I have a moment to share: not a senior moment, to which so many of us are prone, but more like a driveway moment — a term used on National Public Radio to describe a story so compelling it keeps you in your car long after you’ve reached your destination. In this case, though, the radio was off.

My husband and I were in northwestern Connecticut, spending last weekend with friends. Coming back to the house from the local bookstore, I was about to turn off the motor when I noticed an exquisite black ant with quite a problem on his hands —all six of them.  He was struggling up my windshield, on his back the earthly remains of a gorgeously chartreuse caterpillar easily three times his size and weight. The thing just wouldn’t move. It must have had a sticky coat because it held to the steep slope of the windshield as the ant studied it from every angle. He tried pushing it; he tried pulling it.  He went ahead of it; he went behind it. He considered it from the left and then from the right. He used his front limbs and then shoved it with his face. He seemed genuinely to fret over how to get the job done. Imagine lugging a rolled 8-by-10-foot carpet up a hill. To my amazement, over time, he made slow but concrete progress. I was enthralled by this little creature and his inescapable predicament. His only reason for living was to bring that caterpillar home to the queen and the colony, and he wasn’t doing such a hot job of it. This was not an act of will. The tiny bit of DNA his elegant body possessed demanded this exhausting act.  He might die trying. I sat there for at least half an hour. I wondered whether, if I were to pick them up, it would disturb the balance of nature, like the butterfly that flaps its wings in the Himalayas and causes a tsunami in South America. I decided to wait and watch some more. Ant and caterpillar eventually made it to the top of the windshield glass.  By now, he had rolled his catch into a ball and was carrying it over his head like Atlas holding up the world in Rockefeller Center. It looked smaller than it did when it was strung out like an inch of green vermicelli, but it had to have been plenty heavy for him. Then, a gust of wind came up, or exhaustion set in, and the two tumbled back down into the grate behind the hood of the car. I snapped a picture with my phone. Would they fall into the engine block? I was devastated that his progress should come to naught.



That was enough for me. Time to play God. I picked up a little twig and coaxed onto it the world’s weariest ant and his bright green burden, placing them gently onto the grass in the field behind the house.

Where did he go from there? Had I messed with Mother Nature? Would he ever make it home? I can’t answer these questions, but I can say that the tenderness and admiration I felt for this little guy on a mission stirred in me a corny-as-Kansas-in-August crush on nature, as well as a surge of gratitude for the chance to witness this simple day’s work. It also made me think about the big, green caterpillars I cart around every day. Am I as diligent, as determined, as undaunted, as resourceful as the ant? On a good day, the intention is there. But most days, not so much. He is my new hero.

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  • CYNTHIA July 21, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    INSECTS AND I, WE HAVE A STRANGE AND VERY BIZARRE COMMUNICATION
    WITH EACH OTHER. WHILE MANY OTHERS WILL STEP ON THEM WITHOUT
    CARING, I MYSELF, I WILL MAKE SURE MY FEET ARE NOWHERE NEAR
    THEM. I WILL STEP OUT OF THEIR WAY IF I AM ANYWHERE NEAR THEM.
    SOMETIMES I WILL CRAWL ONTO THE GROUND AND URGE THEM TO GO
    TO MY FINGERS, AND AFTER THAT, I WILL PLACE HIM OR HER GENTLY
    ONTO THE GROUND. I WILL HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH THESE OF GOD’S
    CREATURES. I RESPECT INSECTS AND ANIMALS MORE THAN MOST HUMAN
    BEINGS, BUT I DO IN ALL FACT AND TRUTH LOVE ALL OF THE LORD’S
    CREATURES. INSECTS CRAWL UP ONTO MY FINGERS AND SOMETIMES
    UP MY ARMS. EVEN RACOONS THEY GO TO MY FEET AND I SHOW NO
    FEAR OF THEM, UNLESS THEIR MOTHER IS NEARBY. BUT, MOST DOGS
    AND MOST CATS WILL NEVER BITE ME, OR SCRATCH ME. SOME MAY
    RUN AWAY FROM ME, DUE TO PHYSICAL ABUSE BY THEIR OWNERS.
    I LOVE ALL INSECTS, ALL ANIMALS, A FEW HUMAN BEINGS, ALL PLANTS
    ALL FLOWERS AND ALL OF HUMANKIND AS GOD HAS TOLD ME TO DO SO.
    FROM CYNTHIA JEAN BRODIE.

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  • CYNTHIA July 21, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    I ONCE HAD AN ANT FARM, AND I ENJOYED LOOKING AT THESE
    DILIGENT CREATURES, FOR THEY TAUGHT ME SO MUCH THAT NO HUMAN
    SCHOOL, EVEN SCHOOL OF HIGH MORALS COULD EVER TEACH UNTO ME.
    I ALSO HAD A BUG CATCHER AND I CAUGHT WONDERFUL BUTTERFLIES
    ONLY TO SET THEM FREE, AND I ALSO CAUGHT GORGEOUS GRASSHOPPERS.
    I ALSO CAUGHT A PRAYING MANTIS. I ALSO CAUGHT MULTITUDES OF
    INSECTS. IT IS IN SUCH A WEIRD WAY THAT INSECTS AND I HANG OUT
    WITH EACH OTHER. WHILE THE PEOPLE AT SCHOOL WERE INTO SPORTS,
    I WAS IN THE BACK OF THE SCHOOL COLLECTING INSECTS, STARING
    INTO THEIR BEAUTIFUL EYES, AND I EVEN LOOKED INTO THE EYES
    OF A BEAUTIFUL DRAGONFLY. WE HAD A VERY GREAT CONVERSATION.
    HE KNEW HE COULD TRUST ME. WE BOTH STARED ON EACH OTHER FOR
    APPROXIMATELY FIVE MINUTES. I ALSO LIKED TO CATCH WORMS.
    I ALSO LIKED TO CATCH LIZARDS AND FROGS, I ALSO LOVED TO CATCH
    LADY BUGS, I ALSO LOVED TO CATCH THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY, THE
    MOST COLOURFUL AND BEAUTIFUL BUTTERFLY IN MY EXISTENCE.
    I ALSO LOVE TO HEAR THE BIRDS SING, I THINK OF THEM AS BARDS
    LIKE I AM MYSELF A POETESS. FROM CYNTHIA JEAN BRODIE.

    Reply
  • CYNTHIA July 21, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    I TRULY BELIEVE THAT CATERPILLARS AND ANTS SHOULD BE GIVEN
    THE ALLOWANCE TO LIVE JUST AS WE ARE. THERE WAS ONE TIME
    WHEN I WAS 7, THAT I TOOK A JAR AND I STRODE OVER TO THE
    TREE, THEN I OPENED THE LID AND THEY ALL FOLLOWED MY JAR.
    AFTER LOOKING AT THEM, THE HORNETS, I SET THEM FREE AND NOT
    EVEN ONE STUNG ME. CATERPILLARS AND ANTS ALWAYS CRAWL UP MY
    BODY FOR I KNOW FOR SURE THAT THEY TRUST ME. I WOULD NOT HURT
    ANY INSECT, ANY ANIMAL, ANY HUMAN BEING, OR ANY PLANT OR ANY
    FLOWER OR ANY TREE. SINCE MY FRIENDS KNOW ME, THEY HAVE TOLD
    THE REST OF THEIR FRIENDS THAT THEY ARE NOT AFRAID OF ME AND
    THAT THEY MUST NEEDS NEVER BE FRIGHTENED OF ME.

    Reply