worm theory

My friend Jesse shared this poem with me and I just absolutely love it! Since reading it, I’ve been daydreaming about painting worms, compost magic, mycelium, decay and renewal soaked in ecstasy of simple but vital things – in a world often unseen or appreciated by most of us.

Feeding the Worms
by Danusha Laméris

Ever since I found out that earth worms have taste buds
all over the delicate pink strings of their bodies,
I pause dropping apple peels into the compost bin, imagine
the dark, writhing ecstasy, the sweetness of apples
permeating their pores. I offer beets and parsley,
avocado, and melon, the feathery tops of carrots.

I’d always thought theirs a menial life, eyeless and hidden,
almost vulgar—though now, it seems, they bear a pleasure
so sublime, so decadent, I want to contribute however I can,
forgetting, a moment, my place on the menu.

I have great fondness for worms and their role in creating living soils, and inspiring curiosity and connection. Having worked with children in gardens over many years, I’ve developed the Worm Theory. I believe these creatures can be a gateway to opening up curiosity and compassion for all other creatures. Worms are typically slow moving, and their lack of legs, inability to sting or bite, fly or crawl up your sleeve or into your face, means they can be held in peace and safety for close observation, as they tickle your hands, trying to move back into darkness. This acceptance of creatures so different from ourselves, opens up the mind and heart to others- that don’t feel as safe and easy. Next, they’ll be looking at rolly-pollies, roaches, other beings that freak out adults (pointing at myself here, I still squeal and recoil at the sight of a roach). I’ve seen kids name the worms, caress them, and even hold worm funerals, mourning the loss of a friend.

Worm Theory suggest that their gentle nature, facilitates connections to other worlds and lives not our own. Worms allow us to overcome the ick factor that may either be innate or learned, or a mix of both.

It turns out, they are fascinating creatures too, with much to learn about! Our youth program at Working Food would be a lot less fun without worms! Often, a simple worm activity ends up taking up an entire session and we just scrap the rest of our best laid plans, to go with the worm flow. Here are just a few things I know:

  • They are hermaphrodites.
  • They consume bacteria and fungi that decompose organic materials (i.e. they don’t actually eat the apple core you toss into the compost bin, they eat the microbes that eat the apple).
  • Their poop (aka worm castings) is black gold, a probiotic bliss for plant life.
  • They are an important source of food to so many other animals.
  • They have the ability to sense the world over the surface of their bodies; their permeable, moist skin is covered in chemoreceptors and they breath, taste, and sense light and vibrations over their body surface.

Worms painted with senna and avocado. Black soil is cabbage palm charcoal mixed in with splotches of black walnut, avocado and plantain. Various decomposing items painted with marigold, avocado, beets, cochineal. White mycelium added with a gel pen.

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