The primulas have been coming up in gardens across the south east of England.
Primula: so very Middle England: well-formed, compact, it keeps to its station and adds colour to the Spring pots and gardens. It does what a flower is meant to do; it doesn’t make waves like the impertinent forget-me-not which arrives at garden parties unannounced and elbows into every horticultural conversation.
The primula has manners. No imagination, granted: but a very British reserve, and manners.
I was outraged in a very English way, then, when I realised that small earth-dwellers had been making a meal of my primulas.
I speak, of course, of the slugs.
A couple of Summers at least, their particular brand of chaos has been absent. What is it about this early warm spell that has brought them into my garden?
They live – not in the soil – but on it, under things: wet things. They are the earthiest of the earth’s inhabitants: base and basic, a mollusc without a shell, a tiny nightmare of torsion. Mucus covered hermaphrodites, they seem odious.
There is a place for such creatures: those who help the stuff of nature decompose, who debase as part of a greater cycle. Think Golumn; and think Caliban.
Shakespeare knew his stuff: in The Tempest, he contrasts the ethereal beauty of the forma and intellect with all that is base and despicable.
The beautiful spirit on the magician Prospero’s island is Ariel: a creature of beauty, accomplishment and noble mien.
But for every beauty there must be a grotesque. And the monstrous Caliban is everything a grotesque should be. An inhabitant not of the restless shifting air but of stolid earth. A Tellurian indeed.
Son of the witch Sycorax, Caliban is billed as ‘A mooncalf’, not ‘honoured with human shape’. Lest we are tempted to feel sorry for him, Shakespeare reminds us that he attempted to rape Prospero’s beautiful Miranda, symbol of all that is new and unblemished. And he’s unrepentant: he would, he says, have peopled the island with Calibans, had he not been stopped in time.
Yet Caliban has his uses. What a dull island it would be without the sand he brings to Prospero’s pearl: the grotesque entertains us all, and we sit in the theatre stalls and adore to despise this son of earth.
This morning a visitor arrived at our house: the ethereal collie, Clover. She is staying with us for a week: quick-witted; a little detached; fleet of foot and bright of eye. A veritable Ariel of a dog.
The epitome of the beautiful spirit who does Prospero’s bidding, the polar opposite of Caliban, she brought our own base little troll into bass-relief.
Macaulay the smelly terrier was most put out when Clover arrived. He retired to the first floor, where he sat on his cushion regaling anyone who would look with the most baleful of stares. Suddenly his tellurian fox-poo cologne seemed less of a fashion accessory beside this sleek dark addition to the household. His earthy moustache appeared bluff beside her shining jet muzzle.
For our Ariel, this afternoon’s walk meant asking the humans, continuously, to play: what games might we have today? Would a stick be a possibility? She charmed Phil by placing a stick on his knee, and he spent some considerable time throwing and waiting for our Ariel to fetch.
Meanwhile, our Caliban was busy finding dead things and unspeakable scents and squirrels to torment. Had he found the right dog, humping would not have been out of the question. He did not need us one jot in the midst of all this heaving life and death and decay. This was his element.
As the walk drew near to its close Clover was still playing, interacting, charming. She would run like the wind, and return to catch the eye of a human.
But Macaulay had spotted a special treat.
There has been a small forest fire, close by here. About an acre is blackened by charcoal, and in the middle of the charcoal is a pond.
We looked around for the smallest dog and knew, instinctively, that he would have headed for the black, just because it was black, and for the pond, simply because of its very pond-ness.
I squinted. Yes: there was a small mast-like tail, moving jauntily about the blackest of pigments, sampling all that charred undergrowth could offer the inquisitive muzzle.
When Macaulay returned, his body and tail and ears and nose were their customary black and tan.
But his legs were the richest shade of jet black.
These Tellurians: earthy inhabitants of this planet, the slug, the scavenging terrier: it is easy to predict the chaos they will cause.
Because without fail, they will head for the earthiest of the experiences our planet has to offer.
Written in response to Side View’s theme: Tellurian. It means of Planet Earth: I stretched it this week to mean: Earthy.
37 thoughts on “Pertaining to the Earth”
There lies the problem – we seem to concern ourselves with the alpha and the omega rather than that which lies between, which is neither too beautiful nor too grotesque, the salt of the earth.
Ah, there you have me, Roger: I am a confirmed polarised thinker; I place issues at either ends of a continuum and too often do not consider the middle ground. I should have “Life is a continuum’ tattooed in my forehead.
not base – although I too have had terriers – but their readiness to enjoy everything not just the ‘nice’, although often smelly and, to us, disgusting is their readiness to enjoy life to its fullest – refinement and daintiness if only half the story – I leave slugs alone for the most part only constraining them when attempting to put food on my plate – they are given instead the leaves that need to be eaten and reprocessed back into the soil – if they eat the primrose leaves well, it just adds a new ‘texture’ to the leaves (texture was what my weaving teacher told me I was adding when I went wrong – ‘not wrong just a different texture’!:) I liked her very much
many years ago ,and it was probably over thirty now, the garden we had as a family was on the cold clay of Sussex my mother planted a packet of forget me not seed (one of her favorite flowers) they did indeed romp through the garden elbowing and talking loudly, wherever they could shove themselves in. The family moved then to three different homes in Kent and finaly up here on the east coast, potting up various shrubs that had been given as presents, or hand grown, to move with us, into everyone of those gardens the ofspring of those flowers came too, hitching adventourous rides to wherever, and yesterday as i cleared the raspberry patch I was again moving clumps of forget me knots to the wild- flower garden – they will be back and they make me smile everytime – they want to go, do, be everywhere – true explorers, flowers after my own heart!
Without Gollum the ring would not have been destroyed, without faithful boring Sam the ring would not have been destroyed – refined, good Frodo would have failed at the end!:)
happy spring day to you all – tis very cold here:(
Ah, the exuberance of the commonplace, Alberta :-)I can just imagine those forget me nots travelling from place to place peddling their turquoise. I can se you are an alibi of the underdog; you’re right that all of them – the little terrier, the slug, the forget me not and even Gollum – have their part to play in the turning of the world.
Superb craftsmenship and interpretation 🙂 really enjoyed this piece Kate! Who does Clover belong to?
Clover is my sister’s dog. The rest of my large family favour collies. It is only our branch who have taken up with small terriers.
The cultivated primula may mind its manners and stay where you put it, but its cousin the real Devon primrose is another matter; it strays wherever it wants (and only where it wants) and pops up in unexpected places and times – in the crack between two paving stones or hiding beneath a sheltering juniper to flower on Christmas Day. That’s why I love it.
I couldn’t agree more, Jan 🙂 Have you ever met Beangenie? http://beangenie.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/primroses-primroses-everywhere/
Still won’t forgive the slug for eating my garden.
Nor me. Hrumph.
You could put your dog posts in a book: Macauley Tales. Charming post!
I always felt sorry for Caliban. Prospero was the real monster.
Bit of a control freak, that wizard, it’s true.
Redemption for Caliban? now there’s an idea!
Poor Macaulay, just doing what is in his nature and having some cutie pie showing up to steal the eye of the proprietors of his domain.
It is funny to watch how pets react to visitors in their world, usually not well.
I know: he is making is displeasure felt, Lou. He still gets pride of place sleeping in our bedroom while Clover gets a basket in the kitchen, so he does get resident’s perks 🙂 I don’t think he’ll be sorry to see the back of the collie when she leaves, though…
Ah… but I bet you still love Macaulay best despite his earthiness. 😀
You’re right there, Ruth 🙂
Loved this, Kate.
Especially: For our Ariel, this afternoon’s walk meant asking the humans, continuously, to play: what games might we have today? Would a stick be a possibility?
She never tires of asking, Nancy!
I love reading these posts about your dog, and the other dogs who occasionally visit your household. I truly miss having a dog as a companion and friend; I’ve been thinking more and more of taking a visit to local shelter and seeing if I can’t find a loving soul there in need of a home and someone to walk with. In the meantime, I’ll keep enjoying your adventures.
Good luck in your deliberations, Kathy. A dog enriches our life. He makes it quite smelly, but he enriches it endlessly.
Ah me! Poor Mcauley, outshon by Ariel, but given his rightful place among the intrepid explorers who think only of what I’d to be discovered, and so little of the audience.
He’s a trooper, Sidey 🙂
I’m hard-pressed to know if a slug makes even a minute contribution to eco-systems. They are an annoyance, and it takes preschoolers (and maybe curious dogs) to find them fascinating. I admire Macaulay’s natural curiosity and unselfconscious sense of self! The older I get the more I smile at all the Ariel’s who are still trying to make heads turn. To every thing there is a season…I want to trudge through with Macaulay as my guide 🙂 Always curious…Debra
Some of my favourite words, Debra: to everything there is a season. A time to decompose and a time to build….I have to concur with you on the slug front. They are impossible to warm to…
Beer kills slugs. So I’m told. And, it might make Mac less earthy……..or something……….
In a roundabout way, Andra. Slugs LIKE beer, so putting a cup at the garden edge will lure them in . . . and they will drown (thus possibly saving the primulas). SALT kills slugs, and it is horrible to behold. Do NOT try this at home. 🙂
If not slugs, then surely something else equally repugnant will draw the pup’s attention. Those of us with terriers in our lives must adjust to the fact that they will always and ever have their noses to the ground, ferreting out new wondrously disgusting doggie treasures.
I am ashamed to admit I have actually done the salt thing. Slugs can make one mean. I shan’t again though. Ah, the terrier life for me….
Hi Andra, hope the party was a lovely one! Life took us over here and I’m sporting a rather horrid bug so looking like death warmed up. I mean, i’m looking a bit more like death warmed up than usual. I hope you tested your slug-charming skills in this last party at your present gaff. That would have been quite an ice breaker.
Not that you ever need an ice breaker at your soirees.
As usual, great reading. I did not receive the email version for April 1st., but I think I made a mistake trying to stop all the comments you receive from all your many fans. Well deserved as they are it was packing my email to overflowing. I hit “follow” again but I think I better do some reading on how to write a blog etc. Computers are fairly new to me … I just started writing. I thought it was a good way to keep in touch with my grand-children as they live too far away, and they grow up way too fast. Thanks for your time.
I wondered what peeps would do with the weekend challenge…what a fab write, Kate! As a solitary soul, I must say that Mac’s spirit speaks to me..as does your closing picture. Not sure if I’m predictable…other than I oft get myself in trouble trying to be ‘earthy’ ~
I too have an earthy side, Angela. So Mac and I get on famously 🙂
😀 Kate, your wonderful characterization and comparison of the dogs (and the flowers) here has me laughing out loud – “his tellurian fox-poo cologne” – haha – poor Macaulay – I bet he was glowering from beneath those anarchic eyebrows of his
Enjoy the doggy visitor! Your terrier and mine would make a fine pair, she keeps eating the bbq coals!
Macaulay is my…oh yeah, I’m on self-imposed restriction…Caliban, indeed…
He is a role model amongst Calibanesque role models, Brett 😀
I agree with Three Well Beings about young children and dogs being fascinated with slugs and so unrestrained in exploring the earth. I hope Macaulay adjusts ok to his canine visitors soon.