Judith writes:

It seems unfair to malign worms by alluding to something negative as a “can of worms.” Worms are so quiet and modest that we often take them for granted. Silently working away, year after year, turning tons of organic matter into soil. They are the base, the foundation, the ground source of our food. Worms are the unsung heroes of the subsoil. Without them there would be no farms, no friable land. We could not live without them.

In 2003 as an artist for Gallery Route One’s Artists in the Schools Program I had the good fortune to go on a field trip to the Permaculture Institute with a group of West Marin School students. The theme for the project that year was Turning the Tables: Food, Farms and Sustainability.

When Director James Stark opened his worm box, a group of 4th grade girls shrieked then plunged their hands into the composting garbage and brought up big handfuls of the squirming wrigglers. Everyone gasped, then everyone wanted a worm of their own. At that moment of epiphany, my appreciation for worms as reality and metaphor was born.

In that gesture of plunging into the unknown, I witnessed the daring and trust that is necessary before the writhing wonder of creativity can be unearthed. And so, I made this Can of Worms.

From the label:

To open a can of worms
is to open to the writhing
unexpected, indifferent,
ever-present chaos;
the vagaries of persistent anxiety;
the pervasiveness of doubt.
To open a can of worms
is to dig deep into
the dank night of the soil;
the wild, passionate, rebellious, humane.
To open a can of worms
is to illuminate the darkness;
the mind of truth.

worms on shelf