The sky, looking north from West Outer Drive
I just came in from walking. My feet are cold and wet, my red moccasins soaked. We must have had a gully washer last night. The wet street is littered with hundreds of stranded earthworms, washed down the slopes of the grassy yards on either side of Wendover Circle.
It's not cold for February. But the big drops of rain plopping on my head from the wet trees overhead are making me feel chilled and I decide to turn around after a little less than a mile. I really should have worn better shoes and brought an umbrella.
As I walk home, I count the earthworms on the street, but when I reach 100, I quit counting. What's the use? All of them, except the very few I pick up and place in the grass, will surely die as soon as the sun comes out and the street dries.
Some of the worms have already been run over by cars and lie smashed and inert. But others still wriggle feebly on the asphalt. I pity them in their futile struggles to get back home to the safety of leaf litter and loamy black earth.
This stranding of earthworms on concrete streets and sidewalks is, of course, a consequence of human activity, of our 'civilizing efforts,' and relentless impulse to disturb and 'improve' the natural world. It's easy to forget that we also belong to the natural world and could not survive without it.
Walking on, I can't help but think of how much I have in common with the earthworms. I too am essentially a worm, a tube, albeit a much larger and longer one than they, and with appendages.
Wendover Circle is quiet. I've yet to see a single car. Lost in my own thoughts, I ponder the consciousness of worms. Do they feel fear, despair or hope, I wonder. Do they feel anything at all? I suspect they do. After all, whenever I'm threatened or afraid, I feel panic and fear most acutely in my own gut. You know, that horrible sinking feeling in the pit of your being, what some people call 'visceral fear.'
As usual, there's a deep, ancestral wisdom in the language we speak. The phrase 'visceral fear' along with 'gut reaction', 'gut wrenching', and even 'nauseating' are all expressions we commonly use to describe our most basic and instinctual reactions to revulsion, loathing and terror.
But of course, our guts do not belong to us alone. We share our entire alimentary tract with billions of friendly bacteria who make the human gut their home. We humans and those bacteria are mutually dependent. Without them, it would be impossible for us to digest our food or absorb nutrients. In fact, last fall, I met a fellow who told me he had very nearly died a couple of years back after taking an antibiotic which killed not only the pathogen for which it was prescribed, but also the good bacteria in his gut. He said he was hospitalized for weeks and very nearly lost the battle.
A gut devoid of friendly bacteria is a death sentence for us humans. Our essential relationship with bacteria only reinforces my intuitive sense that everything and everybody, whether immense, microscopic or in between, are literally connected and inseparable; we are, I believe, at one with the whole of Creation.
I don't feel degraded by this thought, but oddly comforted, even uplifted.
To the north, I hear a cow bawling in the valley and I notice the spring peepers are continuing their early chorus. By the time my little white house in the woods comes into view, my feet and hair are soaked and I'm uncomfortably cold. It will feel so delicious to peel off these wet clothes and sit by the fire with a cup of hot coffee. But before I head down the drive way, I lean over and pick up one last little earthworm and place him in the grass.
I know that by saving him, I'm also saving myself for surely he and I are, at this singular moment in time, both cells in the limitless and egalitarian body of the Almighty Creator. I have never believed that the work of Genesis was finished in six days.
No, I believe that Creation continues without ceasing, is expansive, eternal and inclusive, and is the one essential, enduring characteristic of God and the universe. This morning, I am privileged and grateful to be present as both witness and participant in the work of Genesis. Genesis is still unfolding.
Be Well and Good Luck and please do me the favor of sharing Dogwood Daughter with someone else today.