Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Minor Miracle

Once a week or so I turn into pool boy. I collect various test strips, chemicals, additives, a net, a ballcap and head out to turn our pool water into a chemical soup in an effort to keep it appearing to be crystal clear. As I stepped out of the door that leads from our garage to our patio and towards the pool, I set the armful of materials on the ground. I grabbed the net first and made my way towards the pool, and as I did some movement caught my eye.

From a distance it appeared to be some sort of moth or insect climbing the retaining wall on our patio, but it seemed to be moving strangely. I walked over to see it more closely and I was shocked at what I saw.

It was an ant carrying a large grasshopper’s leg.

Now that may not seem very interesting to you, and after I explain why I did, you still may not be impressed. The ant was not one of the bigger breeds- this was a MINI ant. The ones that could stand comfortably on the head of a pin with room to spare. The grasshopper leg, if stretched out, would be about 2 inches. I estimate that to be about 16 times longer than the ant. He held it in his little ant-mouth, and was carrying it up the retaining wall. He was about half-way up the 6 foot portion of the wall and I was mesmerized watching him make his way. After watching for 4 or 5 minutes he had progressed only a short distance. At that rate, he had been at it for a couple hours and had another couple to go.

His progress was hampered by the rough surface of our bricks (we have those irregular clunky, chunky old fashioned bricks), and by the little prickly things on the legs of grasshoppers that allow them to stand sideways on walls like this when they are actually alive…and their legs are attached to their bodies. Every couple of seconds the leg would snag on the brick, the ant would pull and pull (or push and push) and once he (she?) realized the leg was stuck, would let go, scamper around the leg to find the sticking point, bite into it there, lift it back up and continue the journey.

This caused me to ask several questions- just how smart is this ant? Obviously he senses the tension when the leg catches, he pulls a few time to loosen in, and when it can’t be knows he can let go and it will not fall to the ground, finds the snag point, and re-positions himself to get the leg going again. I even saw him check out the lay of the land ahead before he continued, finding the best route for the next inch or two- how could an ant brain work like that? I also wondered if this were a special ant- a champion among his clan who was known to carry giant grasshopper legs from the great stony patio plains beyond the mystical brick mountain...or was he just an average ant?

I decided to help out. I picked the right moment, and grabbed the grasshopper leg lifting it and the ant into the air. I quickly placed it on the top of the retaining wall gently. The ant actually appeared confused. He let go of the leg, ran around the leg several times, ran to the edge of the wall and looked down, ran back to the leg, ran back to the wall, and back-and-forth another few times. He then bit into the leg, and began the journey across the peak of the brick mountain retaining wall and down the short distance on the other side to the grass forest, and home, beyond.

What a little miracle. That ant and his journey witnessed right as I am pondering all that I have to get done at work and home, and worrying I can’t get it all done. Maybe I can’t, but I certainly need to put everything I have into the important things that need to be done.

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Anonymous said...

You mean you didn't seize the opportunity to squish it? ;-)

DigitalRich said...

While normally I would have no problem squishing an insect, I could't imagine doing so to such a hard-working, smart and dedicated ant like this one.