I keep hearing about “mindfulness” and how it helps you relax. One idea is that as you’re walking along you notice things you can see, hear, smell, feel and taste. This draws your attention to the present and stops you from worrying too much about the past or the future. It’s worthwhile but it takes a lot of practice. Spending time with a dog or a cat helps to keep your mind in the present and appreciate simple things, not least because pets only think about the “here and now”. I’ve found that children help too, and my 11 year-old is constantly drawing my attention to our surroundings: the sunset, the smell of a rose, the cloud formation, a bird carrying nest material….and the other day, ants at work at our local station.
If I’d been on my own or with another adult I would never have noticed the long stream of ants levering some seeds out of a crack in the station platform and dragging them to a hole where their nest must have been. We were amazed. Who needs the leaf cutter ants at the Natural History Museum? This was a real team effort and they never stopped for a rest. We made a video of their activities.
No wonder there’s an idiom in French “travailler comme une fourmi”,” to work like an ant”. In German too there’s the word “ameisenhaft”, “like an ant”. In English we’ve made the noun “beaver” into a verb for working hard, “beavering away”. Or we talk about being “as busy as a bee.” No mention of ants in English idioms, unless they’re “ants in your pants”, making you very fidgety.
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