My son sits in the garden and collects snails.
This one is called Doug he says because he’s dug.
He holds a tangi for a dead one.
We are gathered here today to honour Jim.
He does heaps of balancing and climbing and that’s why he is called Jim. Because he does gym.
He had a moth called Climby because he climbs.
His spider is Hank The Wrestling Shark.
Snails, he tells me, are very kind. They help your garden and they’re very scared of people because people can step on them. If a snail’s shell is broken it dies.
It lives in the world with its most delicate part just out there, he tells me.
It would be, he says, like if we had our insides on our outsides.
It’s not just a house, he says, it’s not that strong. It’s like a heart.
How it must feel carrying your vulnerability, knowing its exposed to the world and there’s nothing you can do about it because this is what houses you.
The next day I see a snail and carefully place it on the ledge, out of harms way.
He loves worms.
Sometimes he says, people don’t like worms because maybe they got told worms are yuck.
People think they’re slimy but they shouldn’t know because you should never ever touch them.
He looks at me to make sure I’m listening.
This part is important.
He looks me in the eyes:
Our skin, to a worm, is very hot. They might look strong but they’re not.
If our skin touches a worm’s skin it will hurt the worm. They’re more fragile than they look.
But he doesn’t say fragile, he looks up at the sky and squints and searches his brain and says “Like a word for a bubble if a bubble was skin”.
He uses a piece of cardboard, dulled edges to transport a worm whose name might be wormy but I can’t remember now.
Later, while gardening I accidentally decapitate a worm. Is it decapitation if I don’t know where the head is? Poor worm, hurt simply by any interaction with us, while doing all of this important work for us. As important as bees but with less PR. They don’t even need us but are constantly coming into contact with us. An impossible intersection.
I refuse to watch when he lets spiders crawl onto his hand.
MAMA he says – Just let one on you then you won’t be scared.
He searches me for an explanation as to why I hate spiders.
They bite is not acceptable to him.
“They might bite but only if they’re scared and only because people are so mean to them that they don’t know if that person might just flush them down the drain”.
Can I forgive a bite from the bitten? Can I accept it if its motivation is fear?
He made a box with leaves and branches for a spider to make a web. Caught a spider and talked to it every day.
It’s just playing dead he said.
But it wasn’t. It was dead.
He doesn’t try to keep bugs anymore. Instead he just talks to the garden. Tries to build a bridge, through the impossible intersection. Tries not to harm.
You can learn a lot about how to live from a six year-old.