The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

"Spiritual powers and their wondrous functioning--hauling water and carrying firewood." --Layman Pang, upon his realization

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Samu with Ants

Sunday is oftentimes a day devoted to working around the house, and today has found me dusting and vacuuming, scrubbing down surfaces in the kitchen, using windex on framed family photographs (nice opportunity to actually look at these photographs) and generally straightening things up.  

It's a really good samu practice, I like it.

Work in the kitchen lately has been a small challenge, due to the tiny black ants who have set up house.  In March, they actually built a nest on top of and around 2 stacked cans of Kipper Snax in the primary food cabinet.  How they did this so fast and so expertly is a sign of their speed and diligence.  Overnight I had a bustling community intent upon supplying every convenience for the next generation: the Mom who made it all happen, the older daughters who carried out her orders to protect the eggs, the guys who scouted continuously and the guys who seemed inexhaustible, directing traffic, checking on progress, aiding in a pinch.  
Sure, it's one thing to lay all those eggs, but the inexhaustible guys are the real curiosity--they are the jack-of-all-trades, and as far as I can tell, there's no complaining going on.

I found the new community late one night, too late to do anything practical about it.
But I had to laugh at myself...I opened the cupboard looking for walnuts to put out for the next morning's breakfast, and realized most of the cupboard floor was moving.  In dim light it looked a little like a Sci-Fi movie, with the overheads turned on, I realized the tiny black ants had found a happy home

And my reaction was so like what oftentimes comes up in my practice!
At first my skin crawled and I was totally repulsed.
Oh Shit Disgusting Ants Bugs Yuck All Over My Food, My Kitchen, Go Away, Oh You Make Me Sick, Do I Have Any On Me??, etc.
That moment lasted for many seconds.
Then I got totally curious, even as my goosebumps were still making me shiver.  
Whoa, look at them all.  And it's not even chaos, if these were people it would be chaos.  So what are they up to and who's in charge?  Are they in the honey?  Nope.
Are they in the nuts, hmmmm, looks like they're all on the Kipper Snax!
What is it about the Kipper Snax that says HOME?

This moment of wonder lasted for quite awhile, as I moved things around and isolated the Kipper Snax, barely visible beneath the ants.  In fact, the ants had made a Kipper Snack shaped blob, clever!
And then, with a small sigh, not a big one and not a sinking one, I realized there would be no harm done in allowing them to stay one more night in Chateau Kipper Snax--warm, dark, maybe slightly oily, a comforting shaped can apparently, safe.

And as I so often do with my own suddenly revealed aversions, ugliness, delusions and greed, I smiled and closed the cupboard door thinking, "Just gonna tackle this one tomorrow."
I made sure no one was in the way, and then I closed the cupboard upon all that ant-ness and went to bed, where I slept soundly, with no nightmares of ants.

In the morning I started my coffee, then decided it was time to take another look in the cupboard.  
They were still there of course, but all sleeping, and it gave me a chance to really see these little ants for the beautiful creatures they really are, if a bit creepy.

With a plastic bag wrapped around my hand, I popped the Chateau, ants and all, into a plastic bag and took everyone outside to the deck.  I emptied the cupboard, waited for the stragglers to move the last of the eggs (down the side of the cupboard and on to the floor, then behind the radiator), shooed a few to the floor, then said a silent sorry for those few that would have to be mopped up with cleaner.
Later, when I checked the deck, everyone had left home, and not one egg had been forgotten--now that's organization!  I washed the Kipper Snax cans off, no muss no fuss.

Since then, of course, the ants haven't really left, they've just built a nest elsewhere that I am not aware of.  The scouts still spend time on the kitchen counters, doing whatever it is they do.  No one seems to stop and eat what crumbs I miss with the sponge. Every now and then I'll accidentally kill one, or I'll find one on my dinner plate, but for the most part, we live in harmony.  I've also found them in the micro wave and the refrigerator, somehow no worse for the nuking and the freezing.

It is a unique practice to patiently clean the counters these days, sponging around an ant or two, my old eyes watching for movement and going around the tiny things.
Samu with ants.

No comments: