Discover more from You Think Too Much
The ant and the peony
A five things essay
Here’s something a little different this Monday morning—an essay inspired by and her Project 1,825 Things. I wrote this short essay using her 5 things technique, which I highly recommend.
Is there any flower showier than a peony? Or more fragile? I cut the one in the vase on the dining room table this morning—Mother’s Day. It was drooping toward the ground as peonies do. A peony swoon. So much drama. The soft explosion of pink was now speckled with dirt. And an ant, of course. For every peony, an ant. Nothing beautiful is perfect.
I tell myself this lone ant will not invade our house like the legions that appeared earlier this spring. This ant is lost and alone. Displaced. Hitchhiking into the house on a peony petal, with no means to find its way back to the colony. No sure path back to its home or its family. This ant will die alone in our dining room, I tell myself. Maybe the most humane thing would be to kill it now. Let its last memory be of soft peony petals and whatever the promise of sweetness inside is that draws them over and over.
Is it ridiculous, though, to use the word ‘humane’ in reference to an ant? Not because ants are so below humans, but because the word assumes that to treat an ant as human is something to aspire to. That to treat an ant as human is to exercise more compassion. Humans treat other humans better than ants treat other ants? It’s laughable, really. In the human world, cruelty and intimacy walk hand in hand.
Also, I have no idea if the ant is, in fact, stranded on my dining room table, exiled forever from its home in the flower bed out back. That it might make that journey seems unlikely to my human abilities, like dropping me off in Montana and expecting me to walk back home. Then again, every creature on the planet is so much more capable than we humans. Perhaps even as I write, the ant is halfway home.
Perhaps the ant will return to our dining room with numbers. Perhaps even now, as it crawls across the peony, it is not alone. Perhaps ants are never alone, communicating across distances I can only imagine. What do I know of the mystery of ants? The trees are whispering to each other right now and they don’t care whether I can hear them or not. Do ants feel lonely? Or abandoned? Frightened to have to face the world without the warm comfort of communion at their back? Do ants have one mother or thousands? Are all ants mothers to each other? Which sounds, on this day, like such a better arrangement.