Sunday, February 13, 2022

Angels and Ants

 I thought about ants. They work so hard and industriously, making kingdoms on earth. In New Mexico, USA they seemed innocent enough, even noble, crawling busily over the high desert floor. At the time, I had traveled much and made art for over thirty years. Deep down I felt like stopping everything to simply become an observer. Watch ants work every day. Meditate.

Almost two decades ago, after my oldest daughter died, a poem came to me and included ants as a metaphor for elemental spirits of the world:

Angels and Ants

My pen tries to speak,
but the language it has learned 
is too sublime
for mere scratchings.
You taught me a new tongue—
the expressions of angels.
Alas, an ocean is between us 
which cannot be passed.
Wandering alone in a daze
I am left with the ants 
traveling over the dust of this world.

Amy and I have been living in Oaxaca, Mexico now for almost a year. For the first time in my life my home is in a place without winter. We grow flowers year around. The nearby plant nursery always welcomes us with myriad colors, exotic trees and shrubs and prices a fraction of what we would pay in the USA. Blooming rose shrubs cost 1.50 USD. Our eyes are dazzled and we make sure to smell them, to be certain of fragrance. 

Destroyed jasmine plants
I planted seven roses, caring for them, watching them slowly take hold and grow new leaves. Suddenly they were almost wiped out. By ants. Not just the roses, but many other of our trees, vegetables, and shrubs were being decimated. The jasmine plants in pots by our back door were denuded. By day I could not see much activity, but at night, by flashlight I saw legions of ants in long lines carrying cut leaves to their holes in the ground. 

The old lady, matriarch of the family who owns the nursery, when asked what could be done about ants, looked us steady in the eye and said, “kill them”.

I dug up my roses and put them in pots, then took them to my roof patio where they have revived and are producing marvelous blooms. Meanwhile, sadly I have had to declare war on the ants.

I have had to ask, plants or ants? 

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