I’m not a gardener but I did plant some seeds received in a care package from the states just to see what might happen. I lovingly sprinkled them into the dirt-filled small plastic cups I had prepared, pressing them into comfortable position, covering them and watering them, ready to watch them burst forth. Soon I had little leaflets forming but nothing ended up making a success of itself except for a lone oregano plant. I haven’t spent the time to learn how to prepare rich soil and pamper seedlings into adulthood, so I was very proud to have grown such a beauty of a plant, all from a tiny packet of seeds! But, overnight, it was gone.
The situation provided one of those mixed moments of laughter and shock all at once. I finally had a true plant – some tasty delicious leaves I could enjoy with my meals, but just at the realization of true success, it was gone. The evening before, I had decided to break off a whole stem that was heavy with leaves instead of just harvesting a few individual leaves as needed. Felt it must be the right thing to do, and would help it to form new, fuller stems. I reached down and twisted and pinched off the thick stem, immediately smelling the marvelously strong aroma of the oregano as it wafted around me. The thick scent was delicious and I happily prepared the leaves for my next week’s meals, washing and placing them in the refrigerator with such satisfaction.
I suppose that aroma brought the plant to the attention of a local flag-bearing organization which commanded its marching squads to suit up and proceed forward into position, because that morning, there were no leaves to be seen. The plant had been stripped bare! I looked around in the flower beds and noticed a league of tiny marauders proudly waving their deep green flags over their heads, all retreating in more or less a straight line. Honestly, I didn’t taste, smell or otherwise inspect the flags they were bearing, but I’m assuming they were my flags. No one was showing any signs of guilt. No one looked over their shoulder or tiptoed off in shame. What confidence, what determination, what audacity they showed! I’m imagining one of them mouthed a low volume message between his teeth to his comrades ahead: “Don’t look now. She sees us. Pretend you don’t see her. Step up your pace and just keep moving.”
Seemed to me they needed an accompaniment, at least a steady drum beat, but I was too dumbfounded at the sight to play for them. I don’t know how long it must have taken them to perform this mission, but they were definitely an overnight success. Seems like such a fine accomplishment on their part. I’m sure it required strategic planning, team effort, leadership skills, a healthy level of self-esteem, confidence, assertiveness and pro-active thinking on their part. I don’t know if I should be mad at them or proud of them. Seriously. At any rate, these little Paraguayan leaf cutter ants seem to exhibit all the skills and traits we teach in our Peace Corps initiatives. Perhaps my next class will include a few interviews and even a featured guest speaker from their ranks.