I've been watching the hummingbirds whirring up to our feeder and resting on the convenient little perches while they sip and drink. I can almost feel their hunger and fierce need for sugar water to fuel their darting flights through the air--flights that will soon take them to their winter quarters far away.
But what struck me most was the ants. The red sugar water had sunk to unnoticeable levels, so I unhooked the feeder and took it inside to wash in the kitchen sink. As I unscrewed the bottom and blasted it with water, a cluster of small black corpses floated into the sink trap--ants, maybe 30-40 of them, hard to count as they were such infinitesimal slivers of DNA.
To clarify their journey, envisage our house on a hill. Our deck rises a good fifteen feet above ground level, and the feeder is hung from the second-story deck (what were we thinking of to build so many decks!), another ten feet up. How do those little slivers of DNA make their way up from the ground, along the foundation, then crossing the rough clapboards to the hummingbird feeder? What infinite hunger drives them?
It reminded me of our hunger for God in St. Augustine's words, "...our heart is restless until it rests in you." What won't we do to put ourselves into the presence of our creator? What obstacles won't we climb, what walls won't we haul ourselves up in order to sip from God's nectar?
When I wake in the morning and sleepily fumble for my rosary (recently bought at the Museo de Vaticano) to say a few rounds before beginning my day, I feel that emptiness within like an echoing chamber. Then my fingers touch the beads and my mind repeats the endless, comforting prayer, "Hail Mary, full of grace..." As my fingers travel along the beads, my hunger is appeased, my being filled with a sense of God's presence, with his warmth and unlimited love. I have not climbed any tall walls, but I have taken the time to put myself in his presence so I can be fed, so I can give back the love which overflows from him to me and back again.
Like many writers, I am reluctant to let go of such a lovely metaphor--the ants' hunger and what they are willing to do to fill appease it. I have recently been trying once more to practice St. Ignatius' Examen and am reading various books on it, one in particular, Sacred Story, by William M. Watson, SJ. I feel heartened when I read his words about Ignatius and about that saint's efforts to put himself in God's presence; I feel as if ground were being put beneath me, that something sturdy is going up inside. If I can simply get myself to do the Examen daily, then I have a sense of climbing a wall with it, of making an effort to be with God.
So I am going to be like the ants (not the grasshoppers, please God, not those creatures who fiddled their summer away and failed to prepare for winter's exigencies), and let my hunger for God drive me to his presence and to the wonder of being fed over and over, again and again, by his succulent love.