Two Square Foot Lunch

While working in the woods, some portion of every day becomes lunchtime. Lunchtime is more likely a period of sustained inactivity than a specific time on a clock or watch. Often lunch takes place when encountering a good place to sit intersects with a raging desire to sit, eat AND rest.

Eating lunch itself rarely takes more than a few minutes and I usually spend the remainder of my “lunch hour” enjoying the quiet, dozing, observing my surroundings and daydreaming. Sometimes the scenery at lunchtime can be spectacular but most often lunchtime the deep woods is more like eating alone in a giant room with an intricate green ceiling.

I often wondered if the people who develop special effect scenes as well as the monsters and outrageous beasts portrayed in modern movies use magnified views of scenes from the forest floor as models for their work. As freakish as some of those fictitious animals might look on the big screen, more than a few monsters in recent movies look similar to actual bugs I have seen in the woods….only 10,000 times bigger! More than once, I studied the hollow end of a mossy log filled with a tangle of spider webs only to find myself recalling a scene from a Hobbit or Indiana Jones movie.

Similar to many early summer days, a large portion of my lunch had been fresh cherries. By the time I finished eating the cherries, discarded fruit pits were scattered on the ground beneath me. Even though I tried to get all the nutrition possible from each cherry I ate, every cherry stone had a tiny red fragment of fruit firmly stuck to it. After a few minutes, an increasing variety of crawling and flying bugs were gathering to take advantage of my leftovers.

Of all the scavengers, ants were the first to appear and soon, an organized and busy line of activity had developed between the cherry pits and a nearby ant colony. As I watched the procession grow, I realized that not all species of ants play well together. A slightly smaller and different colored ant entered the clearing and started to nibble on a single cherry pit located several inches from any being worked by the “line ants”. After a short period quietly eating the cherry, one of the much larger “line ants” noticed its’ smaller neighbor and began a chase that only lasted after the smaller ant was dead.

Almost as quickly as the aggressive line ant charged its’ smaller cousin, the little ant ran for safety with the large ant just a few inches away. The small ant climbed a blade of grass in an attempt to get away from its’ aggressor only to have the piece of grass fold under its weight. The scene of the small ant climbing a single blade of collapsing grass was repeated again and again, the chase continued from one side of the opening to the other and back several times until a piece of grass the red ant was hanging from touched the ground immediately in front of the line ant. Trying to escape the line ant, the little red ant lost its’ grip and dropped to the ground. In seconds, the little red ant was being carried away, curled up and dead in the pinchers of the line ant.

Watching that chase was enough drama and excitement for one lunch hour so I decided it was time to go back to work.