If memory serves me right – although these days it is not the best servant – the year was 1998. Maybe it was 1997 – before I changed. My ex-husband and I had designed, built, and moved into a beautiful pueblo styled home on 2 acres on the outskirts of town. The setting was also beautiful – the acreage backing up to state land abutting the military fort. No one could build in front of or to the west side of us. The mountains, like a crouching tiger, protected our backs. Ahhhh…paradise.
But there were ants. A huge colony of them lived underground near the front gate. They didn’t bother me really – but they were there. A spreading area of arid land gave testimony to their successful colonization. Each time I walked the dog I worried about her getting eaten by them. I imagined them creeping up on her one evening as she slumbered, taking tiny pieces of her until only bones were left glistening in the southwest sun. Ick. The ants must die!
I read on the internet that one must kill the queen or the colony would just move and start over – much like bees I guess. This is best done at night when the entire colony is home, sleeping, unaware. So I went to the local Ace and got the strongest ant killer commercially sold.
Like a thief in the night, with the thin beam of a flashlight, I picked my way through the un-landscaped yard and took up position at the ant hole. Carefully opening the bottle of poison, I poured the entire contents down the hatch. If I was prone to evil laughs I would have uttered one then – along with rubbing my hands together. My job done, I picked my way back, cleaned up, disposed of the evidence, and went to bed. Mission accomplished.
Upon awakening the next morning, and while still in bed, I was greeted by a phenomenon I had never before experienced: there was a silence underneath the seeming cacophony of the wind, the birds, and the usual bustle of the day. Something was gone from the world. The music that I had grown used to while living on the land had changed. An entire section of the band was lost and in its place was a large black hole. The silence was indescribable. Immediately I knew what part was missing and I also knew I was the cause.
I collapsed in tears like someone had sucked the air out of me. Deep sadness filled my heart as I sobbed “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”over and over. As I recount this, the tears in my eyes overflow while snot drips down the front of my blouse.
Native Peoples tell us that we are all connected and that we are ONE with the animals and the trees. Before my experience that sounded like pure bullshit – bullshit and a lot of touchy feely impractical stuff. I appreciate the hell out of the fact that I don’t have to hunt my own meat or kill and pluck my own chickens – plucking chickens is nasty work – but I just couldn’t picture myself at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods calling in the four directions, scattering cornmeal, smudging, and thanking Brother Bull for the fine cut of grass-fed prime rib.
I know there are no hard feelings on the part of Antdom towards me. I could make myself feel better by saying that we (the ants and I) arranged this so that I might learn of our connection and that killing a colony of ants is way better (better?) than killing a gaggle of geese or a flock of seagulls or a _____ of _____. Whatever explanation I or anyone can give, the lesson of my connection with The All is ingrained in me – from deep experiential understanding.
I am not sure why this memory has persistently been in my mind for the last 2 weeks or so. Maybe it has to do with reading Martha Beck’s latest book* and resisting the exercises within. In the section on “Oneness” she suggests ways of connecting with nature. In my “been there, done that and it scared and saddened the shit out of me yet still intrigues me” way I am stuck in the beginning of that section. There is a heightened responsibility that comes from the knowing that one affects and is affected by nature – even ants. Maybe I am not yet ready for the responsibility. Maybe if I fully open (to what?) my cats will speak to me, will start to demand better food and higher standards of living and I will have to comply. Who knows….Maybe I can move on after writing this.
Caveat: If you see someone at Whole Foods, in the meat section, bowing to the four directions, offering cornmeal, and waving a smoking sage wand around…that is not me. I prefer to give thanks and acknowledgement in my heart.
*Finding your way in a wild new world – Martha Beck