Cat Ant

August 12, 2010

I sat outside with some fruit on a break at work today, finding refuge from the sun on some steps built against a retaining wall which served as a backrest.  Within moments, a sizable ant began making its way up and over up and over the miniature valleys of sunken mortar between the bricks in the wall in my general direction–that later proved to be specific. As I leaned away to let the tiny creature pass, I realized that it was now making its way toward the fruit in my hand, which I shifted to the other hand and held at arms’ length.

Daunted from the fruit prospecting business, the ant scampered smoothly across the pavement on to who knows where, to do whatever ants do when they’re not carrying a piece of food 50 times their own body weight or digging a new tunnel and piling a new ant hill or establishing an ant farm or strategizing the next picnic raid.

It wasn’t two minutes before another and slightly larger ant appeared on the wall, making the same up and over and up and over journey to get to what I now knew to be the Ant Magnet. This time, I would be ready. The little guy wanted some fruit.

In the time it took to break a small, ant-sized piece of fruit away and place it within range, the ant’s tiny antennae scissored with eagerness as it reared up on its back legs in anticipation.  I felt suddenly transported to my own home and a similar scene on a slightly larger scale when opening a bag of treats to give to my cats.

The now sated ant settled over the tiny speck of fruit, lapping at it like a cat at a saucer of cream. I found myself marveling at its ‘nose’ for fruit–though it took two of them to prove its power to me–its eagerness–its taste buds–and its pleasure in a very simple moment.

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Toe Bone Teacher

August 2, 2010

At first, it was humbling, a little embarrassing, and, well, slow. This was the fifth or sixth time I’d broken a pinkie toe, and there was nothing much to do except tape it to its neighbor.  Having done this all the other times, I knew what to expect. (I once set a fractured thumb on a popsicle stick; why pay someone else for your own common sense?)  I had no idea how much rushing around I constantly do until the toe incident sort of kicked the legs out from under my ability to make every activity a kind of small hurdle race.

Almost as slowly and difficulty as the impaired toe itself, I learned something from the otherwise frustratingly short tether afforded by the pain: the art of walking.  It didn’t start out that way: but eight weeks is long enough to become resigned to something that no amount of wanting is going to bring the desired change — except for a change of mind.  The joy of taking steps, slowly; like sipping a choice beverage; to rush through would be to miss the moment entirely.

I’m not sure if I first noticed it as the pleasure of walking. one. foot. fall. at. a. time. and. then. the. other…and the corresponding awareness, the simple appreciation of covering ground. Of accomplishing a distance. Being fully in the step. You have time to ponder these sorts of things when your stride is, oh, say, five to seven times slower than your usual pace.

After settling into this new groove, I found it was not only enjoyable to just sort of stroll around doing errands or walking into or out of work, but it was in a strange way powerful. Not what I was looking for. I was merely looking to not get hurt just walking into the post office on a pathetic little broken toe bone.  But as I more felt than saw people hurrying around me in an all too familiar mode, realized how off-center I’d been, caught up in many little whirlwinds of busyness that just never seemed to let up.

There is something about a slow, resting walk that is a reminder that things will get accomplished whether I work up a tizzy in the doing, or not. I now find myself walking slowly simply because it is more enjoyable. It somehow makes me feel like I am the one in control, and less bullied by the transient demand of the moment.

In the wake of knee surgery three days ago, I have been pondering the break as an inadvertant precursor to labored mobility. The toe after all had only healed about two weeks before the surgery. I ran, jumped and danced the day before the arthroscopy to remind my muscles that the momentary interruption to come would lead to more running, jumping and dancing than I have been capable in years, thanks to the discovery of a small tear in cushiony cartilage that could have been repaired years ago, had I not been so fearful of a diagnosis of ‘inoperable.’

I can hardly call my post-op hobble ‘walking’ yet. But I am confident the momentary slower pace, even slower than the new normal slow, will be easier than it would have been before the Lesson of the Toe.