“Hi, my name is……uh…. brain fart!”
I’m supposed to be working on an article today. I have to pick something to inform young people about, and make it interesting. I just can’t seem to settle on a single subject. And just when I do, I can’t think of a way to make it flow. So you see…. brain constipation.
First I was really grasping. Maybe an article on how they get lead into pencils. Or I could go with describing all the wierd and off the wall jobs helicopter pilots have. What I really want to do is write stories, and they tell me that non-fiction articles can be stories, but I want to make up stuff. I don’t want to do research. Here, I’ll make up an article about how they get that lead into pencils. Right here and now.
Suprisingly, my research led me to a small village in Papau New Guinea. Local legend tells of a people who have great skills with termites. The story says that thousands of years ago, their cheif saw termites eating up a tree and knew that if he could direct those termites, they could cut down trees, carve out boats, whittle elegant designs on the beams of their homes, and other things that, frankly, this chief was sick and tired of doing. This guy was chief and he could have just told his wife to go chop down her own trees, or at least hired somebody to do it, but he wasn’t very smart. He did, however, have a gift with termites. A gift which has been passed down from generation to generation. I witnessed the fruits of this gift with my own eyes.
After two weeks on the thick, heavy rivers, chasing ghost stories, I wound up in a small grove of banyan trees, ten miles from any village. I stood in the midst of those ancient trees and shouted the ancient words to announce my presence to the termite people.
“Little pig, little pig, let me in!” I yelled to the banyan trees.
“Not by the hair of my chin-y-chin-chin!” came the sure reply.
They accepted me without question and I saw what few men alive today have ever seen. Termites working together, creating thousands of ten inch pieces of cirular wood, which are then carried to another team of termites who paitently, and skillfully, eat the center of that wood, straight through. The older, skilled people of the village have the honor of sliding the lead into the wood. While the younger apprentices, squeeze that little metal thingy around the eraser at the bottom.
Why, after all these years, did the termite people allow their great and sacred art be shown to the world? For this simple reason. I asked.
N. Palscak deep in the forest of Papau New Guinea with the Termite People (photo by say_cheese 05)