Thursday, October 05, 2006

Squeamish

Gardening is credited with benefits such as reducing stress and increasing physical fitness. I’ve found that gardening not only does these things, but it has also reduced my squeamishness.

For instance, I can now handle worms. Whenever I cultivate a new spot, I try to save the worms from my hoe’s blade. I carefully pluck them from the soil and move them to a safe place. I’ve even come to appreciate a worm’s slimy lubricant. It enables one to grasp the end of a fleeing worm and pull it free of even solid clay. Worms are tougher than you’d think. Much of my squeamishness is related to squishing things and having their insides come out and touch me. (Yes, I have a horror of guts.) Surprisingly, not a single worm has come apart, despite my rough handling. The fatter, juicier worms still make my gorge rise a little, but I just think of all the castings such a worm will make and I feel a little more tenderly towards it.

Another of my garden related fears was the possibility of unearthing a dead body. I admit to a general “dead body” phobia. I’m especially frightened of finding them in bathrooms. When I was younger, if I had to use an otherwise empty public restroom, I would pee as fast as I could because I was sure that, in the stall next to me, a murdered woman was propped up on the seat. I tried to finish my business before that body dislodged from its precarious position and tumbled to the floor, flinging bloody parts beneath the partition. While I can now use public restrooms without qualms (at least, dead body qualms), I still check the bathtub in strangers’ houses for bodies. A drawn bath curtain always arouses my suspicions.

The leap from dead bodies in the bathroom to dead bodies in the garden isn’t as great as you may think. It started after I read Tracker, by Tom Brown Jr. In the (true) story, the boy starts a campfire in the New Jersey Pine Barrens in the winter. As the fire’s heat thaws the surrounding ground, the stiffened hand of a corpse (mob hit) emerges, frightening the boy and forever haunting my imagination. That story, combined with my existing, bathroom corpse fears, convinced me that ground everywhere was teeming with rotting bodies. (I’ll admit, watching Night of the Living Dead didn’t help either.)

I’ve gone on about dead bodies far longer than I meant to, but I think I’ve properly established the background for my corpse phobia. As I dug my first few holes in the yard, I worried that I’d hit the putrifying body of an animal, if not a person. Hundreds of holes later, I haven’t unearthed a single body part, with the exception of a steak bone, probably buried by a dog. I have, though, buried a few bodies myself, leaving a surprise for future gardeners.

I wish I could say that gardening had cured me of my fears of slugs, grubs, cicadas, and spiders, but it hasn’t happened yet. I’m taking baby steps. I can now calmly observe these creatures, if not touch them. Bear brought a cicada into the house and I didn’t go into hysterics. (I did tell him, quite sternly, that cicadas belong OUTSIDE.) Yesterday, I pushed aside my revulsion at finding a slug and knocked it into the pond for the fish to eat.

I wish I wasn’t such a girly-girl about creepy crawlies and rotting things, but I get a bit better every day. Spending time in the garden relaxes me, strengthens my body, and gives me a chance to commune with the wiggly worms and rotting corpses. Can you claim such benefits from another activity?

6 Comments:

Blogger Allison said...

It's funny, with me bugs are all about context. I have no problem with bugs in my garden (except the earwigs, which totally freak me out anywhere) but if they are in the house I can't go near them.

And as for dead bodies... whenever I walk my dog in Rock Creek Park and let her off the leash, I'm always scared she'll come running out of the woods with an arm or a foot in her mouth...

8:14 AM  
Blogger John said...

I greatly enjoyed your post, I'm still laughing. Your fear of lurking dead bodies makes me feel better about my fear of poisonous snakes.

Allison,
Regarding Rock Creek, that sounds like a rational fear to me. When we lived in DC, they dredged Rock Creek looking for Shandra Levy; they found two or three bodies but none of them were hers. Keep an eye on your dog.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Zoey said...

I felt right at home reading this post. I am exactly the same way about worms, slugs, etc. After years of gardening I can now touch them, but ONLY with gloves on.

I have even squished a slug with only my gloved hand! Yup, picked that baby up right between my thumb and forefinger and gave him a big squeeze. It was a moment to behold.

You know now that everytime I go into a public bathroom I will be thinking of a dead body in the adjacent stall!

2:38 AM  
Blogger Blackswamp_Girl said...

Like John, I'm still laughing over here... I really enjoyed your post this morning. :)

6:12 AM  
Blogger Dianne said...

Why did this post remind me of the Yahoo tv commercial where the woman uses a new fertilizer in her garden and out of the ground pops Scruffy the dog! Her little girl exclaims-'Scruffy' you're alive!
I only worried about unearthing pets at my moms as we went through many a hamster, etc. Here, I never even thought about it. I think my husband buried one dead kitty, but way down the end of the property.
We don't live that far from the Pine Barrens-sure there are lots of weird things in there!

8:39 AM  
Blogger Girl Gone Gardening said...

Thats funny you mention dead bodies.....

Every time last week I drove down county line road, I could of sworn I'd seen somoens foot by the side of the road sticking out of the ditch. It startled me several times and I told myself it couldnt possibly be a foot....so the other day I pulled over and took a look. it was a limb from a tree....LMAO!

7:06 PM  

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