Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A worm's tale


It was scary as a kid, knowing I had the power of creation. Pull a worm in half, I was told, and each half would live. From one worm, I could make two. I took a breath and tugged. It seemed to work. Each half wriggled. I kept my doubts though.
Then my mother told a different story, of when she and my father ran a farm. It wasn't a very successful farm, out in Wales near Camarthen. They ran a dairy herd but my father liked to sleep in. He milked the cows after that day's milk collection had already been around, the pales standing on the rack waiting for the following morning's pick-up. My mother's best relationship of the time (probably including that with my father) was with the farm's pigs. She liked their intelligence. However bright the pig, though, its day would come. After the slaughter the innards were heaped into an old bath tub, where they kept on writhing.
Lke my childhood worms.
I've only been fishing once, in a Canadian lake a couple of years ago. Bass kept biting and I hauled them in. It seemed a breeze, but I doubt I'll do it again. I hated piercing the worms on the hooks. They writhed as the hook entered their sides. I'll never believe worms don't feel pain. The hooks clearly struck them immediate and drastic shocks.
Walking Plymouth Hoe on the way to work, I spotted a thin pink worm stretched out on the half-mile stretch of tarmac which is the promenade. The writer Carlos Castaneda states that we should leave such creatures on their paths, for to move them is interfering with nature. That strikes me as nonsense. We are as much a part of nature as the worms. If we've been brought along, notice something that seems to need a helping hand, and are inspired to provide it, then that is nature at work.
I picked up the worm, flung it onto a lawned area, then stepped across the grass to see how it fared. It wriggled away ... then I noticed it had landed in a square foot of its kin, a whole set of pink worms a-wriggling.
Seagulls parade the morning grass. They paddle their webbed feet on the ground, early birds out to catch the worms, drumming them up to the surface. The gulls of the day had come and gone. My worm had lived to fight another day. And so had I.

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