There are ants swarming the dry cat food. Periodically they breach the moats we’ve created to protect the bowls, a collective culture victorious over human ingenuity and ant bait. We have moats. We have traps. We have orange-scented, not so toxic ant spray. We have paper towels and cleaning solution to mop up the bodies. Nevertheless, the ants persist, slowed but not disheartened by our killing campaign.
It is January and the ants come in. It is January and Facebook reminds me on an almost daily basis of early 2017, a time filled with illness and death. First it was Nora-dog, followed by my father, followed by my father-in-law. The memories pop up intermixed with sweeter memories from prior years (the boy fitting his impossibly small frame into a circle cut out in a wall at a local playground; the story about Nora’s fear of beeping appliances; the visit my father and stepmother made to see us when the boy was in fourth grade).
It is January and it is cold in a Northern Californian way here in Berkeley, not freezing, but with a chill that gets into your fingers and eats at your toes. The ants come in. Facebook reminds me of life on the precipice of death. My body, anticipating fifty, reminds me that I am getting older. I develop chilblains. I lose my patience easily. I wake to a bolt of anxiety at 3:00 a.m and stretch out my battered feet, one haggard digit at a time.
January. I am alive and surrounded by life, by dogs, cats, and those perpetually optimistic ants. My human family, a tight group, is here, augmented by the boy’s friends and their dads playing playing out a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. I don’t dwell in the past. I grieve the conversations I will never have. I wonder what lies ahead, but will take this moment in the sun, peaceful and warm, a dog curled at my side, a group at my table.