The Ants Go Marching…

“I am going to try not to focus so much on myself or drawing attention to myself. Instead, my aim is to draw your gaze to the curious things of the world, to the little wonders that don’t have to be there, but are.”

That’s how I described what I wanted to achieve with this blog, two years ago. I’m afraid I haven’t done a very good job of “not focusing on myself/drawing attention to myself.” That’s most of what I do. I’m not exactly apologizing for the failure, because I know that another reason for writing is to get thoughts and worries out of my head that are not benefiting me or anyone else, just replaying over and over in my mind. Confession is a large motivation for this site. Knowing and being known. Asking for confirmation that I’m not alone; trying, in turn, to reassure others that neither are they alone. All valid reasons for writing, I think.

But today I’m going to try to do what I said I was going to do. So listen, if you want to, as I talk about ants and other creatures, all of whom do a lovely job of glorifying God, simply by being themselves.

Today I sat outside for a while and watched some ants. First there was a tiny black ant, a sugar ant, I think, which was hardly noticeable on the wooden railing. I almost had to squint to see it well, to make out its antenna exploring the knots in the wood. I noticed the blur of green in the background, and focused out. Immediately the green leaves came into sharp, clear distinction, with the ant once again barely distinguishable from the brown plank. I experimented like this more times than I care to report here. Easily amused, I guess.

Easily amazed, is more like it.

You should try it. Our eyes are amazing! And so are ants.

Anyway, there were other kinds of ants: fire ants, which were black and a brownish-red, and some yellowish ants, with extra long bodies. I was so used to their tininess that I jumped a little when a black ant three times the size of the others came scurrying along the rail. It was huge in comparison! Also it looked uncomfortably like a spider. Then I found a fireant on my sleeve and freaked out (just a little) and flicked it off. And I felt kind of bad for flicking it away, so I looked down at the ground to see if it was alright. [Not that you would have been able to see it among the leaves, Jo. Goodness.] And then I saw…

…what looked like part of a black and yellow jump rope. You know how jump ropes have those speckly patterns in several colors–well, this was exactly that pattern, and it was exactly that same thickness.

 I finally realized I was looking at a snake.

I only shuddered a little, before realizing it was a speckled king snake. As much as my parents trained me to avoid snakes and poison ivy and everything that hides in the leaves during the summer, they also taught me that king snakes were different. They’re the good snakes, because they aren’t poisonous and they don’t like the snakes that are poisonous and aggressive. So I like them. Kind of.

I started thinking about camp last summer, and how, as a counselor, I couldn’t be afraid of snakes anymore. I even got trained to handle the milk snakes and corn snakes. I knew those snakes’ names; I knew what their habits were–how they were prone to seeking heat, even if that meant attempting to snuggle up in the counselors’ sleeves; and I knew they weren’t going to hurt me. Not really. I would rattle off fact after amazing fact to the girls, most of whom were never convinced that snakes weren’t evil. [“Snakes are awesome, girlsies! They’re just one example of how incredible our Creator is.”]

Toward the end of the summer, I got trained to handle Pearl, the nine-pound rainbow boa. She was an amazing creature, and her name was accurate. Her scales would glint rainbow colors in the right light. Since her body was pure muscle, I always felt she was stronger than me–and, holding her, I was conscious that it was her choice how tightly she would wrap around my wrists. She decided when to release her grip; I had uncomfortably little to do with it.

All through the summer, part of my job was to convince these girls that God’s creation displays His glory. An animal can be powerful–even dangerous for humans–and still reflect God’s design and imagination. [Nature’s cool, guys!]

After watching Mr. King Snake slither off, I headed back to campus, when I heard something rustle in the leaves near me. And despite all that high-faluting language about how I got so brave this summer, my heart did a floppy thing. I comforted myself by thinking through the passage in A.A. Milne’s “The House at Pooh Corner” where Pooh reassures Piglet that just because he gets a little scared, doesn’t mean he isn’t brave.

“You only blinched inside, Piglet.”

Thanks for reading:) If you want to read a wonderful poem by D.H. Lawrence called “Snake,” you can find a copy here: