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Reflections from the SwampThe Ant and the Grasshopper

The Ant and the Grasshopper

Reflections from the Swamp
Richard van Duyvendyk

Dear Reader

One of the great things about having grandkids is the opportunity to read children’s books. Most of these well-illustrated books, filled with stories boiled down to include only the essential elements required, are available at the library. These stories reveal wisdom and food for thought in classical form, and many adults without kids find these books inspirational. An old Greek tale by Aesop inspires this story called The Ant and the Grasshopper.

All summer, the ant works hard at storing food away for the winter. The grasshopper is enjoying life without any care about the future. He spends the summer dancing and singing. He mocks the ant for being diligent about working on such a fine summer day. When winter comes, the grasshopper asks for food from the ants. The ants tell the grasshopper to dance and sing; they’ll be in their hill, living off the fruits of their labour.

There are many summer days when I wrestle between wanting to get things done and living in the moment. There are only a few weeks of swimming left unless you are a member of the polar bear club and swim in icy waters. It’s better to get the harvest in before you need to cover the plants with tarps because of the frosts, but there is still time for one more canoe trip. I don’t think the freezing will come until October.

We have a large garden, making all kinds of preserves, dried herbs, pickled beans, beets and cucumbers, and freeze food for the winter. The instinct to put food away for the winter goes back to my childhood. The grasshopper in me wonders why we grow our potatoes when they are so cheap in the fall. The ant in me sees the winter as a force to be met with a store of homegrown food to ensure survival.

We all have the ant and the grasshopper within us. Sometimes we are more like the ant; other times more like the grasshopper. Our response, whether it be climate change or responses to covid or wars, is not unlike the reactions of the ant and the grasshopper to the world around them.

Often, I identify with the grasshopper. Life is a celebration. Joy comes from being with others and taking the time to pause and reflect. So much busyness interferes with the enjoyment of life. Anxiety stems from worrying about the future and often has little bearing on reality. Nevertheless, always being in grasshopper mode leads to ignoring the coming storm.
Many of us, like the grasshopper, tune out all the negative news about climate change. Despite world food shortages around the globe, we can still find what we want at the grocery store. Yes, the prices are going up, but don’t get into a tizzy about it. Turn off the news and relax, grasshopper.

I sometimes wonder if we are a nation of individualistic grasshoppers, hopping from one issue to the next without any real plan for the future. We all want freedom, lower taxes, and relief from the news about inflation, climate change and Covid. Where is the goal with actions to prepare ourselves for an increasingly bleak future?

Just as ignoring a leaky roof or a bank account in the red doesn’t make these problems disappear, ignoring the significant collective issues, such as fixing our health care systems before they break entirely down, won’t be solved by ignorance.
Ignorance won’t help us.

We must appeal to the “ant” that dwells within us and learn to work as a group to address these long-term problems. How else will anything be done to secure our futures? I believe that thinking that the government will fix all our issues so we can keep dancing without taking any action is a grasshopper response. Are grasshoppers running our government? Can we expect them to act on the changes we need to secure our future?

Let’s stop thinking someone else will share their food and money and prepare, like the ants, for the future ahead.

Let’s stop complacency, take care of each other and our planet, and find ways to awaken our sense of responsibility for the future.

Let’s start reading children’s books as a source of inspiration about the essential things in life. Children need us to take action.



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