They weren’t there at noon. But they had arrived by 2:30.
I peeked inside my reusable shopping bag. It was standing upright next to my desk (for easy snacking access). But instead of just almond butter and some graham crackers, I found a horde of crawling, climbing six-legged visitors. They were on the bottom. They were on the sides. They were on my butter knife. They were trying to find any way into the fortress of plastic that protected my goodies.
I peeked around. It didn’t look like there were ants on the blue-speckled carpet. Had the ants stowed away in my bag and somehow created a pop-up colony? But then I saw the waves of movement, like oscillating waves of summer heat, that signified the existence of some greater invisible force. The ants had arrived. Or maybe they had been there all along. Either way, it was gross.
I lifted out my things. I washed my butter knife. I thought about throwing my bag into the wind and yelling, “Be free ants!” But then I decided it might look like littering. Or lunacy. I thought about washing out my bag. Then I thought about needing to touch the ants. And about watching them wash down the drain on tiny soap bubble vessels. It all felt too personal.
At last, I settled upon putting the ants and the bag into the trash. I like to think I was giving the ants an opportunity to live a good life. As long as they kept up their ant-like diligence, they would be sure to find all the fruit rinds and bread crumbs they’d ever need. I wasn’t helping them, but neither was I particularly hurting them. Aren’t we supposed to let nature take its course?
I’ve heard a lot about classroom environments. Maybe I need to start thinking a little bit more about classroom ecosystems.