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Posts Tagged ‘work’

Mid-January can feel so bare.  The warmth and sparkle of the holidays are already a distant memory.  The days are still short and the nights long and cold.  New Year’s resolutions made just a couple of weeks ago seem more difficult to keep with every passing day.  It seems that winter has a frozen grip around not just the landscape but our souls as well.

I wonder about the animals hibernating in their cosy holes beneath the ground.  Why don’t we possess the same instinct to withdraw at this time of year?  In centuries past, northern folk refrained from activities after the harvest, huddled together to conserve warmth and waited out the darker days by sleeping more and eating less. 

In contrast we seem to expect more of ourselves at this time of year.  January is a productive time in homes, schools and workplaces as we attempt to meet the challenges we’ve set for ourselves.   If we feel tired and find it difficult to start the day or week, perhaps it should come as no surprise. 

In the winter forest, lichens take advantage of the sunlight that’s blocked by the canopy of leaves during the other seasons.  They cover tree trunks and hang from the bare branches.  Despite seasonal interruptions in light, they carry on, eventually covering entire trees with their delicate ornament.  Their growth may seem slow to us, but it is growth nonetheless.   

In January, instead of expecting amazing strides in growth like leaves in springtime, we might be wiser to adjust our expectations.  Renewed patience for our tasks and our ability to do them might be just what we need.  The year is still new, and there’s plenty of time ahead to make fresh beginnings.

In our journey through life it does not matter whether we achieve all the goals we have set ourselves, but that we should show patience when we do not succeed in something and then make a new start.
~ Ambrose Tinsley OSB

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It’s a busy morning in the marsh.  A sandpiper rushes across a stretch of sea-smoothed stones.  If only we could make such sweet piping sounds as we take off in flight to meet our deadlines, Mondays wouldn’t be so bad.

Crabs are sparring with one another just beneath the water’s surface.  The disagreement is over almost as quickly as it’s started, and they respectfully move to their territorial rocks.  Look at all those little fish.  Surely there’s enough for everyone to share.

Mergansers have already had breakfast and are determined to stay close and tight as they move quickly to their next destination.  There are only three young ones left in a brood that might have had eight or more to start with.  Things don’t always work out as planned, but it’s important to move forward and make the most of the day ahead.

A great blue heron wrestles with a long fish.  The bird twists its snake-like neck and turns its head upside down in order to get a better grip.  It could certainly teach us a thing or two on the value of being results-oriented.  Sensing that I am getting much too close for comfort, it takes off with its meal in flight.

The heron below also takes off as I draw near.  The sandpiper wading nearby doesn’t mind its ominous silhouette.  It knows that things usually aren’t as scary and threatening as they might appear at first.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

~ Wendell Berry

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ants

A social structure that designates its older females as warriors instead of its younger males certainly bears closer scrutiny.  Ants are among the hardest workers in the animal kingdom.  They’re organized with a highly functional and specialized workforce.  Their perseverance alone would put most human workers to shame.

Have you ever noticed how quickly every ant in a colony will diligently get to work when disaster strikes and their mound is disturbed?  They don’t fall into depression or accept defeat.  They keep on building and working towards their goals.

Another quality that makes them so efficient is that they are such excellent communicators.  Much of this is done through the use of pheromones, chemical signals picked up by the ants’ antennae.  But they don’t just let one another know about danger.  They also share information about what work needs to be done and where food can be found.  If one ant finds out that your kitchen is a great spot for dining on sweets, then she’ll tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends and before you know it you’re overrun with ants.  And all without the benefit of Twitter.

ant eggs

All worker ants are female which may explain their superior communication skills.  Males can be distinguished by their two sets of wings.  Queens, while being larger, also have wings which are discarded after mating.

Ants are preyed upon mostly by amphibians, birds and spiders.  Bats usually catch the male ants in flight.  In my yard, flickers have to be the ants’ worse enemy.  These are woodpecker-like birds that have a special long tongue similar to the one anteaters have.  They’re able to dig holes in the ground and catch numerous ants, pupae (the cocoon from which adults emerge) and eggs with this raspy tongue.  The holes are everywhere in my lawn.

hole made by flicker

Ants survive Nova Scotia winters by going deeper underground or into dead trees where they receive some protection from the cold.  Worldwide, they’re found on every continent except Antarctica.

No one preaches better than the ant and she says nothing.

~ Benjamin Franklin

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