An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of November 26, 2017
Issued from Rancho Regenesis near Ek Balam ruins 20kms north of Valladolid, Yucatán, Mexico

DEATH OF AN ANT

dead ant covered with fungal fruiting bodies

A Maya worker walking by the hut, just to have something to do, reached over and kinked the brittle stem of a tick trefoil growing at the pit's rim, leaving the plant's top third hooking away from the remaining stem like the blade of a scythe. It was the same stately plant I'd admired as suggesting a pagoda two Newsletters ago. When the worker was gone, I straightened the stem and applied a splint, which worked so well that the next day leaves above the fracture didn't wilt at all. It was as I worked on the splint that I noticed an odd, diffuse, ± globular glowing on the stem, a close-up of which is show above.

An ant had chosen that spot in which to die, fungi had invaded the corpse, and eventually fungal fruiting bodies sprouted from the ant's body. At the picture's bottom, a little to the right of the lowest cluster, notice a fruiting body's elegant, star-shaped form -- geometry in a surprising place.

Finding such an interesting saprotrophic relationship at my hut's door was good, but what I enjoyed most was having a fungusy ant remind me that in Nature, again and again and at all levels of reality, there's a dynamic that's pretty to think about.

The dynamic is that at both the beginning and the end of all the Universe's doings there's just one thing. The One Thing at the beginning is the Universal Creative Impulse with its Big Bang, and the One Thing at the end is whatever the Universe and its things are evolving toward. In between there's a great deal of detail. At least, this is how I was thinking as I looked closely at the glowing, fungusy ant. The concept's symmetry and simplicity recommended it.

But, at this point in my ant-fuzz reverie, it seemed that my thinking about the matter had come to the usual end, which is to say that after thinking all that, one tends to ask, "So what? What's the good in it?"

Then during my Wednesday morning computer-battery recharge in Ek Balam, an email drifted in from Nancy in cyberspace, in response to my rhapsody last week about my turmeric crop. She passed along some words from inspirational-book author Macrina Wiederkehr, words like sparks illuminating my turmeric rhizome experience:

Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb. Life wants to lead you from crumbs to angels, but this can happen only if you are willing to unwrap the ordinary by staying with it long enough to harvest its treasure.

So, between the two singularities framing the messy events of all the Universe's things that have beginnings and ends, there are paths with signposts leading from beginning to end, "if you are willing to unwrap the ordinary by staying with it long enough."

Maybe that's what inspired me about the fuzzy dead ant: The ant's stick-to-it-ness had managed to resolve the ant's life and death not only into the abstract and unknowable end awaiting everything, but also into a glowing unity vividly visible in the physical world, even a unity with details that revealed themselves as inspiringly elegant and geometrical, when one paid attention "long enough."