Lessons from Strange Places: Ants

I went to visit one of my elders and she said, “I was thinking about you, and how you used to play with those ants. They used to bite the hell out of us. I mean, they would tear us up — but they never bit you.”

Now, I don’t know if that’s entirely true. They may have bitten me now and then, but it was the lessons I received as a child from the ants, and our amazing conversations that stuck with me throughout my whole life.

Another elder said, “We use to go in the house and watch out the window as you talked to those ants like they were real people.”

I thought to myself, “Yes, this is true.” I am not one who understands language patterning and how they seem flawless when understood, but I felt like I understood their communication. I was absolutely fascinated with them.

I believe it was because of them that I got one of my nicknames, “Dirt”, which is short for Dirtdriver. Day in and day out I would dig for them, watch them, and when the soldier ants came for me, I picked them up, harassed them, and then put them down only to watch them fight one another. I would feverishly search trees and dig big ditches. When I found them, I would disrupt their work and watch them create new routes. I watched them solve problems created by me. I watched their organizational skills and their ability to modify habitats. I couldn’t get enough, it was one of the best times of my young life, and it didn’t matter rain or shine, I would search and dig. I looked like I dived in a pool, full of dirt. My hair and my socks saturated with mud and dirt. This happened all before I received my first gun. This happened all before I knew I was watching a highly organized insect. I remember, a dear older cousin, who has since lost his life, to gun violence, asked,

“How is it possible for you to be that dirty? Man, how do dirt get in your ears, your eyebrows and all over your face?”

The ant was my friend, and as a child, that thought alone was wonderful. I wanted to be with them so much so, that I asked my mother if I could make an Ant Farm, and without hesitation, she said, “Yes.” I got all the materials together. I found two clear glass bottles, dirt, leaves, potato chips and Now and Later candy – because I was sure they liked the same snacks as I liked. This experiment wasn’t as fun and the ants seemed to move slower. I didn’t know if they needed air or other elements from outside, so I returned the ants to the tree.

For a more in depth look into David’s lessons learned from the ants…read here.

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