I’ve been having a bit of writer’s block this week.
Sometimes the problem is that there really seems to be nothing in the world to write about. But most of the time, for me, it’s just that there are all these fractured little thoughts, bouncing around in my head, vying for attention.
They only want to be cared for, these little thoughts.
They only want me to find them a home.
And I would…,
Except that they are such little thoughts.
Except that they are too small to survive on their own.
And so I don’t know what to do with all these fractured little thoughts that don’t fit.
I mean, just by way of example, what really am I supposed to say about the Ant Rafts…,
So over the summer I noticed a peculiar thing happening in my cat’s water dish.
She’s mostly an outdoor cat, and although she takes her meals inside, I do always keep a bowl of fresh water on the front porch for her.
As the summer months passed, I began to observe something I had never seen before. Every evening, upon arriving home from work, there would be a smallish pile of ants floating in the middle of the bowl.
At first I assumed that these were just collections of ants which had slipped into the water and drowned, only to gravitate to each other in the middle of the bowl. I’d pour them out, refill the dish with fresh water, and move on.
But with each days passing, these piles continued to grow larger, and it quickly became clear to me that most of these ants were alive, clinging together in the middle of what should have been a watery grave.
Intrigued, I did a little rooting around on the internet, and discovered that this is a fairly well documented behavior among several species of ant, most notably, the dreaded, despicable Fire Ant.
When a flood comes and destroys their underground nests, a colony of Fire Ants will race to the surface and form a raft of bodies which floats safely downstream. The ants are able to interlock their limbs in such a way that the surface tension against the water achieves a level of buoyancy capable of keeping the entire colony afloat.
This is an entirely cooperative mechanism, where every ant is doing its part to keep the collective from drowning.
Nasty, biting, swarming up your leg if you stand in the wrong spot for more than a few seconds, Fire Ants – who stretch their bodies out against the torrent, locking (hands?, claws?, whatever) with their neighbors, to make of themselves a raft that their entire society may rest upon in safety.
Okay, so Ant Rafts are really cool, and it would be neat to write something about them. However, I don’t really have any place to take that. It’s an incomplete thought that doesn’t fit well with any of the other incomplete thoughts in my head.
And why am I still thinking about Veterans Day? That was last week, so there is no point in blogging about it now!
We see it all the time.
There’s a young man or woman in uniform. Or maybe it’s an older gentleman, wearing a ball cap, or a jacket upon which a patch has been stitched, displaying certain insignia. We know who they are. We know they have made sacrifices, that they have put their very lives on the line.
And someone will walk across that room, and shake their hand, and thank them for their service. It makes us smile. It makes us proud to know that there are such people among us. It makes us glad to know that we are a people that can recognize sacrifice when we see it.
Yet I am forced to wonder…,
I wonder about the guys who pick up my trash every Thursday, the guys who hang from the back of a stinking truck, in rain, and snow, and sweltering heat, the men (and women, I am sure), who breathe the foulest fumes of our daily lives and keep the horrors that we haul out to the curb every week from piling up around us. Does anyone ever walk across a room to shake their hands and thank them for their service?
I really doubt it.
And please, don’t for a moment think that I am trying to take anything away from our men and women in uniform. I’m really not.
But they are not the only ones who have, and will, make sacrifices. Most of the people that make our modern little lives possible, are working jobs and making sacrifices that we would never consider doing for ourselves. And the truth is, we’d be lost without them.
I’m glad the Veterans get their day. The gods know they deserve it, and more.
But what about the folks who keep the water flowing, the electricity humming, and the trash picked up? Don’t they deserve a handshake and a heartfelt thanks?
Don’t we all?
Do you see what I mean?
I can’t get anything done because I’m stuck thinking about this weird colony of ants, where every member interlocks with his fellows to keep the whole multitude afloat. While, at the same time, I’ve got these odd ideas about the true meanings of community, and service, and sacrifice for the common good. And while they are both interesting ideas, neither one really seems like something I could get a full blog entry out of.
And I was still trying to figure out what I was going to do, when a friend suggested I just tap into the upcoming holiday, and write something about thankfulness. “Share with your readers,” she said, “what it is that you are thankful for.”
So what am I thankful for?
I’m thankful for all those fractured little thoughts, bouncing around in my head, vying for attention. And for the friends and family who bring them out in me, who help them come together in ways I never expected them to. And for the folks who read the words those thoughts become. And for every one who has made my life possible – the billions of linked hands, keeping this whole silly world afloat against the waters that might otherwise carry us away.