I saw the Aleph from every point and angle, and in the Aleph I saw the earth and in the earth the Aleph and in the Aleph the earth; I saw my own face and my own bowels; I saw your face; and I felt dizzy and wept, for my eyes had seen that secret and conjectured object whose name is common to all men but which no man has looked upon — the unimaginable universe.
My grandson and I are out for a walk around his apartment complex of buildings. Along the edge of the asphalt, in the many cracks left by the creaks and heaves of winter, are anthills. Spring is turning to summer, truly, if the ants are rebuilding.
He is two and a half and the world belongs to him to do with as he pleases. When we play hide-and-seek around the big maples on the hill, he strips a sapling branch of its leaves before I can stop him. Now, as we walk the road, he swipes an anthill low, and in one small moment of horror I cry “no!” wanting him to obey and not run ahead and swipe as he does. “They took a long time to build the entrance to their home,” I say, but he is bent on swipe-swipe-swiping, though I grab his hand firmly against it.
I have just read about two-year-olds and the determination to do what it is they want to do until distracted. It does no good simply to fight, and there will be no spanking as there was of me, to break my will, to shape it into something not my own.
It will take time to build this boy, with the deliberateness of ants. In spite of my momentary horror, I whisk him up in feigned joy to play a new game. It works, and he is distracted from destruction.
But it was he who carried worms last summer off the asphalt into the grass to save them from cars, he who kissed ladybugs on the tree trunk and let them play along his small palms and shoulders. He who stared at the lake fly on the blue beach chair five minutes before it flew away. Were anthills an abstraction because he saw no ants, even from his small stature?
Someone taught me not to step on anthills by bending low to watch a worker cross the sidewalk carrying a single bit of earth in his mandibles. Close enough to see his mandibles! I transcended his ugliness (monster-like if movies are to be believed). I thought, how beautiful to have such mechanisms for industrious use.
In this memory I am relieved, seeing that I am not the teacher.