The Ants Go Marching

IMG_20160421_094943I was going for my walk this morning, and found myself having to cross a couple of highways: ant highways, to be exact. There they were, hundreds, if not thousands, of little black ants, marching on a path not more than a centimetre or two wide all the way across the road (I measured – six metres, or 25 feet).

I saw the first Ameisenbahn on my way up the hill. A little further, there was a lone ant walking about the road, looking a little lost. Ten minutes later, when I came back down, there was a second ant highway, somewhere where that single ant had been earlier – she hadn’t been lost, she was a scout! And now there they were, all her sisters, utterly determined, scurrying back and forth, never straying from their narrow little path.

They keep to their track, but they don’t seem to have figured out that a highway runs better if you stick to one side for each direction. So the coming ones are always meeting up with the going. “Sorry, excuse me, coming through! Oops, pardon me, sorry, excuse me!” and so forth (these being Canadian ants, they’re polite). They look like nothing so much as the stream of business people and shoppers rushing along the streets of Downtown Vancouver. I think if you listen closely, you’ll be able to hear a faint chorus of “Everything is Awesome” coming from them.

Life, the Universe, and Ant Highways. Who’d have thought?

The Stile

IMG_20151011_142536It’s a glorious Canadian Thanksgiving Sunday. The bird is roasting in the oven, the pies are baked, and there was nothing else to do but go for a walk. So we went – up the hill, all the way to the gate. Yes, that gate. And then – we skirted around it, and kept walking.

Yes, the saga of the cut-off walk has finally come to a satisfying conclusion. Let me back up a bit: you’ll remember that a couple of months ago I got all bent out of shape about the neighbour at the end of the road who had blocked off access to the forest road? Well, that wasn’t the end of it. It’s a bit of a long and convoluted story, involving a conversation with the lady who lives next door to that property (or next driveway, as it were), who gave me the phone number of the man who sort of looks after that place when the owner isn’t here (it’s recreational property; the owner lives in Alberta), who talked to said property owner, who…

Anyway, as it turns out, what for the last fifteen years I’d thought of as Crown Land is, in fact, private property. It’s still owned by the same person who’s had it for quite a lot of years now, and he hasn’t actually changed his tune on allowing people to go for walks there – he’s just waging an ongoing battle with dirt bikers, who like to chew up the forest paths with their rice rockets. Hence the gate. Then the “Keep Out” signs. Then the wooden bars on the side. Then a chunk of wire fence strung between the trees beside the bars.

IMG_20151013_085750But it was that same day the chunk of wire fence went up that I got an inkling that the lady-up-the-road was probably right about his attitude towards walkers. I wasn’t comfortable just pushing my way past the Ponderosa pine on the right-hand side of the gate like she was doing – not without express permission from Mr Property Owner. But that day, I noticed that the branch of the pine tree that was most in the way had been bent aside, and at the foot of that tree there was an arrangement of logs and boulders that looked like nothing so much as a stile. A nice little stile for friendly pedestrians to step over, but not nasty noisy dirt bikes to get through.

IMG_20151011_142217And a couple of days ago, I came home from running errands, and there was a note from my Man on my computer keyboard: “It’s ok to walk up the hill.” Huh? Oh!! The man-who-looks-after-the-property had finally called me back, and it’s official: Walkers Are Permitted.

IMG_20151011_142155So up the hill we went. And it was glorious. The sunshine glittering on the lake, the deep greens of the pines, gold and bright red of the turning leaves, brilliant blue of the October sky – such a gift to be grateful for on this Thanksgiving Day. And my gratefulness is that much more profound for having thought, for just a few weeks, that I was cut off from this pleasure. What a difference a little stile can make.

LIfe, the Universe, and The Stile. Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!



I was all upset this morning about having my walk ruined. The person who owns the property at the end of the road, where the pavement ends, completely blocked off access to the forest road where I like to go to the lookout. I think there’s new owners on that property; the previous owners put a big gate across the road to stop vehicles, but still allowed locals to skirt around the edge of the gate so they could go for a walk. This morning, there are bars nailed across the side of the gate. No Trespassing, Private Property.

I was so pissed off I cried. Just when I was starting to develop a habit of going for a walk in the mornings (I desperately need the exercise)… I even called the town hall to see if there was maybe some rule about public right of way to get to crown land, something that would force those curmudgeonly curmudgeons  to let me walk across their driveway and up the hill to where you get that stunning view right over the lake. But no such luck – private property is private property.

IMG_20150729_112224I almost posted a snarky status on Facebook about it, complaining about this mean-spirited injustice that was done to me. Almost, but not quite.

And then I was browsing my Facebook feed, and all of a sudden perspective struck me a blow right across the face. You see, I read a post by the husband of a friend who died of cancer just a few months ago. And as I was reading his outpouring of pain, of how desperately he misses his wife, of his struggles in being both father and mother to their children, of the gaping, aching hole that her death left behind – my own irritation and disappointment shrunk down to its proper size.

IMG_20150729_112153Yes, I’m sad about my cut-off walk. But it’s such a small issue in comparison. So not a big deal. This upset that filled my whole vision an hour ago all of a sudden has become a small dot on the radar screen of reality. Yes, the irritation remains (and I still hope that the property owner can be induced to let us neighbours walk through once in a while). But really, it matters so little.

Life, the Universe, and a Reality Check. I’m thankful I had my perspective adjusted.