Tuesday, March 31, 2009

An insect’s antics make good therapy

For an ant, a twig makes a handy bridge.

My previous post on the birds' nest I spotted near the ceiling of the Budget rental car kiosk inspired Shelly Patton of Louisiana SPCA in New Orleans to write her own ode to nature. A quirky afternoon with an anthill in formation made me smile. She saw power in this little insect. He instinctively knew he needed to work hard to ensure survival. Humans need to be taught this skill, and we all know some people who never learn it.

In watching the mesmerizing display, Shelly was finally able to escape the all-consuming, mind-altering state that characterized survivors of Hurricane Katrina. When the fatal wake receded, not even grass was left growing. The toxic floodwater had eaten every scrap of vegetation away.

The ant meant life was returning to a place that had died for a time.

Shelly's just quit smoking, so she's feeling a bit challenged lately. We all know what it feels like to leave a vice behind. Painful and distressing. I have a feeling she'll be searching out another anthill sometime soon.

Ant photos taken by Ginger Schell Morvant.

Just a quiet afternoon swinging from the grass blades.

A note by Shelly Patton

Carreen, when you wrote you had watched the birds for almost an hour, I remembered one beautiful summer afternoon when I watched a large red ant dig a new tunnel. He was only a few inches into his work when I chanced upon him.

This ant was fascinating in his movements and abilities. He toiled alone, going in the tunnel with nothing more than a goal and coming out with a huge piece of dirt he threw casually onto a mound he was building to the side. I watched for a long time, lying on my stomach, at eye level with the ant. At one point, I guiltily caved in his tunnel only to have my admiration of him grow beyond that of most humans I know. This red ant quickly cleared his tunnel, the dirt flying out in little puffs of dust and debris.

The ant continued as if nothing had happened. He dug deeper and deeper. Each time he went into the tunnel, it took longer for him to return to the opening with his laborious load. I wondered if he connected with another tunnel, because I waited and he never returned.

The next morning the ant was gone, as was any evidence of his tunnel. I think the dogs may have sniffed out what interested me and disrupted his work beyond repair.

Watching this ant happened only months after Hurricane Katrina shattered my world. It was a time when slowing my mind wasn't an easy thing to do, but that ant did it.

The point is, in the past few weeks, I haven't been able to slow myself. I have been racing around running from feelings of anxiety and the frustrations gripping me. On reflection, I feel very similar to the first many months after Katrina. Your post reminded me of an avenue to relief I had forgotten. Nature.

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