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Earthworm Hibernation + You

On a blustery, midwinter day do you ever wonder where the earthworms are? I do. Naturally, winter behaviors vary across species but when a state of pseudo-hibernation is attained for earthworms it is called estivation. I dug into this notion of comparing the tensions of deep winter human habits to those of placid wriggly fellas aerating my compost pile in the warmest months. Below are the spoils. It rolls in at about 1,600 words. Let me know if you have thoughts or feelings. ~Rockosopher

Swiping the page, you strike a list of winter woulds, marking against them are contrasting coulds, better nots, mindfully tarrying away from painful shoulds, and slipping into an accounting of supposed-to-be-doings. This is a gentle corrective action asserted when the midseason lethargy of absolute stasis unexpectedly affronts you, as it does now. You have come to the eve of the eve of the close of a fragile year. Presently, an oozing temptation to faff away your ripe dormancy looms.


What will you do with what you would have done if these months were not still a period of rest? Presented thus, you stare down with pale interest at your scribbled laundry list of supposed-to-dos. A tangential step out from these sacredly silent days. What one is supposed to do is often separate from that which one supposes to do, and even a shocking gate and amble away from what one might do as a product of further suppositions.


Assuaging this morning, in its meditative hush, you are brittle to the possibilities of another year's turn over. A timer bleats. The simple button reducing plastered walls again into muted thuds of snow sloughing from the roof. It is not yet the solstice. However, the days are abbreviating more rapidly and still loafing along with a radiated sky purpling equitably to the coils of cool tones coloring each cuetailing winter day. The striking down of your persuasive list tightens your stomach. You grope for the fish flakes and with a sprinkle the corner of your lips crack with a lighthearted grin. Your attention reclaimed into the present by this innocuous act of care. One way you retain routine. Suspicious to the incipience of knotting yourself into blankets, you roll your chin to the left in a stretch of the right neck and shoulder, freeing a wild yawn and thus bringing all normalcy back in to traditional winter practice.


The residue from Thursday's culinary catastrophe is scraped again into the yellow bucket, the tools of cooking cleaned and slotted into their rack to dry. Presently, the necessities have been addressed. The dog removes himself to the living room, with a huff and slouch, throwing himself against the mat but not upon it.


The day is young even if the year is tired.


Time, seemingly stagnant, trickles through a colander of behavioral cues in the palm of your winter schedule. Rising in the dark, the gift of a vibrant sunrise illuminating half of every day. In the living room, a surprise dusting occurs. You cannot stop it, the cloth crawled into your hand after you noticed the twin mantels between the living and dining room are bare. They ought not to be. Can you wait for them to redustify and then, overcoming the alien impulse of today, hide the cloth and enjoy the cloaked

wood as it rests under a powder like the world outside? How things are done seems to be unwinding strand by delicate, unobtrusive strand in the slack of inaction.


This is far from the time of year for that. Coffee with milk, always with milk. Though it is one of the first to run out at the store, you pour milk gluttonously over the rim of your mug without concern for stockpiling.


Deterring to reflect on why opportunity wound up on your back this morning, a doze in proper form is taken until noon. The book with home renovations that are supremely impossible at this time and in this climate rolls under your flippant pursuing. A coffee table book is the ideal medicine to right this inclination toward doing back into a healthy, supine torpor.


Your pleasure is curtailed by an untimely flurry of exuberance at retiling and grout scraping, lawn trimming, warped board replacing, woodpecker discouraging, and compost churning. You pass the book back onto an appreciably dusty shelf, exchanging it for a drawing pad and five random colored pencils. These are the ones made with cedar wood, the artists pencil nubs from a previously successful wintering. Another hummingbird for the stack. Again, constancy wins out with subtle attention reduction to when or why tasks must be done at any given time. How exhausting to be bombarded with so many happenings to black out the wellness of simmering quietly with a huffy dog sleeping against, not on, his mat.


Creaks of pressure changes mean the ambient air temperature outdoors is above zero and that means an outing can be made to remove any foulness competing for the smell of nothing on the first floor. Something like emptying the recycling or swamping the compost after a stab with the shovel. No, not the compost. A pile as prominent as the one propagating into offshoots in summer is an enduring champion as it is. Stealthily keeping itself unfrozen insulated by a layer of snow and furiously metabolizing an unseen world within. A species of self-regulation prized among the domestic arts: composting. The fate of your saturated grounds rededicated by worms and soot and earthy humors.

You put the pencils aside, leaving the two that rolled under the chair-of-the-day to explore the world under the furniture. Falling backwards into yourself is often the effect of running so far out of expectation that you slam straight into the embrace of an emollient darkness painted over the maw of open-ended, and therefore tenaciously presumptuous, opportunity to not do things. And what a treasure it is when there are not things that can be left undone.


You hum. Walking barefoot up the knotted steps, noting their groan of acknowledgement, to where the carpet draws against your high arches and the heat ripples along blades of a directive ceiling fan. It is not the humming you find soothing. No, the rumbling in your larynx is not severe but also not a fresh audible object. It has no body to inflate the music now seeping in through the violet sunlight slipping to earth between cracks in today's sheet of clouds. Why must the daylight do this? Tease the senses to indicate it is only early afternoon. Middle winter. How elevating to recuperate yourself, ferreting inward from the bruising activity of warm months. Now you sit easily at the height of the winter bell curve, smoothed by the accumulation of particles rounding into your sharper corners. You are starting to hum again. Directly, a sere song you don't not remember but also don't mind to not forget, under the circumstances.


Signs of impending actoin curl like a hand over the back of your neck and you check your mental inventory of what-not-to-dos. Uplifting air currents push snow into a drift against the back door. Catching your reason for coming upstairs. The socks sneak under one arm. Hiking socks that have survived to become boot liners yet again, and now back down to the dining room with a low groan from the stairs.


Tidy, that's what you will not do. A way to avoid supposing to be practical and a thing of no seasonality: taking out the trash. Fairness is a matter of decomposed wits. Having outfoxed your abhorrent chorus of shoulds with a small diligence fueled by liberally milked coffee. The trash bag on its way to the curb rings as if filled with cans being jaunted on down to a recycle center but you know there are only broken-down non-recyclables in there, no matter the sound. You cannot ignore it in the frigid quiet of outside stillness. The air bled away its color months ago. That odorous vitality of blossoms and sweet grasses tickles the pit of your elbow. Your parceled fix of productivity slaked, the compost mound veers your attentions away from the dual tracks of woulds and coulds leading to the back door and its stylishly slanted snow drift. An image formulates around the chest-high compost pile.


Stab it with the shovel behind the back door. Satisfactorily soiling your boots in blackening mud, reaching this clump here, replacing it with green material from there, mixing in another few shovels of pine sawdust from the covered bucket. Both shovel and bucket are kept inside as is their place in the winter, being drawn outside to violate the not doing of things.


Two knees, shoulders, wrists, along with one ankle and sternum give a cartilaginous pop with the intentional slowness with which you now fold inward the planes of your body, crouching at the base of the seething mound of life outlasting.


Still covered with thermally protective snow the compost refuses to stare back. If you were to contravene your commitments, go and shovel and turn over the pile what would you find? Eighteen hundred worms wriggling in a fit to escape the suffocating cold, in full or in part, to the moistening protection of their subterranean deliverance. Those who are determined by nature will have long ago twisted together exposed on the smiling face of the earth and then laid their eggs safely below the predicted frost line, finally crawling up to the leaf layer and dying with the fall of first frost. Some will harbor long nights of decomposure in and under this miniature mountain of humid nutrient reclamation. Still, a few others will have burrowed deeper beneath the creeping front of ice crystals sure to burst their gentle tubular bodies. There, where the cold cannot steal their breath, these worms tie themselves up in knots exuding mucus to fend off caustic dryness. They wait cocooned for conditions to improve, calling them to disentangle from their isolation and surface back into meaningful procedures.


Standing, you straighten to another chorus of crackling joints and crunch over to the back door. Leaving the compost pile at its unique and beautiful remediations. Finding your erratic list of obligations heavily redacted, you are righted the rest of today; toes splayed and fingers insouciant as they move around another tropical bird emerging from a snow-white page, you are chastened to discover when the deep borrowers will wake up. But you will not wake them up.


You will wake them up.

THE END

All images are sourced from Upsplash.

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