The Ant People

As many of you know I have a large ant colony that forms the heart of my garden. I have watched them for years and their goings-on have filled many an hour with utter fascination and wonder.

It is the time of year that the Ant People’s children are coming to the surface. I think of it as a great puberty rite when juveniles shed their wings and become part of a broader and more complex world. There is so much activity around the hill. Some would think of it as scurrying; I see it as a celebratory dance for the new generation that will carry the torch into another day.

The thing I find exquisite about ants is their extraordinary sense of community. Each member spends the day doing things that insure the survival of the community, their tribe. They work together with an inexplicable, cooperative genius. I wonder if the ants squabble among themselves. Do they have their own political agendas, their own conspiracy theories? Does an ant think of itself as being so special it doesn’t have a thought for any other individual in the community? Maybe, but somehow I doubt it. Over the course of the many years I have watched them I have never once seen ants behave like 21st century humans. Ants take care of each other; their sense of community is a hardwired responsibility that is demonstrated every minute of their lives. They work together to hunt and gather food, housekeep, and raise their young, as a community. Sound familiar? It should. For 2.4 million years we lived and discerned with the same genius, the same compassion, the same determination that guaranteed the survival of our species.

But we have left many of those treasured tidbits along the trail of our short incarnation. I think perhaps we should back track and pick up the pieces we have foolishly discarded. The Ant People have taught me the truth of this. They know as well that long after we have bred, fought, and brutalized ourselves into extinction they will still be here hunting and gathering, housekeeping, and rearing their young in a community that is a living, breathing entity unto itself. Their dreamtime must be inconceivably dazzling, their winter stories carried by their storytellers for unknown millions of years. Ants have lived through Earth epochs unimaginable to us. They have watched the rise and fall of unfathomable numbers of plants and animals. And yet they persist.

The Ant People. Their wisdom entraps me. They have taught me to perceive as they do, to compress all of Creation into a single moment that never ceases creating. The Ant People are patient teachers, kind to this foolish old woman, and generous with their bounty of knowledge about the beauty of the mystery. They are my friends.

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