Friday, May 04, 2007

The Ant Parade

I can see the ant whiskers twitching as I remember this tale. As though they are listening to me and I am listening to them.

A long time ago, when my daughter was still a girl, we lived in a little house in the Rhode Island woods with our dog and cat. We felt safe and happy in the house our friends had made for us, and I felt glad to be living in the country and to be so close to nature.

But that summer something changed. At first we only noticed a few ants climbing around the sink. They were the scouts. In a few weeks there were ants in the kitchen – on the walls, on the table, floor, around the sink and counters. It was hard to do anything without seeing three or four ants going about their business.

I like ants well enough outside the house, but inside my home – this would not do. I hated doing it, but I began squashing them wherever I saw them. And doing that for several weeks made me feel ugly inside. I was mad and upset at the ants, and I was ashamed of all the killing I was doing. There had to be a better way.

So one day I just prayed, and asked for help in knowing what to do. The answer came gently and clearly, as though someone very kind was speaking to me: Ants are always looking for a better home. Imagine what a good home would be like for them. When they have an idea of a better home to go to, they will leave.

I remembered a Bible passage that talked about this. About the way we could feel into our spiritual sense of home: “For we know that if our earthly house… were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (II Corinthians, 5:1)

This was a whole new way to think about the ants. I felt excited. I began thinking about the qualities of home for them. It would have shelter and food nearby. It would be safe from predators, even humans. I began to imagine a home in nature that would be like that, just perfect for the ants.

Right away, that helpless angry feeling began to soften, as I saw the problem from the ants’ point of view. They had a right to a good home just like I did.
I was sure that it existed and they would find it. I stopped killing them, and just kept knowing there was a wonderful home for them and that my home was wonderful for me.

In a few days, I noticed something unusual. There was a LOT of activity going on. Ants were on the walls, climbing down to the table, dropping their eggs onto the floor. Ants on the floor were carrying the eggs down the step into the living room, and from there they made a column going out a crack under the front door. The ants were moving!

Wanting to be helpful, I put a towel on the floor so the eggs would have a softer landing. And finding it hard to walk in the kitchen without stepping on them, we decided to go out for the day. Hours later, when my daughter and I came home, they were gone. Only a few stragglers remained, picking up the last few eggs. We let them finish their work in peace.

The house felt silent, safe, ours again. I knew the ants had indeed found a new home, and I silently blessed them even as I felt blessed. They stayed moved too. And over the years if I saw a scout, I remembered to cherish the spiritual sense of home – the house not made with hands – for both of us.

With love,

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