When I can no longer stand the mechanized world, I flee to the fields where the Tuttle farm used to be. There, and beyond, can be found lush green hills and open skies, worms and ladybugs, dirt. Some say it’s quieter there, but I wouldn’t say so. Nature is loud, deafening almost. Layer the bees’ “zzz” upon the wind through the grass, the chirping birds’ nests upon the nut-nibbling of the squirrels, the forest’s swaying upon the hustle-bustle of the ants’ tireless manufacture, and you’ve got a wall of sound that even ABBA could not achieve. The Earth would remain the busiest place in the universe even if tomorrow Man were to be subtracted from it.
Just last week a group of biologists announced their discovery of a worldwide family of ants. Beneath us, just below our brick-and-mortar world, lies a vast underworld of tiny workmen and little lady monarchs to command them. There are no revolutions, no bloody uprisings, no discontent. There is only dutiful labor. Solomon in fact tells us, Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. We are not told to watch the farmer tend his fields, to fix our eyes on the ways of Man. We are commanded to consider the ways of the ant. The apparent foolishness of this proverb was certainly not lost on ancient readers of this wisdom. We read it today with as much, or even more, disdain: The ants? Why, what creature could be more insignificant, pesky, and filthy than the little black rodents!
Insignificant, pesky, and filthy. Rodents.
When I go to the field where the Tuttle farm used to be, I often find myself lifting my head to survey the blueness above that seems to wrap around us like a cosmic comforter. With every moment I stare, I wither a little. My lofty expectations burst and fall back to the ground. My whims and habits fade. That song I’ve had lodged in my head leaks out through my ear. And suddenly I’m tiny, dirt-covered, and entirely unimportant. I am accused by the very virtue of my existence. I’m scorned, vulnerable. The gavel comes down again and again, shattering my bones, beating the human out of me. I’m on the stand, and there are no witnesses to defend me. No letters of recommendation, no phone calls, no armies. I’m left unclothed and encased in mud, lame.
I feel a pinch, then a ribbon of feeling trailing up my arm. My eyes will not move to see, covered in darkness. But soon the feeling is reversing its direction, traveling down my limb, past my wrist, along my finger, and it’s gone. It happens again, and again, until my eyes are at last able to see. Sun and sky and trees fill my vision and crowd out what my eyes are aiming for. But soon I can see to whom I owe my escape, who has nibbled away my dirt shackles.