Friday, February 13, 2009

13: crawl

It's raining again, like it was last night.

When I left home this morning, though, it was not raining. Walking through the courtyard toward the street, I nearly stepped on a six-inch long earthworm that had ventured out to check out the sunshine while the pavement was still wet, I suppose. I don't really know why worms appear on the surface after it rains: maybe to escape underground flooding? Anyway it's a delicate balance, it seems, since they dry up if they stay out in the sun too long. I've seen the evidence. Can you imagine living in a body so fragile that it would shrivel up completely after, say, a day at the beach or an afternoon in the park? And that's it. No more earthbound wanderings.

I remember tiptoeing up and down the long driveway in front of our house, dodging the scores of worms that would wriggle across the black pavement after a summer rainstorm. I was always really sad to see one that had dried up, and sometimes I would whisper to the others that they should be careful and go back home soon. On other days I might look more closely at this same terrain and see a single ant trudging along, and for some reason I found it fascinating to watch how it reacted when I placed my foot directly in its path. Ever tenacious, it always set immediately upon an alternate route.

In the fall I would gather helicopters—maple seedpods—by the armful and release them (the higher the starting point, the better) just to see them whirl ecstatically toward the ground. A related hobby was exploring the beds of impatiens (of which we had tons when I was very little) and popping the seedpods. They have a sort of rubbery, elastic epidermis, and when they are good and ripe, they have inflated like little balloons that, at the lightest touch or gentlest squeeze, burst and curl up on themselves. It was always so satisfying to play a part in that transformation. I could entertain myself for hours with these simple activities, micro-interactions with nature, just outside my front door.

Sometimes I miss that purity.

(photo credit: ian boyd)


Claire said...

wow, all experiences I never had. On the other hand, you probably never threw rocks and jumping chollas or chased quail, or played in a monsoon when you were young. I miss childhood too. I also miss nature--there isn't much of it in the city.

rantipoler said...

I love this picture, and I always feel so bad for earthworms when it rains. Should I drown or get squished? Darned if you do, darned if you don't.