Stop! Look Down, then Look Beyond
February 17, 2013
The driveway was crumbling blacktop having been pasted on a too-steep hill that wasn’t interested in holding it in place. Bert and I were there to help a friend carry in a new mattress, and when Bert went to the back of our vehicle to close the tailgate, he saw it first. “Come here,” he called to me. I doubled back and rounding the taillight, I saw him bent in two staring at the ground. “Look at this guy; look at this.”
There on this rough surface, which to this little fellow must have look like the rocky road to Dublin, was a tiny ant pulling a mighty load. Here’s what we were privileged to watch. He was shy a quarter inch, pulling a flake of bread crust about the size of a nickel. I had seen such amazing feats of strength and endurance by ants before, but not this next part. Every time his load hung up on some blacktop debris, rather than tug and rant and rave, he zoomed off over the surface for several inches, returned, and drug the crumb on a new path as slick as skates on ice. When it snagged again, he repeated this behavior and off he’d go once more.
Now, I don’t mean he picked along darting here and there determining the best course. He didn’t appear to be scouting. Rather I’d say he knew the path and merely marked it for easy following. Each time the crumb stopped him; he’d pause for an instant, shoot off in a particular direction, retrace it and move the crumb with ease. Very quickly from seemingly nowhere, two buddies appeared, and we left them to take their prize home.
All the rest of that day and on into the next I pondered, attempting to imagine what it would be like to live on this earth with the sense of surfeit that ant had; to live continually aware that I too know within me all I need to live with ease. Trust me if you will, thinking is not the friend we imagine. We’ve just got a great deal invested in it, the most questionable in my book being that it somehow places us above all other life on this planet. Unfortunately, the intuitive and the intellectual seemingly run at right angles to each other and unless a few more of us ponder the contradictions we note, we may be in for a rough patch for another thousand years.
On the evening of that second day of reflection, I said to Adrienne, my unofficially adopted daughter and friend, as we ran down the streets of Huntsville, “Before I die, I want to know this world as if it were home, rather than like a kid outside a candy store.”
I’ve noticed that that list has been getting longer—the one listing what I want to know before I go. But then from the movie, The Exotic Marigold Hotel, I shamelessly steal a line that offers ease in the face of this conundrum:
Everything will be alright in the end. If it is not alright, it’s not the end.
So I’ve time yet, and take direction from Rilke’s sentiment in Duino Elegies:
Everyone once, once only. Just once and no more.
And we also once. Never again. But this having been once,
to have been of the earth, seems irrevocable.