Friday, August 3, 2007

Cowgirl Meets Ants

I have often thought I would have made a great pioneer woman, forging rivers on horseback, hauling stones and wood, surviving in the wilderness. I would have learned to shoot and skin, grow my own food, understand the rhythm and rhyme of the wild. I would have been able to look at the vast, Western sky and anticipate snow on a bright afternoon, or the phase of the moon by the tilt of the sun. I would have been solidly solitary, triumphant over the cold, dark mystery.

I am this woman mostly in dreams since she is rather elusive in reality, but who can blame her? There are no horses to ride, no earth to till, and too much urban sprawl drowning out the swift phases of the moon and passing of the seasons. This morning, however, she is front and center, alive, demanding, and kicking ass...against ants.

I have no beef with ants in general. In fact, I find them rather fascinating creatures, especially after reading Lewis Thomas, who says, "Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment," and then goes on to explain how each ant is both an individual and part of a living, breathing organism. Indeed, they are much like humans on Earth; one need only watch city sidewalks from 100 stories up to see the resemblance. And yet. Ants are invading my kitchen. Now it's personal. Last night they seemed immune to the nasty chemical how-can-this-not-be-cancer-causing spray, but this morning I awoke early, before the sun, to find three dozen fellow pioneers strewn about the kitchen. Backs stiff, legs up dead. I felt a bit of remorse at having been the perpetrator of such a massacre. And yet. It's me against this world of ants, and now that I have declared my intent of victory, I feel I owe it to this woman who strikes me so.

If you've never read Lewis Thomas, start here: The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (Penguin, 1978), the source of the above quote. Painting: Harvey Dunn.


Pauline said...

Why is it that the bugs, who have the whole outdoors, seem bent on living in our houses?

You lived the first eight years of your life as a pioneer girl -

Solidly solitary. It sounds more romantic under a western sky.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I like ants in many ways - ever since I noticed they kiss when they pass each other. But I have had a house invaded by ants and its not nice at all.

shara said...

Pioneer girl. One of my ongoing fantasy alternate lives.