I was thinking about ants today. You know, the way they are busy, on task, moving relentlessly toward a goal known only to their insect, hive minds. They move at pace, not slow, not fast, but with purpose and drive. They walk around or climb over any obstacle to carry their load to where it needs to be. In teams, they carry (relatively) gigantic pieces of food and other detritus; when they need to, they work as a team to chew the largest bits until they are several pieces of more manageable size. I wondered, as I sat in emergency teacher training at midday, getting ready to take school online for the foreseeable future, if the ants were looking up wondering why we humans had slowed down so much, but with such a sudden sense of conviction, purpose, and creativity.
The sun came up today in it’s usual Torreón way. Slow and colorful. There were clouds to heighten the texture, and a sliver of moon in the west going down as the sun came up. But the air felt different. Not heavy exactly, but not the usual lightweight, carefree, stinky, hardworking and beloved Lagunera air.
As I walked into the brand-new Early Childhood building for a Q&A informative meeting about COVID-19 I picked a little black piss-ant (asquel) off my sleeve. It’s spring. They are everywhere. I pinched his head off with the nail on my index finger and brushed his remains on the leg of my shorts. So much nothing.
I wonder, now, what his job was, that little nothing of an ant. Did he get picked up on my shoe by mistake? Did he climb up my body in pursuit of some scent that suggested food? How long had he been travelling up my body to get to my right arm? Why didn’t I notice him sooner? Why didn’t he tickle the skin on my foot, my leg? Maybe he dropped from a tree? I felt like he and I had been walking on the squishy, unpredictable paths of a Dalí painting.
The painted waves of color on the floor made me dizzy as I walked toward the emergency training for teachers to get ready to take school online. Campus was not quite, but nearly, silent. Down from a population of or over 2,500, to a mere 250 and probably less. Skeleton crew: admin, teachers, office staff and part of maintenance staff. We were in a hurry. Hurry up and come up with a new way of thinking about teaching. Hurry up and come up with an alternate plan. Hurry up and upload, download, transfer, every.little.technological.thing. Hurry up and imagine how to maintain relationships and create them as needed — without being present. Hurry up and learn to be present from afar.
As I was moving along under the fresh, powdery blooms of mesquite and huizache trees, listening to the songbirds of the desert brag about the luxury nests they could build, and the lullabys they would sing to hatchlings. I moved with purpose, but unhurried — despite the lengthy list of hurry up and dos. The air has not stunk in TRC these last few days. It’s strange. TRC always stinks: pigs, soy, Peñoles, the Corona plant, pollution in general. When new teachers comment or ask about the stench, we veterans always used to say “Welcome to La Laguna!” I suspect this stench will likely continue to dissipate in the upcoming weeks of evolution.
That’s what this is, you know. We are living evolution. To survive, we must adapt. As humans, we can adapt quickly. I wonder if we will. I wonder what effect our adaptation will have on the ants’ steady, unhurried industry. I can’t wait to get my cargo to my house, and lock the door behind me and feel safe, even if I’m not. Still, today, I was comforted to feel like a steady, unhurried, purposeful ant.