Earlier today, I was out on the back porch -- or, as I like to say, in my smoking lounge -- and I got to staring at the concrete surface. I noticed an ant of typical size, at least for around these parts, maybe about the size of the exposed lead on a sharpened pencil or thereabouts. And then getting interested in it and bending over for a closer look, I picked up on a couple of other, smaller, ants in its vicinity. Circling, maybe.
Tells you something about scale. "In its vicinity" here means "within a radius of three or four inches." And "smaller" means "roughly the same proportion as a couple of Yugos and a tractor trailer."
And then, to illustrate scale in the third dimension: the big ant found a space between two of the embedded pebbles in the surface, and seemed to wiggle in and then collapse. Almost with a sigh of relief. It looked first like nothing so much as a state trooper hiding the patrol car between a couple of boulders. Like maybe the next little ant to come wondering by was going to be lunch. And then I thought, eh, maybe he's just about dead, and he is waiting for those littler ants to come by with a couple dozen of their friends and repurpose his carcass.
Next time I went out, I couldn't find the big ant, or even the two pebbles. So it goes. But it did make me think, among other things, about what EO Wilson must have been like as a boy. Lot to be said for, lot to be seen by, settling down and taking a closer look.