November 3rd, 2010

A quick one from the Sonoran Desert

I'm in Tucson for the Kake McKinnon / Kyle Cassidy / workshop -- eventful flights in that involved SKY MARSHALS and screaming women which shall be left for another post.

We're out photographing in the desert tomorrow and I was told that I'll need a hat. The Twitterverse has decided that I need a cowboy hat, so some time was spent shuttling between truck stops not finding exactly the right cowboy hat (which someone suggested should have a Klingon emblem on it), I got laughed at at the Mexican restaurant by asking for "less burny salsa", I'm sitting by a pool waiting for giant beetles and so much more ---

But Kake has harvester ants!!! THOUSANDS of them. I saw them this afternoon streaming out of a hole in the ground like a living rope, another rope returning carrying clipped bits of leaves -- the most industrious and determined creatures I've ever seen. They seem to live to toil and love it. They work as though their lives depended on it -- selflessly, endlessly. It's mezmerizing.

If you're unfamiliar with harvester ants, you'll be interested to know that they don't eat these leaves. They mulch them, and use the mulch to grow fungus which they do eat. They're farmers. Complex farmers. Fascinating beautiful complex farmers that enslave other ants and make them work in the fungus pitsby secreting a chemical which the captive ants find irresitable. They dope them up and send them to the mines.

So I spent an hour this afternoon laying on my face in a pile of dirt and pine needles with i, constructing a lighting apparatus, photographing and watching them from three inches away.

Class starts tomorrow, we're going out into the wilderness. I still need to find a cowboy hat. But I can't stop thinking about these animals. We don't have them in Philly. I'd only ever seen them on Television.

THEM!!! Clickenzee to Embiggen!
  • Current Music
    crickets chirping