I love that word. Tenacity. Tenacious. To be tenacious is to be steadfast and motivated and to see a thing through to the end. An enviable quality. Not one shared by every member of the human species, that is for certain. Some creatures are naturally made tenacious, however. Such as the ant. Never oh ever did I meet a creature quite so tenacious as the common kitchen ant.
As someone who is not now nor has ever been afraid of the kind of critters that send most people screaming and running (i.e., spiders, millipedes, snakes, mice), something about ants always creeped me out. I think maybe it's because my mom loved old horror movies and so I saw (read: was subjected to) the movie Them at a pretty impressionable age. I'm not sure if that movie- which is all about gigantic ants taking over the planet and eating people- is entirely to blame for my distaste for ants, but it definitely contributed. I think what really freaks me out about ants is the sheer number of them. Any time you see one or two, you know that somewhere close is a colony of millions. Just try and tell me that's not freaky.
Freaky-deaky or no, ants are amazing creatures. Tenacious to their gooey little thoracic cores. Recently I watched the magic that is a colony of ants pursuing their endless quest for dried-up food crumbs and deceased flies to bestow as gifts upon the matriarch of their hill.
This took place in Jamaica, circa early 2009. I was heading into our tiny little kitchen by the sea to start cooking dinner. To keep myself nice and dengue fever-free, I lit up a mosquito coil and hung it in the mouth of a Red Stripe bottle on the floor. I inspected the walls and counters for ants, and discovered a military line of tiny ones culminating in a small cluster around and under an unidentifiable chunk of food waste about an inch long. The ants consisted of carriers and two lines of ants right next to each-other, traveling in opposite directions.
It soon became clear that the ants heading toward home were somehow communicating to the ants heading out that the prize had been found; head back to the crib, y'all. Within a minute, there were no ants heading away from home anymore as the whole cast and crew made for the queen. Home was accessed by most of the messenger ants through a small crack between the wall and the door jamb, close to the floor. Franco and I watched as the ants carried that chunk all the way across the counter, and down the wall to their little hole. That in itself was a feat; it was fascinating watching them maneuver the food over the edge of the counter and against all gravitationsal odds as they carried their prize down the wall. But they were far from finished. . .
Alas, the chunk did not fit. The ants attempted about five different entry angles before they gave up and moved on to entrance number two. All the while, there were scout ants running ahead to check out possible routes in for the hunka chunk of deliciousness. The carrier ants brought the hunk all the way down to the ground, across the door jamb, and up to another hole in the wall. Again, they couldn't get it to fit. Again with the different angles. Again, denied.
This repeated many more times over the next half-hour or so. The ants would carry the chunk back and forth between the two entrances, trying for a little while, and then . . .seemingly having forgotten that the other hole wasn't big enough either, they would head over to imminent rejection. Tenacity is not necessarily always paired with problem-solving or intelligence, I suppose. I kept wondering the following:
why didn't they chew up the chunk into smaller pieces?
why didn't they pick up other, smaller chunks that would have fit?
i wondered if their queen was a real picky bitch.
But not to be underestimated, the ants eventually made their way home with chunk in possession and fully formed. I missed the magical moment of entrance because I had walked away to get myself a beer. Apparently I'm not quite as tenacious as those little creepy crumb collectors.