After the rain

After the rain come the worms, languishing on the sidewalks and driveways, longing for the grass, for the soil, before they are baked by the sun into coiled fossils of themselves. All that aerating potential, all those casings, squandered.

But for Rowan.

Rowan, for whom the three-block walk to the babysitter’s this morning was a worm-rescue mission, the stretches of concrete filled with new potential for good works.

“Oh! A worm!” he’d say every 15 feet or so, dropping the Thomas and Percy trains he held, one in each hand, in order to stoop down to pick up the latest candidate for salvation. “There you go,” he’d say to each one, dropping it onto a lawn. “You’ll be okay.” Then he’d look up at me: “I think that worm needs to go to bed,” he’d say. “I think so,” I’d reply.

Sometimes, often, even, I find the inevitable distractions of the walk — the sewer grates, the snow banks, the endless sticks to pick up and discuss — mildly irritating. I should tattoo, “The journey, not the destination,” on the back of my hand, but not today. Today, I am all for the worms, all for Rowan's nurturing of them, the way they coil in surprise at his touch as he gently picks them up, even for the way he also manages to tread, oblivious, over others in his new white sneakers with the Velcro fasteners.

We talk about the worms, and I try to explain why they are good, why they are important to the plants and the soil. “And what else?” Rowan asks, after each of my sentences. And I tell him something else. The word “compost” is used. Bliss.

He scans the sidewalk ahead of him for more worms, the wind whipping about our heads, the sky grey and unsure. Looks up at me again:

“It’s a nice wormy day, isn’t it?”

It is.