This is a tale of mendacity, injury, and ultimately, ruthless death. It’s not for the faint of heart.
If you live in the Pacific Northwest, actually if you live anywhere, you’re familiar with the humble earthworm, the largest member of Oligochaeta, a subclass of animals in the phylum Annelida, consisting of many types of aquatic and terrestrial worms.
Considering they’re rather blasé and inept, they play an important role, decomposing remnants of dead plants and grazing on bacteria, algae, single-cell organisms, and fungus, lining their tunnel walls. They also create channels for the penetration of roots, water, air, and nutrients, and produce castings – worm poop – the richest natural fertilizer known to humans.
Hermaphrodites, earthworms have both male and female organs so there’s no need to seek a mate of the opposite sex. They simply need to squirm over to another of their species, give ‘em a wink, and roll over.
Recognizing their importance, I’m pleased when I root around in our garden and find them in abundance. When displaced above the ground, I dig a little hole and put them back in the safety of the soil, away from scavenging birds and ruminating garter snakes.
When we have heavy rains, followed by high winds, our sandy soil is tousled, washing a plentitude of earthworms across our driveway, and as I discovered last Tuesday, beneath our closed garage doors. Mid-morning, I had physical therapy. Rich was going to take the yard debris I’d cut and gathered the weekend before to a local recycling center.
After putting my purse in the car to drive to physical therapy, I decided to dash into the house to tell Rich he should trim a few more branches from the gigantic hydrangea outside our dining room window before he left. The bush is so large that its cuttings – done over a period of weeks – can fill numerous 72-gallon trash bags.
As I rounded the back of my car, my right foot must have stepped on one or two earthworms, which had been hanging out under our now open drippy garage door.
I skidded, landing on my left knee. The pain was excruciating. I screamed for Rich, “I fell! I fell!” After what seemed like 5 minutes, and no sign of Rich coming to my rescue, I winced myself up, and hobbled into the house, my pants wet and covered with earthworm slime.
After changing my pants, with Rich’s help, I hobbled back to the car, and drove to physical therapy. While painful, my knee and leg didn’t appear to have any significant injury, and I was able to complete my physical therapy.
When I got home, I took a Tylenol, and continued working. The next day, the knee was sore, but there was no bruise. It was obvious the key injury was my pride, and realization I could have damaged my knee, which was the only bone in my left leg, which wasn’t broken in the accident!
A week later, you can still see the skid mark where my right foot compromised my balance. The squished earthworm(s) washed away after another rainstorm. It gave its life to remind me to be more careful where I step, and less anxious to get from point A to point B.