The earth is in constant motion. I was recently reminded of that fact while moving through the first few pages of The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms, by Amy Stewart. I recently picked up a copy at my local library after browsing the shelves and stumbling on the environmental-related materials. It was a humble and diverse section nestled next to the poetry. A fine position, as I am learning that the Earthworm is the most unsung of all poets.
In Chinese materia medica they are often referred to as “Earthdragons”. The bodies are dried and used in the creation of medicinal teas benefiting the circulation, working to unblock heat and stagnation from within our bodies. This is no small task, especially considering that their work continues on beyond death. Imagining what these little dragons accomplish throughout their lives helps to illustrate just how vital they are in the formation of the earth itself.
Across the continent, on the shores of small tributaries, in the shadows of sacred mountains, on the vast expanse of the prairies, or in the safety of the woods, prayers are being repeated, as they have for thousands of years, and common people with uncommon courage and the whispers of their ancestors in their ears continue their struggles to protect the land and water and trees on which their very existence is based. And like small tributaries joining together to form a mighty river, their force and power grows.—Winona LaDuke
I anticipate the unfolding story of the Earthworm, as told by Stewart, and become more curious about the work being done around me, and without me. The work being done in the earth, in the air, and in the water is a very ancient prayer. This prayer holds a deep intelligence that is not named by, or after anyone. It is a prayer that embodies the spirit of liberation. It is the Great Spirit that guides us all. This work, this prayer, a place that we are coming back to through memory. We are remembering how to live in the balance, and in the process learning how to be wholly human.
When I imagine the work of one Earthworm, I think of the work of thousands, or millions of Earthworms and the capacity of a power like theirs. Collective work is collective power, according to the Earthworm, who shows by example how beneficial organized work can be. There is so much we can learn from the Earth, and our relations about how to live. As I listen more closely for these lessons, I’m curious to learn how the work of the Earthworm has changed since they were first described by Darwin. The affects of population and industry growth has had to have its toll. Environmental and human degradation, I can only assume, has proved an equal challenge. What burdens befall the Earthworm? I wonder.
The Earthworm, like any movement leader, leads by example. An alchemist of soil, our homie Lubricus tills and sifts the damp earth. And like any movement, the work is done tirelessly beneath the surface. In 2017, I hope to recognize and reflect that spirit in honor of work that is collective and generative, and to pray every chance I can.
In (New Year) Solidarity,