I have written in the past about my wonderful compost and its happy population of worms, which do much more of the work of composting — pretty much all of it, in fact — than I ever suspected when I threw a few into the container.
A recent Science News article on fossilized worm burrows thus struck me deeply. The fossils from the Ediacaran period, 550 million years ago, may be the oldest example of animals turning the ground to look for food — and may have created new environments and new selection pressures. The idea is unproven and still controversial, but these burrows may be evidence that worm burrowing started the Cambrian explosion, which produced most of the major animal groups around today.
The idea is charming and resonant. What if I and all the world I know around me are some great art grown by worms, tilling and tilling, for hundreds of millions of years? What if the Anthropocene era is simply the latest of their fads and genres, the slam poetry to their gymnosperm sonnets and dinosaur operas?
In Proverbs of Hell, William Blake wrote “The cut worm forgives the plow.” He may have been righter than he knew. Perhaps their forgiveness is not fortitude or patience, but the indulgent parent forgiving the biting three year old, the reader forgiving a paper cut.