Monday, October 20, 2008

Ants on the Freeway

I am a passenger, stuck in traffic on the freeway.

Looking out my window, I notice an ant colony marching with purpose, carrying tiny bits of something on their backs. I observe them for several minutes, while traffic is at a complete stop, noting that their entire operation occurs within inches of the fog line.

I feel empathy for these ants, working so hard, oblivious to the dangers lurking inches away.

Just then I imagine my own life, with my daily happenings, and I wonder what dangers a wide-angled view might reveal. With my mind I shrink the traffic jam into a tiny dot and the whole earth to the size of a bouncy-ball. Still, I can't see what danger prowls just out of view, waiting to ambush me and all of humankind.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

It's too cold and wet to be at the park; our solitary presence here proves this point. I wipe off the slides and swings with a sweatshirt someone has left behind, but the water smears, then reforms tiny rivulets, refusing to absorb. Sylvia leads Eli and I on a hike through the "woods;" her word for the dirt path, tree-lined perimeter of the park.

As we wind our way back to the play area, I see three tall boys enter the park. They are too old to be at the park at 10 a.m. on a weekday, I think; shouldn't they be in school? Anticipating the inevitable lighting of cigarettes and tossing about of profanities, I intend to keep a close eye on them. Just then one boy sprints to the swings and enthusiastically jumps on. He pumps and swings, kicking off his shoes once he reaches the desired height.

For a moment, I am surprised, but then I smile, believing I know these boys' secret. They don't want to grow up! They miss the swings and slides of their childhood! They've cut class simply to play at the park!

Visually locating the other boys, I recognize immediately that it isn't so. One boy has pilfered a plastic rocking horse from the baby area, and he's pushing it through play-tunnels, over rocks, and onto the dirt path, like an overgrown toddler with a tonka toy. His energy is focused on the toy with laser-like intensity; he takes no notice of Eli, who is watching him nearby.

Now I see the third boy-- only now I recognize he's a grown man-- talking on his cell phone. "Yeah, we're at the park. No, it's fine; they're cool right now," he says to the listener, and then continues on with some mundane conversation. Intermittently he checks on the boys, but his gaze conveys only the cool attachment of a paid caregiver.

It's time to leave the park now, and I push the stroller past the boy on the swing. Despite the chill in the air, he points bare toes to the gray sky, and smiles inwardly, without showing any teeth. I keep walking, wishing I could whisper an incantation like a secret password to gain admittance into his world, if only for a moment, if only just to ask him what he thinks about when he looks at ants up close.


bgirl said...

so lovely ally. many layers here, all so good.

Arlene Winn said...

The ants & lurking danger make me very thankful that I have a loving God looking out for my best interest. Thank you for sharing your insight and reminding me!

Arlene Winn said...

By the way, I really like your new picture.

Amy said...

I really liked this post. In the short amount of time I read it I felt lots of different emotions -- Do the boys do something bad!?, and then -- love for them for just wanting to play, and then -- imagining lil Eli watching them...etc.

And I love the last part about wanting to be in his world -- I do that a lot -- want to continue following someone through their day and see what they do and think.

Lori said...

Such an interesting post with so many perspectives. I had to read it through a few times before deciding what I imagined the "truth" of it to be.

I love your way of looking at the world.