Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour, from one home in New York

Today marks Earth Hour, and I'll watch evening fall with a swarm of ants that emerge from our walkway each year.

Faithful as the equinox, these ants help mark springtime. Their emergence is, of course, a manifestation of their life cycle. Courtship, mating, new life, all timed to the start of this season.

I try to step over them while walking, working, and wondering.

In six hours our lights will extinguish; together with many other New Yorkers we add our voices (er, our absence of photons) in making a statement to world leaders about curbing climate change.

The ants are unaware of this, though. They are busy moving about, wandering between the pavers. Watching their bustle makes me itch. Or perhaps some of them have made their way up my pants.

It's 8:30, and the house is dark. The ants are barely moving, and I lay down next to the swarm. The night air is crisp and refreshing, but only a few stars poke through the clouds to light the sky.

Speaking of stars, I'll never forget my first evening wearing glasses: I was five years old, and couldn't wait to look at the Milky Way wearing them. (Being a product of the Space Age, I was a HUGE fan of astronomy.) But that first glimpse of the night sky with corrected vision remains one of the darkest moments of my life. Those warm fuzzy balls that painted nighttime since birth were really cold, lonely pinpricks of light.

The universe still seems much friendlier without glasses, so I take them off and share the night sky with the ants. Their eyes lack visual acuity as well - one of the many things we have in common.

It is now 9:30, and Earth Hour passes West to the next time zone. The ants are motionless. I think I'll leave the lights off, and join them in sleep.

P.S. Earth Hour +12

As predicted by meteorologists, rain has come. The swarm of ants is now a dispersion of corpses. I don't think the rain killed them; more likely, their life cycle was complete as nighttime fell.

Nevertheless, one takes pause.


  1. It really saddens me to know that not many people observed Earth Hour. I was in Manhatten at the time and did not see many lights out. Wish more people had partisipated.

  2. I'd say that half of my neighborhood had their lights out. Many are elderly, though, and I suspect they'd be uncomfortable sitting in the dark. In that sense, a completely darkened Manhattan might not be a good thing. I remember the blackouts of 1968 and 1976 (or was it 77?) when all hell broke loose. Perhaps turning off some symbolic lights, e.g., in Times Square as reported in the news, was enough of a statement?

  3. Do you know what an exquisitely sensitive thinker/dreamer/writer you are? If all people took the time to relate to nature/ to a swarm of ants/etc. the way you did in this posting, in such a free-flowing, conversational, recollectional way... we would not have such a compromised environment! The connection between man and nature would be as intact and rarified as it was for indigenous peoples. AND... the photos are a beautiful compliment to your writing! I think you should keep doing this and then put the segments together as a coffee-table book!

    Cynthia Pannucci
    Art & Science Collaborations, Inc. (ASCI)
    20-yrs. serving the art-sci-tech field