Live Long and Prosper

The cut worm forgives the plow…
~William Blake
Aren’t you glad at least that the earthworms 
Under the grass are ignorant, as they eat the earth, 
Of the good they confer on us, that their silence 
Isn’t a silent reproof for our bad manners, 
Our never casting earthward a crumb of thanks 
For their keeping the soil from packing so tight 
That no root, however determined, could pierce it? 
Imagine if they suspected how much we owe them, 
How the weight of our debt would crush us 
Even if they enjoyed keeping the grass alive, 
The garden flowers and vegetables, the clover, 
And wanted nothing that we could give them, 
Not even the merest nod of acknowledgment. 
A debt to angels would be easy in comparison, 
Bright, weightless creatures of cloud, who serve 
An even brighter and lighter master. 
~Carl Dennis  from “Worms”

We hope for a sunny spring day soon to lure us outside for yard and garden prep before the anticipated grass and weed explosion in a few short weeks. We’ve been carefully composting horse manure for over ten years behind the barn, and it is time to dig in to the 10 foot tall pile to spread it on our garden plot. As Dan pushes the tractor’s front loader into the pile, steam rises from its compost innards. As the rich soil is scooped, thousands of newly exposed red wiggler worms immediately dive for cover. Within seconds, thousands of naked little creatures  …worm their way back into the security of warm dirt, rudely interrupted from their routine. I can’t say I blame them.

Hundreds of thousands of wigglers end up being forced to adapt to new quarters, leaving the security of the manure mountain behind. As I smooth the topping of compost over the garden plot, the worms–gracious creatures that they are–tolerate being rolled and raked and lifted and turned over, waving their little bodies expectantly in the cool air before slipping back down into the dark. There they will begin their work of digesting and aerating the tired soil of the garden, reproducing in their unique hermaphroditic way, leaving voluminous castings behind to further feed the seedlings to be planted.

Worms are unjustly denigrated by humans primarily because we don’t like to be surprised by them. We don’t like to see one in our food, especially only part of one, and are particularly distressed to see them after we’ve digested our food. Once we get past that bit of squeamishness, we can greatly appreciate their role as the ultimate recyclers, leaving the earth a lot better off once they are finished with their work.

We humans actually suffer by comparison, so for man to be called “a worm” is really not as bad as it sounds at first although the worm may not think so.

I hope to prove a worthy innkeeper for these new tenants. May they live long and prosper. May worms be forgiving for the continual disruption of their routine.

May I smile in gratitude the next time someone calls me a worm.


But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
~Psalm 22:6



6 thoughts on “Live Long and Prosper

  1. Can’t understand what draws Homer to piles of ‘poo.’ I’ve seen pics of him gleefully rolling in it. But cats: I thought they were averse to anything malodorous — even their own ‘cat boxes’ (potties)’ that have to be kept clean so they don’t offend their sensitive olfactory senses. I will overlook Homer’s strange penchant because I think he’s the cutest, sassiest looking fur critter whose eyes seem to plead, ‘how about a hug?’

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A pile to delight this gardener’s heart!
    I left my gardening gloves on the deck to dry out this week after digging a hole for a rhododendron.
    They got covered in snow overnight, and the hole sits and waits for the next “spring” day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Homer is on top of the compost pile with his favorite cat “Hooter” who is audacious enough to “hug” him with her tail if you look closely. And this has nothing to do with worms!


  4. Not long ago, I quit a greenskeeping job at a local golf course over an earthworm issue.
    Rather than run them over during the early morning cutting, I’d take a few minutes, collect the critters, and place them safely on the edge of each green. Though I still managed to do my assigned greens on time, my supervisor eventually hauled me in and threatened to fire me for malingering. “No one else does that,” he insisted. “Keep it up and you’re fired.”

    I stood my ground, replying that the worms were essential to healthy grass in spite of all the money spent on aeration, irrigation, and chemical fertilizer “and if you can’t agree with that, I quit.” And, as the old saying goes, the worm turned.

    Later that summer, the worm turned again. I learned my nemesis, the head greenskeeper, was discharged for a long list of deficiencies.
    No mention, however, or earthworms. The reader may draw his/her own conclusions.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks Emily! Though it occurs to me a cynic might quickly point out I’ll eventually be among them. Either way, I like to think my efforts were not in vain.


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