Urban Wildlife Garden

You don't have to live in the country to enjoy wildlife

Hurt no living thing can be taken to extremes. In India the Jains sweep the ground before them to avoid stepping on an insect. Knowing that others take this command seriously gives me some comfort as it is my habit to go to great lengths to avoid killing creepy crawlies. But it doesn’t stop there. I’ll also intervene to prevent others from inadvertently taking a life. I can be seen diving along pathways removing slugs ahead of my fellow walkers and steering them away from spiders or ants running across the path. I am aware of the sideways glances but I just can’t help myself. It could bring me good karma in another life and indeed should reincarnation be the natural order of things I may be saving an ancestor or two. And so it was that I spent three days rescuing a worm.

On the first day I noticed the worm lying out in the pathway of our back alley when I went to put some rubbish in the bin. His head was under an unfinished slap of concrete but his body was wiggling all over the path. To prevent fatal injury I bent down to pick him up but he refused to budge and simply pulled his head further into the hole. I guessed he knew what he was doing and left him to it, but tucked his tail along the concrete edge just in case.

On day two he was still there. Not as wriggly as before but still with his body and tail exposed in a devil may care manner. Not like a worm I thought. My pesticide free garden is full of them and I only have to turn the earth with a trowel to bring a batch to the surface like tangled shoelaces. I’ve never seen one stay exposed before, not even when the ground has been waterlogged. They will always find somewhere to hide. Why hadn’t this worm disappeared into his hole beneath the concrete, I wondered? I got a trowel and began to dig around the worm. I pulled gently at his body a couple of times but he was determined to keep his head buried. I couldn’t really dig out any more earth without hurting him so I tucked his body into the small dip I’d made and left him there.

On the third day I woke with a sense of mission. I needed to rescue the worm. In my sleep I had understood that the only reason the worm didn’t move was because he was stuck. His head in the hole, his body outside, unable to move or call for help he was due to die a slow death. If he was still there and still alive I was determined to save him. Dressed in my pyjamas I got the trowel from the shed and started digging diligently round the worm. I could get very little earth out with the trowel which is why I had stopped the day before. The worm was still moving but in a subdued manner and I knew that time was running out. I put down the trowel and used my finger to pull away tiny amounts of soil from around the worm’s head. Just little specks each time until my nail flicked out a small stone and in that same moment the worm was free and lay by my feet in a bemused manner. It appeared to be undamaged though who knows what kind of mental state it was in. I picked it up, a quick examination showed all segments intact and I popped it into the soft soil of my flower bed where it gratefully burrowed out of sight. It may only have been a worm but that rescue gave me great comfort and hopefully racked up a few karma points. In any event it should make up for that cheeseburger I ate the other day.

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