The Boy & The Earthworm

Written by Rachel Rodwell, Family Case Worker at Dandelion Time 

The story of a how a small creature can bring so much wonder

An earthworm discovered in our garden

‘I wonder what he’s thinking…what does he feel?’ mused the young child, lying flat on his tummy, face-to-annelid-face with a slowly, drying out earthworm.

It was a simple question, borne out of simple curiosity, but within that one, pivotal moment, it felt like the most profound question I had ever heard.

What would an earthworm think…feel? Would anyone actually care?

‘No idea…what do you think?’

‘I think he’s worried about dying’.

There ensued the flurry of a rescue mission; water, shade and shadows, a search for woodlice friends, a barricade against centipede and red ant enemies and existential ponderings upon the barricades of our own making and what we need to feel safe when we too, are feeling exposed.

I couldn’t help but think about the barricades that we construct, in the wake of trauma, protecting us from facing the unfaceable; those dissociative moments that protect us from the uncomfortable thoughts, implicit feelings and crippling somatic sensations that fuel the disconnect between mind and body, bringing in its wake, a pernicious dissonance.

I thought about ‘avoidance’ in its many guises, shrinking contact with our world and enlarging the perception of our chains and the propensity of our loved ones, in a curious, parallel dance of avoidance, to help us maintain the very barricades that perpetuate our isolation.

‘I wonder what it’s thinking, what does it feel?’

It dawned on me, that for this Dandelion Time child, this simple, empathic response towards something so small, so maligned…a pink and naked creature of the earth, speared by beaks and garden forks, drying out on pavements or drowning in puddles, was nothing short of miraculous.

I hear less, these days of the insect hum and the chatter of sparrows. I can’t recall the last, cockchafer swarm over the canopy of sessile oak, or watching the crane flies rise as I walked through the first dewy grass of late summer. Horse chestnut leaves are turning far too early.

As we face the ecological collapse of our natural world, I can’t help but wonder what will become of the generation of the boy, lying face down on the grass, protecting the writhing worm in his palm.

Somehow, though, I am feeling, more hopeful, for that morning I realised it wasn’t just the worm he was holding so gently in his palm…but the future of his whole generation and of those to follow.

He cared about the smallest of things

He was the answer to his question.

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