Quasi-Indefatigable Xenolith



An Ant Shows Off

I have always heard that ants can lift many times their own weight, a feat that, as I grow older and often wider, I find myself increasingly less capable of even approaching. Even as a younger man, I was more the sort that had the upper body strength in line with our audacious Daavor and I feel the need to admit that such strength has likely not increased with time. So with gratitude to move past from my wounded pride, I will leave off the comparisons and return to the incredible ant, or one in particular.

There is a beach on the island of Firsthome, a bit isolated and not often occupied, a simple stretch of sand between rising bluffs where the footprints never last long against the incoming and outgoing of the ocean waves. Not far at all inland from the lapping waves is where the manicured lawn of which Firsthome is famous begins, making this patch of grayish sand such a striking feature.

Upon this tiny valley where the land meets the sea, we find our powerful ant.

I have no thought that this is a spectacular ant in any way, for to my eyes, it looks like many others that I have encountered. It is black and rather on the small side, but it displays a speed and a spunkiness, for lack of a better word, which marks it in my estimation. I grant the spunkiness, for it seems to sprint madly toward the sea whenever the waves pull back and to run just as quickly toward the grassy inland when the next wave threatens to engulf it. A tenacious little thing, I must admit.

It is not immediately obvious to me exactly why our ant is doing all of this sprinting. It has been about it for as long as I have been here observing it, which seems like hours. This is a pelagic coast, as we look out west to the open sea that the small boats of the Alaed traditionally do not ply, so the beach is longish and made so by the greater waves. Our industrious ant therefore runs a far race back and forth along an almost beaten path that seems not to vary to the left or right.

What is motivating this tiny creature? In my observation, I cannot say, but conditions are changing and the moon moves along in its progression, shaping things in its passing: the tide is going out. Hours press on and I see a pink bit revealed by the receding sea. The ant runs on and on, ever coming closer to what seems to be its goal, a prize that it perhaps spied during the previous turning of the tides. I am tempted to run out and see what the pink thing is, but I fear I will frighten the little being from his purpose and I am far too enthralled.

To and fro the ant runs, its pink purpose jostled by the relentless waves, but kindly staying somewhat where the sea has deposited it. I think to myself that the time has come in the moon's progress to swing the pendulum of nature back toward a rising tide, but another force seems to be at work that I cannot seem to attribute to mere nature. The ant is so close, the slightest hint of water just reaching past what I imagine is a tempting bit of seashell but keeping the tiny landlubber just out of reach. Suddenly, a gust of wind pushes out from the green lawn across the waves and it is enough. The next few thrusts of the sea are held back just a bit and the treasure is available.

The ant sprints out with seemingly fresh courage and makes it to the pink. It tries to take hold but the incoming wave spooks it. Taking only a few steps back, our friend is back to the shell and getting better purchase: it manages to move the thing a centimeter or two toward land. It has been too long a journey and too much an effort for the noble ant to simply go off, though it seems the breath of wind that won its goal has wandered off to rustle some tuft of grass. The ant has one last chance before the forces of wave and tide engulf again the bit and our hero accepts the challenge.

From my vantage, it is now no longer an ant running away from the waves, but a pink bit of flotsam skittering up the beach. It is a victory rare to see, acted out by forces certainly greater than my own. The ant has won through its devotion and tenacity, but I feel that there was one more ingredient in this winning mix: the hand of God.

It would be easy for one to say that the blast of wind that drove back the steady work of waves was just a simple coincidence, but in such things I see the handiwork of God. In my mind, it was the small reward offered for such a long labor of faith and desire on the part of the ant and how could a kindly maker hold it back from such devotion. Where others might say that God, if he is there at all, only acts in large cosmic ways beyond our ability to see or conceive, I prefer to think that he also chooses to offer little bursts of assistance that we are likely to miss if we are not diligently observant.

So, these hours spent watching an apparently empty shore may seem a waste of a chapter of your reading, but I think it was time and insight very well spent. An ant shows me how very much stronger it can be than I certainly am and a God reveals that, even in a seemingly small way, he is willing to reward heroic effort. Perhaps you readers will ponder on that as I do.

It may be a good time to see what those crazy Alaed people are up to.

Next Chapter...

Copyright, Jason Nemrow. All rights reserved.