What nature teaches us

What nature teaches us

Ants should have a special place reserved for them everywhere they go; forget the new declarations on their being ‘invasive’ by the most destructive species on earth, the newbie: the human being.  The ant has been here for close to a 100 million (the human being a mere 6 million), and from the humble 3 millimetre long creature, wise Israeli kings (Solomon) have drawn their life lessons, entire societies have organised themselves into effective units in the quest to attain ‘progress’, and mystics have witnessed the true might of God in motion as the little diligent creature follows the daily trails foraging for food to take back to the ‘queen’ and the rest of the ‘colony’ in the nest.

Some of these little worker ant individuals are said to be able to carry as much as fifty times their body weight (how green Schwarzenegger and ‘Rambo’ would be if I could wake up that strong one day . . . well, one day is one day!).
The ant grows to be as old as 30 years of age, and in all that time, the ant sticks to the code and the work ethic it was born to do in the colonies; whether it be worker individuals living in small natural cavities to highly organised colonies that may occupy large territories and consist of millions of individuals.

These large colonies consist of various castes of sterile, wingless females, most of which are workers (ergates), soldiers (dinergates), nurses and midwifes, and other specialised groups.  Nearly all ant colonies also have some fertile males called “drones” (aner) and one or more fertile females called “queens” (gynes), not all are fertile, not all think they can do it like the next.

The colonies are described as ‘super-organisms’ largely due to the simple fact that ants do operate as a unified entity, collectively working together to support the colony.  As a boy I used to see how this sense of unity works even under such perilous circumstances as floods; the ants would lock legs when faced with a flood from a cup and literally float on the waters as a raft.

All the lessons from nature are missed when the individual is simply too busy “chasing the dream” and forgetting to acknowledge the chorus of frogs croaking in the twilight after the rain has fallen, or to listen to creaking of the cricket in the night.
The world we live in has made us all automatons focused on getting one thing, money; and I wonder what it is in lucre that makes the world go around in circles in a frenzied chase for the rectangles of paper with numbers and holographs.

Many have literally forgotten who they are; the only face they see and know in depth is that of Benjamin Franklin on the green notes, it seems, Caesar’s design has managed to suck the world into the maelstrom of endless abysmal hunger for the ownership of notes of paper with numbers that can never be satisfied.

Staring into the varied faces in holograph on various banknotes is the religion that has somehow managed to drive the world insane; men kill men, men sacrifice entire families and clans and tribes for the ownership of pieces of paper that could on any given day burn up and be lost in ashes.
The paper now has more value than the tree from which it was taken, and the last time I thought deeply, the progeny should not be of more value than the progenitor, the leaf should never forget that it could not enjoy the sunshine without the roots in the soil.

And speaking of trees and plants, there is an ancient apple tree in front of the government house I used to live in ten years ago in Ha-Hoohlo.
Old and probably playmate to more than a few generations of children that used to climb its strong branches, the apple tree possibly holds fond memories for those that bothered to acknowledge its role as I do.

Just looking at it, a poem on the continuity of humanity and the embrace of the tree to the many generations that climbed of its branches and ate of its fruits sprung forth the deep wells of my soul, gushing as Old Faithful onto the soils of my mind where the first shoots of the poetic were beginning to sprout.

I was in those moments becoming or beginning to become aware of the essence of the lessons from nature, becoming aware that the honey bee needs of the sweet nectar of the flowers to make of the honey men, women, and children covet.
The call of the pale-winged starlings (Matšoanafike) in the early morning dawn began to be missed, their music a reveille to mark the start of yet another day, a day in which one could either take or ignore the free lessons from nature.

Nature has lessons for everyone wise enough to learn from in terms of application in real life. The tree never moves for it is stuck to its roots, but the tree faithfully gives of its fruits in due season; we move all over the place all the time, of the fruits we gather we give little or none at all when the time to give comes.  Only the poets and the storytellers and philosophers ever bother to recount the sweet tales of the road and the lessons they received.
The world does not respect the poetic kind or bothers to listen to their stories: the world is too busy ‘making money’ to bother listening to an old man tell stories of how he got lessons from a rabbit he met in the middle of the Namibian Desert, and the lesson is lost.

Well, I met an apple tree and understood human ancestry from the lessons he gave, I came across Devil’s Claw and got my cure for migraines, I watched videos of tumbleweeds and now understand that sometimes, one does not necessarily need roots to live, that a tree and a plant can live without choosing to take root somewhere.

I have tried counting the drops of rain as they fell from the sky and only stopped when I remembered that rain and lightning are hunting mates as the thunder rumbled in the distance.  I went up Ha-Mantša again this last Sunday, and for the third time since I first realised it was amazed that there is a village called ‘Ha-Chadwick’ from the sign by the road’s side.

The mountains to Semongkong are green with herbs, but the green sign triggered a search for the name in white letters, and out of it was to come a tale of a missionary who covered more than 2000 miles a year across Lesotho on horseback, a man who had taught himself Sesotho on the voyage from England to Cape-Town, and a figure associated with the establishment of the prestigious St. Stephen’s High School, in Mohale’s Hoek district.
You see, even the mountains one views from the comfort of the cockpit of their car shout out lessons to the individual that observes.

With my Eustachian tubes clogged by aero-otitis (that popping sound you hear when you are in an area that is at high altitude), I could still draw inspiration from the sights around (for there were no sounds, only the engine of the car and the whooshing in my blocked ears).
There were a few lessons learned from the trip this last Sunday, and most of them are from nature. The mountain sides were white with hailstones, there were travellers and stragglers braving the road in the midst of the deluge, c’est la vie.

It is not only the road we travel that provides the lessons we need to make it in life and to live as veritable human beings that are in concord with others. The tasks ahead that we have to do and the purpose they will serve at the end of the day are in themselves lessons also.
With limited materials and broken tools, one was forced to fashion a stand for a heavy oven on the day; the oven mattered more than the lack in materials that would make of the stand that would support it.

Lack does not mean that the task cannot be completed; lack simply means that there is more room for improvisation and more opportunity to explore creativity.  This is one of those lessons one takes from observing the well known thunderbird, die Hammerkop, ‘Mamasianoke who gathers all kinds of materials to fashion a nest in which she will hatch the next generation of dark brown wading frog and snake eaters with peculiarly shaped hammerheads.

Were she to be choosy as the weaver (Thaha) in the selection of the materials to make the nest, she would probably be forced to lay them in the sands in full sight of marauding predators.  A lesson from this bird is simple; do the best you can with what you have.
We often view nature and forget the people around us . . . I remember my now constant travelling companion; a young man who has a vision to be supplier of food to the masses that are in lack of it.

He will for a time sleep on the cold floor of his business, or so he tells me, and I am happy to be associated with figures that understand that the future is uncertain in the least and at best.  Living on borrowed time, many if not all of us do not exactly know when we will pass on into the next world; we therefore cannot spend the best years of our lives hesitating, and choosing where we shall take root.
The tree that makes the flowers is bigger than the bee, but it is the bee that pollinates it in its foraging flight from one tree to the next: we too can pollinate the world and its varied family trees with the commitment to the tasks we set out to do in the service of others.
Nature does not forget itself, nor does it look down upon the efforts of others just on the basis of their performing tasks that are not on some set scale in some office.

The tree will give of its fading leaves in autumn to feed the soil for next year, it will pass some on to the animals that graze at its feet for, somehow, those same animals help spread its seeds far and wide in the simple act of dropping the seeds in their dung.
Our engine heated up on the long journey up the meandering mountain road, providence was on our side for the culverts were full with water from the recent downpour of hail and rain.

A young shepherd boy pointed us to the spot where we could collect water to pour into our empty radiator (it was sweet and fresh rainwater . . . just forget the few goat droppings I had to spit out afterwards . . . I was just back in my boyhood here, if only for a short while).
The young man was very friendly, and we even shared a cigarette as we waited for the engine to cool before going on with the journey. I respect his profession for in the early years of my life I was a herdboy.

I understand the hardship of gathering herds and flocks in the midst of the driving rain and beating sleet, but above all; I understand the sense and the weight of responsibility on the shoulders of the shepherd boy who has to take care of a flock and a herd in a hailstorm.
I hope the kind of leaders we now have were themselves once shepherd boys who faced and embraced nature in its full breadth and innocence at some point in life.

With this kind shepherding leadership, the country will progress in harmony as necessity dictates, not as human humour impulsively influences, for you see; nature and her lessons often (always) find their replica in some human experience, and they offer lessons on how to harmoniously get out of the hardships that come with the experience. Concord.

Tsepiso S Mothibi

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