Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Worm Hunt

My last evening spent in Ashland, Wisconsin involved a time-honored ritual for fishermen of old.

I went crawler-huntin' with my dad.

After a soaking rain these ground-dwelling creatures will emerge from the sodden earth and it's in these brief moments that fishermen can catch them.

Now night crawlers are not your typical, skinny earthworms. They are big and unbelievably fast. And for anyone who is thinking "oh catching nightcrawlers for bait is so cruel!" just keep in mind that nightcrawlers are an invasive species in North America. I'll hunt these big boys, but I'm also the girl who "rescues" earthworms that are stranded on the sidewalk at dawn. I hate the thought that they'll cook on the pavement and so I'll transfer them back to the dirt if it's not too late.

My dad and I crept across the lawn, flashlight in one hand, ice cream pail in the other. Any sudden movement or light shined a second too long on the worms and they dart back into their holes. Yes, dart. Again I can't say enough about how ridiculously swift nightcrawlers are. I learned quickly that if a worm caught my eye one second and I looked away, or hesitated, it would instantly disappear with no evidence that it had ever been above ground.

It took about five worms for me to get my catching technique down, whereas my dad had a bucketful within a few minutes. He's been fishing a long time, while I've been living in the city.

When I asked my dad about how I could surprise the worms, he made a comment that lodged in my brain.

Me: They're so fast, how can you catch so many?

Dad: Don't shine the light directly on them, keep it a little to the side. And they come up here to mate, so sometimes you'll get two at once. They're all wrapped up in each other and they don't notice anything else.

Me (*chuckles*): Love blinds and destroys.

I found it strange that nightcrawler habits could offer such a striking metaphor for human life. Maybe we're not that different from worms after all. Has any one of us not become so caught up in love or our own lives that we fail to take notice of the world around us - no matter how important what's happening outside our own experience might be?

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