It’s An Ant’s Life by Antonio, the ant

By Larry Meath

(This was an activity in anthropomorphism, giving human characteristics to a non-human object.)

Let’s start with this fact, there are lots of my relatives on planet earth.  Twenty quadrillion, give or take, by latest count.  Yeah, you heard me right–even though you probably have no idea how many that really is.  That’s a 20 followed by 15 zeroes.  Or put another way, that’s nearly three million of us for every human on terra firma…or even terra not so firma.  There are only roughly 7 billion of you—way too many in my estimation—but humans are a tiny minority compared to us.  You are an ant-iclimactic statistic in our view.

According to Dan the man Webster, we are of the family of colonial hymenopterous insects.  That’s a mouthful, I know, but basically, we are highly specialized critters.  Furthermore, we have a complex social organization and various castes performing special duties.  Like ruining picnics and building tunnels.  Our ant-ics aren’t always appreciated. 

But before you get too ant-sy about our numbers, let me tell you some fun facts about us.  You guys have been screwing up the planet for a measly 200,000 years but we’ve been trying to improve things for closer to 2 million.  We watched the dinosaurs come and go and we’ll likely do the same with you.  You could say we are ant-iques on the planet’s timeline.

And we’re practically everywhere.  Ant-arctica is one exception.  Clearly the name is a misnomer. 

We communicate in sophisticated ways: not with phones but pheromones to be exact.  And we have a sort of group think where we act as a collective…one for all and all for one…kind of like a football team.  We are the ultimate team players—the ant-ithesis of humanity’s narcissism.

We make up roughly 15-20% of earth’s biomass despite our small size.  Thank goodness we don’t taste all that great although I have heard of people who cover us in chocolate to make us palatable.  I’m not sure what goes into ant-ipasto, but despite being named Ant-onio, I’d be careful around Italians. 

And speaking of eating, some ant species enslave and even eat other ants.  Yeesh!  Cannibals!  They apparently do this without Pepto Bismal or other ant-acids

But overall, we just want to live in harmony with humanity.  Make love, not war.  But don’t forget…we can also sting if need be.  So, a final word of caution–don’t ant-agonize us. 

What If

Topic:  What if

By Larry Meath

(The actual topic was “If Only” but failure to read carefully combined with old age resulted in the following poem.

It happened so suddenly

My ears had quit ringing

As I stepped onto the deck

And the birds had stopped singing.

It struck me as odd

That those sounds so sweet

Were replaced by the roars

Of only cars on the street.

I stepped back inside

And spotting my guitar,

I plucked an old tune

But the sounds were bizarre.

Instead of a melody

Or chords that were soothing,

The only sounds to be heard

Were cacophonous and bruising.

Now in a panic

I searched on the dial

For a musical station

And sounds less vile.

But all I could find

As I searched out in vain

Were the rantings of people

And news filled with pain.

“What’s happened to the music?”

I screamed out aloud.

The world has gone crazy

Sounds are wrapped in a shroud.

No matter my efforts

The results were the same:

The music was gone.

Was I going insane?

But as quickly as it started

I realized no harm

As I sleepily reached out

And turned off my alarm.

Springtime in Alaska

By Larry Meath

(Topic:  Write about the season where you live or currently happen to be.)

Alaska is not exactly a Hollywood Mecca as a movie setting, but in 1960 Alaskans were proudly surprised when John Wayne, the Duke, starred in a film roughly based on a Johnny Horton song, North To Alaska.  Horton must have had a fascination with our state as he also wrote another song that depicts some of harsh realities of Alaskan weather, “When It’s Springtime in Alaska (It’s 40 Below).”

Like many others before and after him, Horton came to Alaska in search of gold.  And like most of the others, he left empty handed.  Horton was lucky enough to eventually find fame and fortune through his music, however.  And as his song goes, even though it can be as cold as 40 below during our “springtime,” most Alaskans cling to the hope that the snow and bitter cold will be gone well before May despite the reputation we have earned.

Winters are harsh where I live.  Temperatures range greatly, but a dearth of sunshine added to our northern location combine to create extended periods where the thermometer may go for weeks without ever getting above zero.  By the spring solstice, we are ready for serious sunshine and warming trends, even though the countryside will likely be covered in white until late April.

This year was a case in point.  When I arrived home in mid-April, the only areas not covered by a deep layer of snow were the main highways that are maintained by giant state trucks with huge snowplow blades.  Roofs in our neighborhood still had a good 2 feet of snow on them—as did our front lawn.  But, as luck would have it, the weather warmed, and melting began soon after my arrival. 

Spring melting is a messy process.  The beautiful crystalline white coverings of Dr. Zhivago’s romantic landscapes disappear, and the grime of civilization begins to surface.  Litter rears its ugly head and as the melting increases, mud reigns supreme.  Flooding becomes a potential issue and streets in the city become small lakes with hidden potholes silently waiting for unsuspecting cars.  As gravity channels the snowmelt into the valleys, the rivers begin to swell, and their thick coverings of ice show the first signs of rotting with overflow and channels of water. 

When breakup occurs, it is a dramatic event on many rivers.  In fact, an annual pastime is for Alaskans to bet on the time of breakup indicated by the tipping of a huge tripod embedded in the ice.  The winning ticket is usually worth close to ¼ million dollars.   But the ice breakup is only the first hurdle for potential danger.  Villages along the rivers worry that the ice will jam and cause the rivers to back up and flood their towns.  This has caused the relocation of more than one village in recent history. 

Once the ice jams free themselves and the rivers resume to reasonable levels, the excitement is palpable.  Boats are readied for the summer.  Trees begin the greening process.  The hillsides dramatically transform themselves with chlorophyl and photosynthesis. 

I heard my first robins in early May this year.  Soon the trees around us will be the drums for woodpeckers in search of meals.  We are gaining about 7 minutes of daylight each day and by the summer solstice, June 21, it will get no darker than twilight in Fairbanks.  Midnight sun activities will be in full force.

In the two plus weeks I’ve been here, the snow is all but gone except for patches.  The ditches are still carrying snowmelt to the valley and gradually the mud is drying up.  Before we know it, the garden will be planted, and the lawn will need mowing.  Our short arctic summer is just beginning to awaken. 

Oops—I spoke too soon.  I awoke this morning to a cleansing cover of 2 inches of fresh white snow.  I’m assuming it won’t last the day, but it does serve as a cautionary reminder about being too complacent.  Spring snowfalls keep us honest.


By Larry Meath

Complete                          subscribe                          dictate

Pumpkin                           ocean                                calendar

Karaoke                            instrument                        railroad

Scissors                            sunset                               society

Barrel                                bicycle                              field

Freddy stared at the calendar alert on the computer screen.  He had not forgotten about the date, but in order to take his mind off of the isolation he had endured for so long, he occupied himself with various mind-numbing activities:  riding a stationary bicycle in grueling Tour de France simulations, subscribing to impossible NY Times puzzle sites, even completing a karaoke singing course guaranteed to improve his tone-deaf past attempts.  Still, his voice recordings reminded him of an instrument of pain and not pleasure.  

He stared out the small window of his quarantine module and watched another sunset as the familiar orange pumpkin dipped once again into the distant Pacific Ocean.  Early in his quarantine, he had imagined the sun being extinguished as it dipped below the horizon—a huge cloud of steam rising noisily from the wake.  Originally, the news had been all bad; the predictions dire.  Society seemed to come to a stop.  But now the reports seemed hopeful.  

The silence was suddenly broken by the distant sound of railroad cars crossing a field on tracks that had previously been quiet.  “That’s a good sign,” he thought to himself.  The world is coming alive again.  He knew that despite the calendar alert, his ordeal was not complete.  His life in a barrel might improve, but the leveling of the death toll only dictated continued commonsense protocol.   Freddy took a deep breath as he walked toward the front door.  He grabbed a pair of scissors from the kitchen counter on the way and timidly turned the knob.  Slowly, as if he feared something to be lurking outside, he opened the door wide.  The yellow quarantine ribbon across the doorway was dispatched with a swift cut.  Freddy took a deep breath of unfiltered air for the first time in months and stepped into a world he had nearly forgotten.   He closed his eyes and inhaled slowly.  It was a new day.