It all started as a simple exercise in logic. There are sugar ants in my kitchen. I can either spread around the same chemicals I've been trying to avoid with my recent organic shopping, or - aha! - block all of their access points into the kitchen. Seems like an innocent idea, doesn't it? Very earth friendly, very ant friendly, everyone wins.
I've always been an ant friendly sort of person. My very first comic strip was all about ants, starring this fella here:
Oh look! Ain't he a sweetie?
Ha-ha! Look at my crappy old style drawings!
And so one bright sunny afternoon I entered the kitchen with a caulking gun in one hand and an open Nature Valley "Fruit and Nut" granola bar in the other, thinking, "Oh, I shall follow the trail of ants, and I shall block it, and then I shall be able to pour my hazelnut syrup ant-free into a cup of coffee that doesn't have ants swimming at the top."
Four days, five million ants, and one tube of caulk later, my jolly little project has turned into a full blown war. I seal a crack, the ants freak out and scatter across the counters, and as I brush the stragglers off myself I exclaim, "Ah-hahaHA!" The next morning, the ants have found a pinhole in my defenses, or that they can go through the electrical outlets, or that they can chew through the packing tape that I have used to cover the electrical outlets. I am absolutely convinced that, given enough motivation, a single ant could find its way out of a deep sea submarine, with enough time to reappear on top of my butter tray in the morning.
It's becoming a bit of an obsession, I'm afraid, and not just because of the caulk fumes. I see ants when I close my eyes. I see phantom ants on the walls. I feel them crawling on me in the night. I... I kid you not, when I sat down to write this post, I felt something on my cheek, and I thought "Oh, you have got to be kidding me." But alas, it was in fact an ant, no doubt trying to sabotage my attempted contact with the outside world. The ants feign absolute focus on their target granola bar, but in fact are waging subtle psychological warfare. This is why if anyone had chanced to visit me yesterday, they would have seen me out on the roof crouched at the seam of the skylight shouting, "I know you're in there! Get out of my house!"
Ack. Despite the madness of fighting an unwinnable war, sometimes I can still throttle enough sense into myself to admire the complexities of the ants. They seem to be God's shining example of stupidity at a brief glance, drowning themselves in puddles of water no bigger than a dime, creating U-shaped trails with no concept of cutting the corners, and bludgeoning blindly into each other head-on, repeatedly, acting surprised each and every time. This is my frustration, that a spastic creature times one thousand equals an entity that can outsmart my best efforts. Well, perhaps not "outsmart." Perhaps "overwhelm" would be the better term. The result of a hundred monkeys with typewriters.
Still, there are those small gleaming moments when a single ant becomes something more than a moving speck on the wall. Yesterday I saw five ants congregating on the windowsill, and in my caulking madness thought perhaps that they were trying to chew through the wooden seam. Rather than startle them with a puff of air, as I might often do, I leaned in to try to figure out what sort of trouble they were conspiring. I have to admit, I look less at the insect world since I had laser surgery on my eyes and lost the ability to focus on things closer than my nose. I used to be able to see the hairs on the back of a fly, the chewing juicy mandibles of a grasshopper. I didn't realize this was an unusual ability until my eyes were "normal," until they saw those delicate antennae and shining eyes as no more than black dots on the counter. I had lost a gift I never knew I had.
I don't try to look closely anymore, maybe because I don't like to be reminded of that loss. But here my curiosity was piqued, and so I leaned in, and there was one of those small gleaming moments - rather than chewing or plotting or searching, the ants were carefully grooming each other in a manner to suggest affection. Such a tender little scene, when all around them their companions were still waging war. I had to smile.
That's why I'm still caulking, you stupid ants. I'm doing it for you, so I don't have to spray you or crush you or wash you down the drain. So you can do your thing and I can do mine. Stay out of my kitchen!