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Whats toes knows

A prompt to encourage your practice of creativity this week from Riversider and local author Larry Burns.

Ants on parade (Titus Pardee/Gazette).

Do you need a low stress way to include seven minutes of creative contemplation into your week? Consider this your helpful nudge towards a slightly more creative life. If it helps, come back every week for a quick hit of creative contemplation. Each week I’ll share a new nudge. It will include a Thing (T), a Place (P), and a Sense(S) for your focus, a TPS creative nudge.

In our last creative escapade, we networked our way into the tactile world of business cards, exploring the stories and the connections they weave into our lives. Did you make some magic while constructing card castles to house your dream job? Folding paper airplanes or other soaring objects out of these static little pocket billboards embraces the tangible and the symbolic; it’s making a flyer out of a flier. Even if you just used those seven minutes of creative contemplation to throw out a few stacks of old business cards, I hope the time left you looking ahead to the next story in your day.

This week, we're shifting our gaze downward, to the bustling metropolises that exist right beneath our feet. This is a moment for us to work in stillness, letting our creative object this week do all of the work. And they can work! It's time to get up close and personal with one of nature's most industrious creative architects: ants.

Their complex societies, intricate communication systems, and unparalleled teamwork are a testament to the wonders of the natural world. For this creative exercise, walk around outdoors until you find a nest of ants. From a safe distance, use your sense of sight to take in all the activity. How does it feel to watch something move while you stay still? 

As we step outdoors and ground ourselves, we're not just connecting with the earth but with the myriad of life forms that shape and enrich it. And while ants might be easy to overlook, or look down on, they play a pivotal role in our ecosystems and have much to teach us about ingenuity, collaboration, and adaptability…all key ingredients to a healthy creative lifestyle!

To better engage with this rich world at your tiptoes (ChatGPT4 and I could not find an equivalent to “fingertips” here, can you?), put your mind and body to one or more of these activities:

  1. Focused Observation: Find an ant and follow its journey. Make it a protagonist in your short film. Watch as it navigates obstacles, communicates with its peers, and goes about its tasks. 
  2. Epic Anthill Poetry: Every anthill has a story. Channel your inner bard and compose an epic poem about the rise and fall of an ant colony. From brave ant warriors to wise queens, let your imagination run wild as you chronicle the tales of these tiny titans. 
  3. Nest NurturingConsider the environment around an ant nest. What can you introduce to protect or promote its growth? Perhaps a leafy canopy to shield it from the sun or a tiny moat to deter predators. As you make these additions, reflect on the ways we can nurture and protect our own environments and communities.
  4. Ant Archaeology: Ants are meticulous housekeepers, removing unwanted debris from their nests. Spend some time cataloging their discards. Are they pieces of grass, stray shells, pebbles? Anything human made? Decluttering and organizing play key roles in a creative life.

Ants, in their tiny yet tenacious ways, remind us that moments of wonder are just a few steps from wherever we find ourselves. As you engage with your sense of wonder this week, remember that creativity isn't always about grand gestures or monumental projects. Sometimes, it's about pausing, observing, and finding inspiration in all the small things. Might our world not be all that different? Is it possible that the world we love today is the result of ceaseless effort, and the unsung heroes of our buried histories that shape our world, one grain of sand at a time?

Note: This column written with the help of ChatGPT Plus and related Plugins.