Ants & other Small Matters

I didn’t kill an ant today.

It dropped out of some peonies I gathered this morning, the armload of white and ruffled blooms fresh from the garden’s morning sunbath. It seemed a shame to waste the flowers, since Carl is too unsteady to risk the crumbling steps out back and Iris too fidgety to enjoy sitting out on the lawn with me.

I brought them inside and trimmed the stems and arranged the blooms in a square, shallow glass bowl that I set on the center of the table. Iris being asleep, I decided to do a little writing, enjoying the sweet, heavy scent of the flowers at the same time.

And then an ant dropped out.

I don’t go looking for insects to kill, but I generally do kill the ones I find in the house. Spiders, ants, earwigs. I know they all have a part to play in the great circle of life, but I have never been fond of the living room floor as wild savannah motif. I don’t want to think of them hiding out in the closet, scuttling up the sleeve of the sweater I’m about to put on.

So I dashed to the living room for a tissue, came back, and… laughed.

The ant was standing about three inches from the flower bowl, tense and poised, his tiny antennae going up and down like a kung fu fighter raising and lowering his guard. Then he made a dash for the edge of the table. Scooted out to the very edge. Flicked a leg down the side, and pulled it back to safety. A no go. Went scouting the other way.

Poor ant! Just a worker, doing his job among the arced ruffles of the peony blooms. He didn’t ask to be on a flower that got cut. He didn’t know he was In My House. Frankly the notion of a house this size would be incomprehensible to an ant… assuming ants comprehend.

Of course, now that I’d actually gotten a good look at him, imagined his life and the confusion of having one’s work environment suddenly transplanted to a foreign country and laughed at his kung fu cuteness, killing him was totally out of the question.

So I didn’t.

I put him outside, feeling a bit sad that having lost his own trail he would probably never find his way home. Odysseus, I thought, trying to make his prospects seem less mournful—or at least bring some gravity to the moment.

I liked that ant, and the more I thought about him the more I liked him.

… Coming back to this post a few days later, still ruminating on my Facebook encounter with the feminism-hating pastor, I like the ant even more.

It’s so easy to get caught up in killing the things you’re brought up to kill.

It’s easy not to think in general. To imagine that the boundaries you live by are a universal standard for all of life, and to see the lives and pursuits of others as being rather small, insignificant—even “cute”—compared to the obvious importance of your own… what? blogging?

I appreciate that ant.

I need more of those moments.



3 thoughts on “Ants & other Small Matters

  1. I notice you’re referring to your ant as “he.” I always do, too, and then I catch myself and say “she” because aren’t worker ants female? But then I wonder because they don’t reproduce, so are they either gender at all?

    OK, because I’m such a nerd, I looked it up mid-comment. Everyone says worker ants are female, but sterile. “Male” ants come from unfertilized eggs. Weird. Apparently ants have a totally different sex-determination system from humans. Also apparently, there are several different kinds of sex-determination systems out there in nature, not just the old x and y system that we have. Wow. So, I guess your ant is a girl on a lonely quest, “Odysse-ette?”

    • Nerds unite! I actually was going to write “she” because I had the same thought, and then I psyched myself out because I realized I was thinking of worker bees, and I really didn’t know about worker ants. And I was way to lazy to look it up.

      Power to the she-ant.

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