Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I'm not off to a very impressive start with my "One-Man Book Club" idea, in which, theoretically, I report on the garden-related books I'm reading at any given moment. I'm reading a lot of them, actually, just not making time to write about them. For instance, I finished Amy Stewart's The Earth Moved at least a month ago and then moved on to, let's see, a bit more of Rudolf Borchardt's The Passionate Gardener and the last few chapters of Daniel Pinchbeck's 2012 (that one's not explicitly about gardening, but somehow it fits in for me), and now I'm on to Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. Somewhere in there I read a book about Findhorn, too. If all goes according to plan, I shall comment on each of these sooner or later. And this flurry of intellectual activity will surely stop as the weather stays warmer and spend more time playing in the dirt. But back to the earthworms for a sec. Here's a passage I bookmarked to quote:

When I stand at the edge of a forest, at the base of a mountain, or in my own backyard, looking down at the soil, I feel the way I do when I look out at the ocean, where great blue whales and giant squid swim the unknown depths, where sharks hunt and sea cucumbers wave with the currents. ... The ground has its own kind of fluidity, its own hidden world, its own mysterious inhabitants. What creatures, I wonder, would rise up from the surface of the earth if I stood long enough and watched?

Entomologist Douglas Emlen has an answer to that question: the dung beetle! Previously known to me only as the star of a Kafka story, this lowly critter (who lives a good couple of inches into the soil under pretty much any and every animal's droppings) turns out to be pretty remarkable, as Emlen explains to Terry Gross on this fascinating episode of Fresh Air devoted to his life's work. Do not miss the curiously beautiful photo gallery or the video of two beetles fighting. Looking at them, I cannot help but think of a certain album cover:

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