It was an 18 earthworm morning

Posted by on 06.04.10 | 2 Comments
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earthworm.jpg

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…it may be doubted if there are any other animals which have played such an important part in the history of the world as these lowly organized creatures.” –Charles Darwin

I recently read an article in Ode, called ‘The joy of dirt’ While the premises weren’t new to me, they hit me in a new way–we’re running out of good soil.

If you don’t already know the bad news, I’ll make it quick and dirty: We’re running out of soil. As with other prominent resources that have accumulated over millions of years, we, the people of planet Earth, have been churning through the stuff that feeds us since the first Neolithic farmer broke the ground with his crude plow. The rate varies, the methods vary, but the results are eventually the same. Books like Jared Diamond’s Collapse and David Montgomery’s Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations lay out in painful detail the historic connections between soil depletion and the demise of those societies that undermined the ground beneath their feet.

I love to dig about in the dirt. I’m not really good at gardening, but the soil and the plants graciously teach me. I try to listen carefully. What they have been teaching me lately is that earthworms are being decimated by a host of predators: mainly concrete and pavement, but also pesticides and unbalanced soil nutrients. Darwin’s quote above is not something to take lightly. These creatures, along with bees and butterflies may be the most easily decimated and least able to replace creatures in the cycles of human food production.

It’s been raining off and on for the past almost three weeks here in the high desert of central Oregon. This is unusual weather for this time/place. It’s been nice steady rain, punctuated by overcast skies that allow the rain to sink in. So this morning, after returning from a week’s visit to sunny Denver, while walking Geronimo at 6am, I came across about 25 earthworms who were crossing the sidewalks or roads, presumably to get to the other side. Or more likely to not drown in their rain saturated burrows. Even in my sleepy state, as I began to focus, I was stunned at the proliferation of these creatures. I picked them up and placed it back (or is it forward?) on some soil, knowing that with daylight comes cars, kids on bikes, things that will stomp on the earthworms’ lowly heads. There were so many of them that I began to pick up only one or two from each grouping, leaving the others for the birds to have breakfast.

As I placed each one gently in the dirt of peoples’ yards (I am teachable~) I prayed a simple prayer:for the earthworm to live long and process lots of good dirt.

I like the way they wiggle in my hand. I like the way their undersides are lighter than their topsides. I was curious about why some have darker heads/tails than others. I wondered about some that were less lively–will they revive when put back on their natural habitat?

My curiosity and admiration are balanced today about earthworms. What do they have to teach us about survival and what it’s going to take? If you read the Ode article ‘The joy of dirt, let us know what you are being taught. (I started to say ‘what you are thinking’ but don’t really want to know about that so much…)

In the meantime, I’m not resting on my 18-earthworm-morning laurels. I’m planning to go dig about in my soggy garden today and sit with some plants and earthworms and learn more about what the real world. I may not be able to do much about the decimation of the earth’s topsoil, but I can tend to ‘my’ garden and all its inhabitants as if they were the last garden on earth.

And then there were the two grubs of some sort with little legs flailing about that I didn’t bother with. What’s up with that?

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