You thought that was a spelling mistake. But it isn’t.
Definition of Antropology, the study of ants in relation to environment, social relations and culture.
I had never been aware of antropology as such until I met Villager J.
Villager J and I began our friendship in my woodshed. It was a rainy day and I was trying to cut a stubborn piece of large wood into firewood, failing miserably. I was just about to throw my ax down when I looked up and saw him standing in the doorway, yellow raincoat, little dog at his side. That moment of awkwardness where you wonder how long you’ve been contemplated.
And that little shake of his head indicating a myriad of things. I had no clue what I was doing, and I obviously needed help.
”Move” Was all he said, and he took off his raincoat, put it on the side.
I hate getting help. No. Let me rephrase that. I hate feeling helpless. I prefer doing things myself, even if that means failure or things taking a lot longer than they ought to take. I tried to explain to him in the little Galego I could manage, that I could do it myself, but he ignored my protests, gestured at something which looked like a giant nail lying on the side, ‘Traie.” and picked up the sledgehammer. With a few taps he put the giant nail into the wood and then, quite impressive considering his size, he slammed the hammer onto it. And again. A tear began to appear in the wood, which turned bigger and bigger, until it was spliced.
I thanked him for his help, he shrugged and took the opportunity to look around in the shed. ”Castana” he nodded appreciatively pointing to the old wooden door in the corner. The wood he just spliced was carballo, oak, he told me. Looking back I remember thinking how amazing it was that he could distinguish these different woods, not from looking at the trees, but just the wood itself. I myself can now distinguish different types of wood too. I know trying to chop pine when it is dry is a nightmare, while chopping it when it is still green remarkably easy. And thanks to villager J I know how to splice oak. What a few years ago I considered remarkable, is now normal.
Communication between me and Villager J improved over the months when my Galego improved. Months turned into years.
”We have to be like ants.” he told me one day. Again.
We had entered banter territory. “You know what ants are?”
“You’ve told me this a million times before. ” I sighed, in mock annoyance.
He ignored what I said and put on his serious face. ”Ants collect in summer for the winter. Hence we all have to be like ants. We have to do that with our firewood. See , you ought to listen to me. When you arrived here you knew nothing. You were as green as grass. You couldn’t even distinguish a cabbage plant from a potato plant.”
I disagreed. ”I knew some things. And I am not stupid.”
”Who says you are stupid?’
”YOU do, behind my back. You lot all do. You all think I am a silly foreigner.”
He smirked. “But we like you.” he reassured me.
And so we stood there for a while, maybe leaning against the stone wall, in the shade of the chestnut tree he had planted so many years ago, or maybe we sat on the bench on the lane, memories merge. I tried to come up with a suitable anti ant retort.
“Thing is though, I actually think it is quite silly wanting to be like an ant.” I said finally.
“Considering ants often end up under the soles of people’s shoes…”
He had no answer for that.
But he’d never in a million years admit that perhaps the silly foreigner taught him something that day.