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Squishing the Worms of Spring

Jennifer Lane

Ihave never really been friends with earthworms. My mother, an avid gardener, used to try and acquaint me with the slimy fellows. She'd say that they helped to make the vegetables and flowers grow, and that they kept the dirt soft and nutrient-rich.

The reality of the situation never escaped me, however. Icould see through her exaltations on behalf of the writhing critters. The worms help the dirt by basically making the entire world their toilet. Furthermore, their disgusting appearance and unpredictable wiggling always put me off. I wanted nothing to do with them, and avoided digging or fishing as often as Icould.

Maybe this is why Ihave chosen the earthworm as my personal signal for the onset of spring. They tend to meet an unglorious end this time of year. Isaw one of the buggers the other day, bloated and washed up on the pavement along Kresge Oval. I get a small sense of power walking through a wasteland of worm carcasses. Sometimes the worms have even been shredded into bits by careless passers-by.

Admittedly it's not the most pleasant image, but it has a certain finality about it: Spring is definitely here.

Along with the earthworms will come other equally earthy signs of spring. The incessant rain will continue, the mud will get muddier, the birds will make more noise, and bugs will start to appear. Ordinarily, all of these signs could be construed as one big nuisance. At the beginning of spring, however, all of this teeming life makes a wonderful and welcome contrast to the dreary winter months when the hearty rats along Memorial Drive were the only nearby representatives of all things living.

Better than any earthworm or birdsong, however, is the fact that the sun will begin to stay out longer. Doctors and psychologists have long attempted to explain the effect that more sunlight has on all of us. It remedies seasonal affective disorder, they say. The depression and lethargy experienced throughout the stark month of February is remedied by the increased amount of sunlight that spring brings. It's somehow fitting that the earthworms won't be able to experience the same relief.

Regardless of clinical explanation, the increased sun-time simply makes everything, well, brighter. Going out in the evening is no longer an exercise in night vision. It doesn't feel like the world closes for business shortly after 4 p.m. And, if you're a student who sleeps until well into the afternoon, you're no longer in danger of completely missing the sun for the day.

There's even a certain unmistakable smell that comes in with spring. Something a little like mist, a little like mud, and a little like flowers that are just about to be. This adds to the totality of the spring experience. Just walking outside, you are encompassed by the spring fog and spring scents.

All in all, spring marks the giant defrosting of the world. None of us can escape it. From the rain to the mud to the earthworms underfoot, we're sure to get some of the world actually on us. And just think, in January all you could get on you was some dirty, salty, half-melted street slush.

There is a kind of primordial joy in rolling in mud, or splashing in puddles, or running naked in a torrent of rain. None of which, I might add, can you really do from inside the confines of an Athena cluster. And all this outdoor activity only gives you more energy.

While you might have hoped that your springtime energy boost could be funneled into doing your problem sets, Ithink you'll find that impossible. There's some irresistible attraction to the out-of-doors in springtime.

Idon't know about you, but spring pretty much makes me unable to work, concentrate, or even stay indoors. In fact, Ican't even finish writing. Iwish you luck over the next month or so in discovering your favorite springtime activity. Revel in it. As for me, I have already put on my galoshes and am ready to go step on some earthworms.