A Ceremony for the Worms

Then the night came, like a ceremony.

~Christine Kane in “Now That You Know”

And, tonight, I sat at my altar for a ceremony of gratitude to the worms.

I came home from work in the lovely, lengthening light and planted the last of the Black Cat petunias, and datura wrightii, black hollyhock, and white foxglove seeds. More rain is promised for this evening and tomorrow, so I wanted to finish up the planting. Like the Spring, I’m early this year, although my goal is always to get everything in by Beltane. It feels good, for once, to be done ahead of schedule.

I sit down on the ground and dig the holes for my seedlings and seeds with a small hand trowel. I like that system because it brings me close to the ground and I can see exactly what’s going on. How much has the mulch from the last few seasons broken down and turned into good dirt on top of the red Virginia clay? How wet or dry is the soil? Does it smell like good loam? And, maybe most important, how are the worms? Worms do so much to make soil healthy and their presence is generally a good sign for gardeners. I’ve never seen as many as I’ve seen this year.

I’m grateful for their presence here on my Bit of Earth and I want them to know how welcome they are. I also know that I kill some when I dig into the ground with my sharp trowel. And I want them to know that I’m sorry. (Indeed, I’m sorrier than Dorothy Parker who wrote: “It costs me never a stab nor squirm to tread by chance upon a worm. ‘Aha, my little dear!’ I say, ‘Your kind will pay me back, one day.'”)

And so once my planting is done, I hold a ceremony of gratitude for the worms, sitting at my altar and sending my roots deep into their kingdom and telling them how much I appreciate them, how welcome they are here, how grateful I am for what they do. You can laugh, but my worms and I have a good, well, not talk, but a good communication. I apologize for the harm that I do to them and, in recompense, I rise and go outside to spread coffee grounds (Starbucks will give you pounds for free if you ask) all around the garden beds. Landscape Guy first told me how much worms like coffee grounds and he was right. They do. And so do the plants. I go back inside and sit again at my altar and say to the worms and all of the powers, and spirits, and beings of this place: “May we live in right relation to each other.”

And then I put lavender, rosemary, and peppermint in the hottest bath water I can run and soak my old muscles. The worms are limber and flexible. This old woman is not.

May you and your worms celebrate each other.

Picture found here.

2 responses to “A Ceremony for the Worms

  1. I agree with you but apparently all but two earthworms are not native to North America and in boreal forests are an invasive species.

    Oh well. So are we, so are our pets, so are our farm animals and most of our plants….

  2. You might be interested in one of the environmental initiatives being taken by our local polytechnic:

    ‘In 1997, BCIT started what was one of Canada’s largest commercial compost systems with the importation of 170,000 (almost 170 lb.) red wiggler worms for worm composting. Four years later, the over half-million worms received 60 kilos of “green waste” daily, cutting campus waste by about 16 tonnes per fiscal year. Over 2,180 litres (six 96-gallon containers) of compost were harvested in 2008, and similar amounts are harvested each year. Campus yard waste (leaves, grass clippings) is composted separately on site at the warehouse.’

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