's a bit of a "uh oh, crazy person ahead" sort of thing, and I don't want to put them through worrying if they need to cross the street to escape me or not. I always look furtively around before I pick up the poor worm and place it gently into the grass. I've been known to circle the block and come back for a plump worm in distress if there are people walking behind me the first time around.
I don't know when it started. I've always loved insects and bugs. Always was poking at them and trying to bring them home. I don't remember my focus falling to worms specifically, but my mom remembers vividly the time I brought home the Big Bowl of Water. I do remember the water. I can't act like I don't. The water was the neatest thing. There was this little pool of marsh water in the woods of Kentucky where I found little swimming things that opened and closed like little swimming commas. Who could resist them? So I scooped up a big bowl full to bring home and watch them. I don't remember the rest, but my mom sure does. She said one day the house was filled with mosquitoes and she couldn't figure out where they were coming from...until she discovered my bowl of marsh-water behind the television.
I do remember pouring water on stranded worms in junior high. I could never tell if the worms were happy about the water, though. They'd be nearly mummified when I'd find them on the concrete at school. I'd pour water on them as an emergency first-aid, and they'd start twisting around like crazy. Couldn't tell if it was convulsions of joy and relief or what. It made me feel a bit uncomfortable. So not very satisfying.
And I've always been one to pick up odds and ends on sidewalks or by the sides of the road. It's amazing the treasures you can find when you make peace with the fact you look like a crazy person doing it. I got an entire butterfly collection one summer by walking down the side of the road and picking up road-kill butterflies still in perfect condition, then taking them home and steaming their wings open and placing them in cotton beneath picture frames. I've picked up huge leaves that I carry home like giant parasols to put in large vases of water to admire. They keep me leafy company for months.
I guess what really started me rescuing worms was my friend Carrie. She rescued snails and worms. She'd be walking and come across a gardener who had tossed her snails out onto the sidewalk. And Carrie would stop, ask the gardener if she wanted the tossed snails. Invariably they'd say no, sort of confused, and Carrie would then gather up all the snails, cracked shells and all. Then she'd carry them with her until she found a safe leafy new home, and set them free.
So I guess every worm I save is also in honor of my friend Carrie. It's such a tiny bit of energy and appearing normal that I lose to lean down and pick the worm up and put it back in moist grass. Yet for that tiny blind creature, I have just returned it's whole life back to them. I guess it's like being a benevolent worm-god. But with such powers, I try to mostly use them for good. And I know now not to bring any more pond-water into the house. So that's progress.