Thursday, May 27, 2021


"Hey, that's cool," said Rache, as she sat across from me at our kitchen table, peering out the bay window.  I glanced back and around, and it was as she said.  From the side of one of our raised beds, the ants were rising into the sky.

It was the warmth of the day that had triggered them, as summer's heat descended to wake the earth on a late April morning.  A tumble of delicately winged drones were clambering out of holes, scuttering up the cedar wood of one of our raised bed gardens, and hurling themselves by the tens and hundreds into the air.  They rose like bright smoke from a fire, their wings caught in the beams of the morning sun.

"Wow.  And there...and there." I said, as all of the colonies in the yard vented their males into the heavens at once, a volcanic eruption of fluttering, clumsy fliers, pouring from fissures, each bearing a possible future of their tiny, industrious little tribes.

Our house sparrows noticed, too.  They leapt chattering and chirping from their nests, racing across the front yard to where a free breakfast buffet was winging its way into the world.  It was an impossible abundance, and the little birds dove into the rising cloud again and again, picking them from the air in a whirl of brown and tan wings.

A couple of the sparrows realized that the pickings were easier on the ground, where clumps of clumsy insect fliers struggled for position at the entrances to their nests, or flopped around uselessly on the ground in a tangle of untested wings.  Two birds hungrily pecked one ant after another from the ground, as an abundance poured out at their feet, a crawling, struggling cornucopia.

But they were sparrows, and sparrows love fighting more than anything in the world.  The two birds on the ground saw each other amidst the plenty.  Even though there was more food than both could possibly eat, they started fighting over it anyway.  They leapt into the air, batting at each other with their wings, pecking and yelling, the free breakfast ignored.  Their fight ranged away, one sparrow chasing another, across the road and into a neighboring yard, where they tumbled to the ground in a shrieking ball of beating wings and claws and feathers.

The ants continued their slow, bright rise into the sky.