The Pang of Salt

What a person desires in life
    is a properly boiled egg.
This isn’t as easy as it seems.
There must be gas and a stove,
    the gas requires pipelines, mastodon drills,
    banks that dispense the lozenge of capital.
There must be a pot, the product of mines
    and furnaces and factories,
    of dim early mornings and night-owl shifts,
    of women in kerchiefs and men with
    sweat-soaked hair.
Then water, the stuff of clouds and skies
    and God knows what causes it to happen.
There seems always too much or too little
    of it and more pipelines, meters, pumping
    stations, towers, tanks.
And salt-a miracle of the first order,
    the ace in any argument for God.
Only God could have imagined from
    nothingness the pang of salt.
Political peace too. It should be quiet
    when one eats an egg. No political hoodlums
    knocking down doors…
It should be quiet, so quiet you can hear
    the chicken, a creature usually mocked as a type
    of fool, a cluck chained to the chore of her body.
Listen, she is there, pecking at a bit of grain
    that came from nowhere.

~Baron Wormser, from “A Quiet Life” from Scattered Chapters.

So much depends on the cluck of a chicken, on her self-satisfied cackle when she releases her perfect egg into the nest.

I wish I could be so flawless as her egg but am far from it.
The simple things in life season me with meaning and flavor,
all God-given mercy making it possible that I am here at all:
walking this earth for the time I am granted,
talking with those who listen intently,
healing those who seek my help,
writing for those who read kindly,
loving those who, like me, thrive
solely on being fed God’s gentle grace
salted over my forgiven flaws:
I’m a boiled egg peeled imperfectly
with divets and bits of shell still attached,
yet formed from a clucking chicken fed generously
from His holy hand.

A Slug Solace

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“Girls are like slugs—they probably serve some purpose, but it’s hard to imagine what.”
Bill Watterson, in Calvin and Hobbes

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Slugs appear out of the ground after a drizzle like seeds that plump and germinate miraculously overnight. The slug crop burgeons, and with it, oozy trails of glistening slug slime.

We live on a hill, which means I need to walk downhill to the barn for chores.  On one particular day, the path can include a slug (or three) under each foot. That produces a certain memorable squish factor.

I’ve learned to don my rubber boots and just squash and slide. There will undoubtedly be more slugs to replace the flattened lost, like watching freeze-dried shrinky dinks spontaneously rehydrate.

The trip to the barn for chores becomes a hazardous journey, slipping and sliding on hordes of slugs that have surfaced everywhere like pimples on a teenager’s back. They crawl out from under every leaf and every stray piece of wood to bask in the morning dew, replenishing the moisture lost over weeks of hot sun. Somehow I always suspected there was a secret world of organisms out there, oozing and creeping in the dark of the night, but preferred not to think about them if I didn’t have to. But they would confront me regularly to remind me of their existence and my own.

At dawn, the cat food bowl sometimes contained clues that parties were being thrown at midnight by the back porch, with glistening slime trails in and out of the bowl and in concentric circles all around. When I would grab a handful of green beans in the garden, some of them would be slippery with slug slime and neat little chunks would be missing. The tidiest stealth invasion was a tomato that looked invitingly red and plump from one side, but when picked, was completely cored, hanging in a dangling half shell from the vine with mucus strands still dripping. There was some serious eating going on right under our noses.

Actually the chewing is under the slug noses, all four noses to be precise. With that much sensory input, no wonder a slug knows about the transparent apple peelings lying on the bottom of my tall compost bucket outside the back door. I think they traveled for miles to find this particular stash, climbing up the bucket sides and slithering down into glorious apple orgy. The party lasted until morning when I discovered them still congregating and clinging, gorged and immobile in their satiety on the sides and bottom of the bucket. I had unwittingly provided the means of their intoxication, having now become an accessory to minors in possession.

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In my more tolerant older middle years, I now appreciate slugs for what they are. No longer do I run for the salt shaker as I did in my younger, more ruthless days. Instead I find it strangely reassuring that a land locked amorphous invertebrate can survive weeks of summer heat, weeks of no rain and still thrive to replenish its kind. If something so homely and seemingly inconsequential to the world can make it in spite of conditions that conspire to dry it to dust, then maybe I have a chance as well. I too may not be presentable at times, and sometimes leave behind evidence of where I’ve been and the havoc I’ve created. But then someone puts out a sweet meal for me to feast on, allowing me a celebration of life, and spares me when what I deserve is the salt shaker.

It is solace indeed: if the slugs are loved, than so am I.

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