The Artist with whom I share a life likes to quote an obscure source to the effect that every artist must be two people, one to do the work and the other to say “Stop!” He sometimes adds, “And they must live in the same body.”
As fall comes on here in northern Michigan, and as another Election Day looms, who among us are the busy ants – harvesting, canning, putting gardens to bed, mowing the grass one more time, putting away summer clothes and bringing out winter garments, volunteering on political campaigns and voting drives – and who are the carefree grasshoppers?
Giddy grasshoppers indulge in long walks, read voraciously, and find comfort in correspondence with friends, in music and art and poetry.
Ants get their work done. Grasshoppers take time to smell the roses.
I hope that all of you, dear readers, are managing to both Ant and Grasshopper as days grow shorter and the cool of evening settles in earlier and earlier.
Because in the best of times, fall is a season of ambivalence. She borrows warm days from August, offers delightful reprises of June growth, and then taunts us with bitter November winds. She gives generously the brilliant reds and oranges and yellows and purples of turning leaves but only by draining them of spring and summer chlorophyll. How the poignant beauty of autumn pierces the heart! Because we know full well that winter is the next act in the year’s play.
It is time, says the Ant in us, to lay in stores against the barren season. It is time, says the Grasshopper, for more song and dance! We must prepare for an uncertain future, says the Ant. We must seize the present hour! says the Grasshopper.
In my reading life, too, I shuffle the deck pretty frequently to give both ant and grasshopper minds their due, following a serious work of history with light fiction or a serious novel with breezy memoir or poetry or even a children’s book.
Does it feel as if these fraught times of ours are too important to waste a minute in singing and dancing? That we need to wear ourselves out with work and worry and can’t afford joy? Here is advice from White Eagle of the Hopi Nation, important words for all of us in these turbulent times:
You do not help at all being sad and without energy. You help if good things emanate from the Universe now. It is through joy that one resists. Also, when the storm passes, each of you will be very important in the reconstruction of this new world.
So let your inner grasshopper out of that little metaphorical bamboo cage for frequent recess time and give her a chance to hop and skip and fiddle and play. When it’s the ant’s turn, the work will still be there, waiting for you.