Connie Spittler, USA

Essayist and poet, Connie wrote & produced the Wise Women videos, selected for Harvard University’s Library on the History of Women in America.

(Submitted by the author)

Inside our back patio wall, my husband and I ponder black-collared lizards that practice push-ups in the sun as we stroll the yard. Pulling a straggly weed, an invisible cholla spine pricks my palm. This is the Sonora Desert, after all.

I’m distracted by tiny leaf-cutter ants that move in miniature parade along the walk. The insects carry green flags up to thirty times their weight, a lesson in size and speed. Hup. Hup. Hup. Under the gate, they go, winding around prickly pear and bursage. We follow their relentless trek from our property into a rock-strewn gully. Eventually, the marchers disappear into a mound, the proverbial anthill of many chambers. There, the green leaf parts from our bush will be chewed to bits and the mulch blended into fungus, the staple of their wild garden.

“Long live the queen, nested in her fungi,” we murmur. We stop to watch and consider the millions of ant colonies that live in underground worlds, rich in this pulpy substance of life. Returning home from the anthill, we gaze at the huge image that now looms in the backyard, our stripped bare, once lush butterfly bush.

But it will leaf again. To be ravaged by the return of leaf-cutters. Only to survive once more, in a circle of perpetual coming and going. Or at least, that is our fervent hope.

We know that here in the desert, an unseen hand edits the rhythm of the day. Seasonally, monsoons wash clean long stretches of gritty earth. By day, subliminal bobcats whiz past the no see’ums. By night, we listen to coyotes narrating stories in the wash. Against a backdrop of gathering clouds, the Catalina Mountains reach for infinity. The small and the large encompass us.

For now, we patiently wait and watch for life’s moving pictures, each disconnected leaf, each drop of rain, each cactus spine. At our dinner table, although we remember the busy ants, we opt for chicken and salad, instead of fungus. Our first toast is to sand and eternity. The second, to the meaning of things.



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