I plunge my hand into the twice-turned soil. It sinks deep. The earth in my palms squeezes to a ball, a loose ball I can’t shape to a sausage that curls, no matter how hard I try. A worm wriggles to the surface, then plunges out of sight again, a slow motion driver. Or maybe that twisting and turning is a kind of dance. Darwin wondered if earthworms respond to music. He once moved his piano and various instruments out of the garden, and while his wife and children played minutes, he bent close to the earth, observing the worms. I don’t know what conclusion he came to.Tomorrow, I will be turning this worm-world upside down. I hate the thought of it, but I don’t know any other way to make the soil good for my plants. I could leave it be, forget the gardens altogether. Would the worms be happier without all that tasty manure and mulch? Maybe they grow philosophical, too, as they set their house in order, singing some nematode version of that old Byrds song “Turn Turn Turn”, which borrows from Ecclesiastes: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose in heaven.
I always wonder… What is it, this surge to dig, to peel back the earth’s skin and sink my fingers into moist soil, to manipulate what grows there of its own accord?
It is not a simple thing.