Growing up on a farm, even a hobby farm, surrounded by wildlife, you learn pretty young that nature is pretty savage. And sometimes, your attempts to make it less so make things worse.
For that reason, I love the Gary Larson (creator of The Far Side) book There’s a Hair in My Dirt.
In the story, a young worm, sitting down to dinner with his family, starts to complain about always eating dirt. And what’s worse is that this meal, there is a hair in his dirt!
Father Worm tells his son a story, about a girl named Harriet, who loved the magic of nature, and everything in it.
She feeds squirrels, which turn out to be an invasive species of squirrel that steals food and resources from the native squirrels.
She throws a “turtle” into a nearby pond to save its life, not knowing that it is a tortoise, who can’t in fact swim, and sinks to the bottom like a stone.
Harriet loved nature, but had never taken the time to understand it. So most of her assumptions, and the following actions, were wrong. And in some cases, harmful.
The book takes some pretty dark turns, and you have to notice the little cartoons in the corners, where there are things like a Father bird cooking his eggs, or Harriet stomping right on a bunch of bugs, or the lumberjack running over a squirrel.
The book is brilliantly macabre, as well as being educational. I got it from the library a while back, remembering that I’d liked it years ago, and liked it even better now.
I read bits of it out loud to my Mom as we were driving home, and she liked it so much that I wound up reading the whole thing to her. She kept stopping me to say, “It doesn’t really say that, does it? You made that up.”
But no, I was reading the book as it was written. Of course, it didn’t help that our library had it in the kids’ section, so she was expecting a book for kids…
I wouldn’t suggest it for young kids, and Amazon says it is a YA book. But I do think it’s a good book to read. It will make you think about nature and the reality of life. What you do after you think is up to you, but at least you’re thinking.
And, yes, I anthropomorphize with the best of them. Perhaps beyond many of the best of them. It’s sort of my thing. But I try to not let my anthropomorphizing get in the way of what is really the best thing to do.