Of Turtles and Worms

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I met a few area writers today at Botanica in Wichita, Kansas, for a writing marathon. Some of them knew each other from previous marathon events. I knew a couple from area groups, and met a few new writing friends. The purpose of the marathon was to help each of us break through whatever blocked our creative muses and just start writing, a good experience for me in a lovely location. It’s not that I have no ideas. Indeed I might have too many. It’s just hard to focus and find direction. The ideas are, as my friend April described it, “like a sprinkler, spraying thoughts everywhere.” And so I was glad to meet Meg and the worm.

“Oh, little worm, you’ll never make it,” Meg said. Stooping for a twig, she allowed the earthworm to coil around it and lifted the creature to the mulched area beside the concrete walkway.

Instantly, I felt a bond with this woman. I’ve done that as well, urging my grandson to transport wigglers littering the church parking lot after a rain back to landscaped areas. His first inclination was to smash the worms. But he soon joined me in the rescue efforts, turning it into a game to see who could save the greatest number of worms.

Kids and nature. What behavior is innate? And what behavior is learned? Are we born with the inclination to assert power over those weaker than ourselves? Or do we have generous hearts until someone convinces us otherwise?

Not long ago, I drove between Douglass and Derby on a paved county road. A mile distant, a car had pulled to the side. Traffic wound around the parked car. I slowed as I approached and watched a young woman step onto the road from the car’s driver seat. She ran two steps toward the road’s center, then looked at my approaching car and stepped back to wait. I slowed even further, noting an object on the road in my lane. Something she lost? No. It was a turtle. As I carefully maneuvered around the turtle, we shared a smile, the girl and I.

In my mirror, I watched her dart to the turtle, carry it across the road, and return to her car.

There is hope in this chaotic world. Thirty-five years ago, I was this girl. God bless her. What happened to me? Too many issues. Too many problems. Emotional fatigue to the point where I sometimes have trouble feeling anything at all. There’s so much to care about, my heart is overloaded.

But I can cheer her on, and others like her. And I can pick something–just one thing–to care about, even if it’s an earthworm crossing a parking lot after a rainstorm. Tomorrow I can pick something else, a turtle perhaps. Or a butterfly, a child, or a friend in need.

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