if i were an ant

In the daylight hours there is too much to do to write to you, dear readers. And at night, well at night there is also too much too do. Lately I have little more than a few sentences and pictures to offer you. Despite the snow Saturday, it is Spring. Things Are Happening. It Is Beautiful.


My muscles ached from carrying meter-long stumps, still heavy will water.

The wind had ripped several trees out of the ground in the courtyard across the street, and the chainsaws of the university’s grounds people got the rest.

I stalked the construction site entrance for hours before I saw someone who I could talk to. The person I found was Gregor, dressed in red overalls. “Those stumps lying back behind the building, can I have them?” I asked through the grid of construction-site fencing.

His German was hard to understand, accented with Polish sounds, or maybe Russian. He would ask his boss, he told me, and come by later to let me know. I assumed I would never see him again.

A month ago some univer- sity people felled a tree across the street. They needed room for their metal construction-office cont- ainers, now piled two high in the place of grass and tree. When we asked about the tree stumps they told us that, no *snort of disdain*, we couldn’t have them. Then they shredded them into mulch and threw it all away.

But Man in Red did come back later, and he had good news. “You can have all the wood you can carry. Tomorrow we put it all in a container. Trash, you understand?”

I nodded, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the thought of free heat. He took a step closer to me, “You live over there?” He pointed toward the wagenplatz.


“You live with other people? ”

“Umm, there are about fifteen of us, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“No, no, women.” I was beginning to guess what he was getting at. I had hoped he wasn’t going to go there. There is a certain kind of man who assumes any favor he does for a woman should be rewarded with sex. A lift offered on Craig’s List, a drink, or talking to the boss about giving away some trash from the construction site; the details of the favor are irrelevant. “Women, you understand? You know, brothel? Brothel.”

“No.” I was not in the mood for this conversation. I am never in the mood for this conversation.

“But you, you live alone?”

“I live with my husband,” I told him dryly. (Ha! Husband! It is hard to say that word with a straight face.)

“But other women?”

“Sorry, no idea what you’re talking about. But hey, listen, I’m going to go start hauling wood then. Thanks a lot for talking to your boss. I’ll see you around.”

I hauled one load in a tiny hand-cart before getting The Doctor and the tractor for the rest. (I wish I was an ant.) Man in Red came out on the balcony of the building they are emptying to watch. I waved. Eight more men emptied onto the two neighboring balconies and lit cigarettes, leering.

“I feel like we’re in the zoo.” We started loading stumps onto the trailer while the balcony men yelled to others who were cutting down a tree behind the tractor.

A burst of laughter came from above. The Doctor speaks a little Polish. “They just said something about whores, I caught the words whore and work,” she told me across the birch stump we were carrying.

“Construction workers certainly are good at reinforcing their own stereotypes.”

There were at least 8 cords of wood for the taking, so we called in reinforcements. As soon as a few men showed up, the balcony men stopped their cat-calling and went back inside. If I had a category called “Why I Hate the Patriarchy,” this would be one of the many stories filed in it.

The good news, however, is that we hauled wood for hours (results pictured here) and haven’t even managed the half of it. And in three years it’ll be ripe (re: dry enough) for burning, and we’ll have enough wood to heat several community wagons for the entire winter.

0 Comments on “if i were an ant

  1. the patriarchy

    what a strange word, I’m seeing it more and more. When I think about what it means in the context of where I see it, it actually blows my mind a little bit that things could be any other way. I mean, the possibility that the world could exist in other forms than the one I have always known.

    I’m gonna take this word away today, curl around it and think about it.

  2. have you seen: i’d be interested to hear what you ended up thinking about. reading your comment i got to thinking about how i sometimes throw around huge all-encompassing terms like that without taking a lot of time to think the use through. anyway. i can’t wait to get some of that birch in my oven in three years. speaking of which, got to go tend the oven.

  3. Hey,

    I’ll try and describe it. It made me think about the ways in which sexism is tolerated day to day. Just shrug your shoulders and say ‘pfft, men’ and leave it at that – thinking that because you’ve got annoyed or cynical about behaviour like that you’ve somehow stood up to it.
    The thought that the whole Idea can have a name and if something had a name or a definition it kind of brings in the idea that there might be alternatives to the Whole Thing. Not just that men can learn to be different and women can learn to be different within a system that is Patriarchy (like maternity leave for men or job equality for women) but that you can rethink the whole system itself.

    Thinking outside the box I suppose. That’s all it is.

    If I was to describe what happened as I read your post it would be as if, for just a flash of a second, my mental picture was white light – no imagery at all, no understanding, just white light. I was reading and imagining and understanding what you were saying, creating a little picture of you lugging the wood and the guys standing on the balcony and then the Patriarchy word came in and for a second my thoughts took me to the boundaries of what I know or can conceptualise and all the pictures and mental images and thoughts were replaced by white light, like a small explosion in my brain. The light, to me, is the unknown.

    A bit of an odd explanation maybe but that’s what happened!

    I suppose you’ve been thinking and talking about ideas like that for a long time so once you’ve done all the thinking that has led you to this point you can chuck out words like patriachy with practised ease!

  4. Wow. Sometimes I get all weirded out by the internet, by the fact that I write things on the internet, etc. Then I read a comment like yours just then and think well if we can have this effect on each other through this media, despite this media, then I’m glad I keep doing it.

    When I think of this story I kind of wonder why we didn’t just tell them all to fuck off. But we were highly motivated to stay silent by the fact that we were getting hundreds of euros worth of wood (that we would normally end up buying) for the price of putting up with their bullshit. Kind of a fucked up reason to just ignore something, but I don’t have any illusions about changing a catcalling man’s mind by flipping him off.

    I don’t feel like Ive been thinking and talking about issues like these as long as I could have been, should have been. But when I did start thinking and talking about them I think I was really luck to have some really clever people around to think and talk about them with, which made all the difference in shaping my thought development.

    Glad you read, glad you commented about your thoughts on this. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.