Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Gift From the Heavens

Today, I delivered sugar and crackers to an ant hill.



During my morning stroll, I saw a bunch of ants in the parking at work, and followed them back to their hill. I've been thinking about ants a lot lately. They are always on a mission. They work so hard. It's a labor of love, really, because the hard work they perform doesn't necessarily make their immediate existence better, I don't think. It just helps their fellow ants, and creates a place where more ants can be made.

And I'm watching these ants. And I'm thinking, "I've stepped on these before. Intentionally." And I felt kind of sad about that.



Living beings, even the smallest ones, are just that...living. They do things for reasons, and therefore they reason. Maybe not like us. But they reason, and live their lives doing what their instincts tell them to do. We kill insects so casually. But that's a life we're ending. Snuffed out in an instant. For no good reason, often. There was a lot of work that went into bringing that life into the world. The mating, the nest, the nurturing. Even on that tiny scale, they have a lot in common with us. That ant might not be a person, but it's a somebody.

So, I went to the lunchroom and poured some sugar into a cup, and crushed up some crackers, and I went out and poured the stuff next to the ant hill.

Can you imagine what that would be like for an ant? Earlier, I'd seen ants traveling the ant-equivalent of a hundred miles just to bring back a portion of a leaf or twig or crumb. Now, within just a few human inches of their hill, they have sugar and crackers, in quantities so vast, it would take them days or weeks to gather so much.



Maybe I made the burden of the ants just a little smaller for today. Maybe a few ants will have the luxury of not walking so far, across searing asphalt, to get what they need to live and thrive and satisfy those instincts to search and gather and build. Even if it's just for today. Maybe tomorrow the exterminator will come and wipes out thousands of lives in an instant, without really giving it a moment of thought.

But today, those are some happy ants.

UPDATE

Yes, those are my photographs! Rest assured that no ants were harmed in the making of this blog entry. I transported the ants in a roomy Ziplock bag, and they were given fresh water and sweets.

The images were captured after several hours of gentle ant wrangling, with the assistance of a macro lens, three extension tubes and nerves of steel.

Bonus ant!



These are maybe some of my favorite photographs ever. When you get this close to these creatures, you simply can't view them (literally or figuratively) the same way ever again.

Oh, and the images I posted aren't even the close-ups.

3 comments:

Jonderson said...

"Can you imagine what that would be like for an ant? Earlier, I'd seen ants traveling the ant-equivalent of a hundred miles just to bring back a portion of a leaf or twig or crumb. Now, within just a few human inches of their hill, they have sugar and crackers, in quantities so vast, it would take them days or weeks to gather so much.

Maybe I made the burden of the ants just a little smaller for today. Maybe a few ants will have the luxury of not walking so far, across searing asphalt, to get what they need to live and thrive and satisfy those instincts to search and gather and build."


Do you know what you have done? Do you have any idea what the consequences of that will be? Assuming nobody bothers these ants in the meantime, in a few months, after the demise of the current generation and shortly after they are done eating up your "gift", they will discover that they have degenerated into a lazy, fat society, unable to walk that hundred miles for a twig or bit of leaf even if they were willing, which they won't be because they will have adopted an irrational sense of entitlement to food without working for it because that is all their generation has ever known. Even the ones physically willing and able will be petrified of leaving the hill because of the frightening giant feet which they have heard about from the few ants who have dared venture out a little ways.

Evil Scott! Bad Scott! You have Americanized an entire ant colony!

Jerry said...

Looks like you caught them early in the morn, before they had a chance to shave!... Did you clear these with their agents?... But seriously, AWESOME images!... Look forward to more closeup nature pix with great ANTicipation!...

Chris Robinson said...

My Uncle thinks you are being biased and he demands you photograph him immediately.