An Encounter at Midnight ....by Sr. Anna-Camille

One year when I was teaching 6th grade, King County offered free worm bins--worms and all--to any interested classroom. I was definitely interested so that year became the year of the worm bin. As you might expect, some of the kids were fascinated, some grossed out beyond their ability to put into words, and a few were mostly indifferent. In their experience, teachers often did inexplicable things, and this was just one more thing to add to the list. However, as time went on, they, and I, became fascinated and then entranced. This is true alchemy of the highest order. In went scraps of food waste (no meat, no dairy), though I caught several students trying to slip Nacho Doritos into the bin. Garden waste, even newspaper was okay. And then, after a time, the magic happened and instead of unpleasant scraps of rotting garbage there was the richest, loamiest soil I had ever seen.

Which brings me to 2024, the Saturday night before Palm Sunday. I went into the dining room at about midnight to set up for Coffee Hour following Mass the next morning. All was silent. Just me, the dining room--and a worm. A large worm. Very much alive. Making its way with some difficulty across the floor from the warming table to the sink. Pretty much as far away from any outside door as it could get. Shock, a little bit of “ewwww” and then bafflement. Maybe it was feeling the same way. And then--a sense of wonder. Where had this guy come from and where did it think it was going? I found a soft spatula and a paper cup. I gently scooped it up and carried it outside to the garden and placed it carefully in a protected spot.

As I got on with my work I thought a lot about that worm, as I continued to do in the following days. We pay attention here at the monastery to the things God places in front of us: a deer at our window, a squirrel on the deck, owls calling to one another at night. We once had a bat fly into the dining room during dinner. He came from the hallway; the outside doors were all closed! We got him safely out and, on his way, and then we talked about what we could take away from the experience. And so it was with the worm. As I shared the story, I discovered that many people have a worm story, and that most people have great respect for what they do. I also discovered that the largest earthworm is the Australian Gippsland Earthworm that grow to about 10 feet. Though a specimen of a giant South African species that usually also grows to about 10 feet, clocked in at 21 feet. Should I ever encounter that individual in the dining room, I guarantee you an interesting blog post.

Beverley Van Praagh holding a Giant Gippsland Earthworm during a Museums Victoria field trip back in the 1980s. Image credit: Rodney Start/Museums Victoria (via australiangeographic.com.au)

Then someone asked me what the ‘animal energy’ of an earthworm was. So, I looked it up. Earthworm energy is healing energy, but even more, it is the energy that heals when all others have given up. It repairs where few other energies can. Kind of the St. Jude of the garden. It is also the healing of regeneration and new growth. It is the spiritual groundskeeper, receiving and giving nourishment to the soil. Earthworm energy is also helpful for dealing with strong emotions. It encourages us to “dig deeply” without fear. Earthworm energy is friendly and gregarious, and strongest at night.

 

Which brings me back to my midnight encounter. God could have arranged a meeting with a deer or raccoon; I could have heard the calling of owls. But it was an earthworm. It needed me to restore it to its rightful place, just like I needed it to do its work so I could live through the fruit of the soil. I don’t know that I have ever felt such a clear understanding of interdependence as I do when I think of those few moments of interaction. God’s peaceable kingdom is born both from a sense of all creation as sacred, and from an awareness of the absolute interdependence of all things in that creation. I have a plaque in my room that says, “Bidden or not, God is present.” I would use that declaration to make a new one “Acknowledged or not, you depend on all living things for your life.” And like all the other living things we share our lives with, the earthworm has its own wisdom to teach us.

 

 

 

Comments

  • Comment posted by Janice J. Ariza on March 29, 2024 at 11:37AM (24 days ago)

    What a delightful insight! The EWWW factor turned into a true thing of beauty and healing. I especially liked that the earthworm has the energy that heals when all others have given up- the St. Jude of the garden.

  • Comment posted by Laura Swan on March 29, 2024 at 9:46AM (24 days ago)

    Love this post. And interesting, worms have healing energy and St Benedict understood that worms (which we are to emulate) were the foundation of the ecosystem!

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