QUAIL MUTTERINGS #43. The Ants Go Marching (December 2016)
I think we humans are a lot like ants. Like them, we all spend an awful lot of time moving stuff from one place to another. In fact, this activity seems to occupy most of our waking hours. Mail is sorted into various piles or the recycling bin. Food gets pulled out of the refrigerator or cupboards and combined into meals. The act of shopping transports items from the store to home to the appropriate storage areas. On a different scale, yard work just moves bigger things. We rake leaves into mini mountains and cart them somewhere else. No longer needed or wanted items are carried off to pawn them onto someone else or donate to a charity. Remodel, add-on, spruce it up. As a lot, we big-brained, bipedal, opposable thumbed primates are not satisfied unless we are shifting stuff around.
When we travel we take our stuff with us. At least the things we think we might need. Earlier this month Kent and I went to Florida for ten days. And yes, we took our fair share of stuff with us. Being cheap, and frugal, we each only took one small, free, carry-on suitcase and a backpack. It’s enough. In fact, I’m sure we could whittle it down even more, but we don’t travel enough to not have to reinvent the wheel every time we pack. It doesn’t seem to matter if the getaway is a month, a week, or a few days. We each still pack the same small suitcase and backpack. Like the ants, we are creatures of habit.
Neither of us had ever been to Florida before. Kent was interested in running in the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships and had, by the way, talked me into racing there also. Unfortunately, I had a migraine that day and therefore did not run. His team ran quite well with the older men placing second for their seventy and up age division. That weekend was at the tail-end of our trip.
The first weekend we visited Key West, a beautiful tropical island located at the most southerly tip of the United States. The lush green landscape was not as bug-infested as I expected. Yes, I had toted a semi-natural bug spray all the way from California, but had used very little of it. Our son-in-law’s parents own a house there and we were fortunate to spend a couple of days with them. One morning, we ran a few miles barefoot in the deep sand on the beach since we couldn’t find any long dirt roads. Perhaps this is due to the development of marsh areas into people-friendly, non-muddy spaces. I was not interested in running on any more pavement.
Our next stop was the Everglades where we took a small boat and explored the mangroves getting up close and personal with alligators, crabs and tropical flora. A highlight was watching a mother alligator doze in the sun, half in the swamp water and half out. She was surrounded by a dozen or so squeaking little baby alligators who were swimming or crawling on the bank. When we were boating around the Ten Thousand Island area dolphins played in the craft’s wake, following us for several miles.
Cruising along the interstate, heading northward in our little rental car, I was again reminded how much like ants we really are. At least they all seem to follow a similar path. While we humans travel along all scattered-like, when viewed from an airplane, we appear to be marching along the well-worn ant highways.
A stop in Gainesville to visit my aunt was our next destination. It felt good to visit. I suppose it was the last time I’ll ever see her. The impermanence of everything strikes me every so often and pulls me down. Then it’s time to resume ant-like activity. Get up. Take an apple from the refrigerator and eat it with almond butter. Go outside and move firewood from one of the heaps in the yard and pile it on the front porch. Keep marching!
Chi Varnado is a contributing writer for The San Diego Reader. Her memoir, A CANYON TRILOGY: Life Before, During and After the Cedar Fire and her children’s book, The Tale of Broken Tail are available on www.amazon.com. Her collection of essays, Quail Mutterings, can be found on www.chivarnado.com.