4 red ants in a row on a branch

Porcupine Ridge Trail

Single file like marching ants. Small and insignificant as they’re engulfed by the grandeur of the jagged hills. The gnarled fingers of dead gums grapple for life amidst the dense fog. It encircles and entraps, yet life breathes under the pervasive whites of its suffocation. In and out. The exhales are clouds quickly enmeshed with the mist.

Sphagnum mosses shudder as they’re trampled underfoot. It’s cold. Move quickly. Left… left… left, right, left. Shrubs sprawl across the path attempting to reclaim their patches of now exposed earth. Their limbs are battered and bruised by the soldiers. Green fern leaves fight to unfurl, ever-subject to the elements.

Their senses are satiated with petrichor. The crisp air is infused with the smell of eucalyptus as they thrive post-fire. The taste of dry wind is tainted with wild peppercorns and the faecal matter of native creatures. Flowers – whites, purples, yellows, reds and greens – once laced this hillside, candlesticks swaying along with mother nature, standing tall and proud. She long ago plucked their petals, coercing them to distant lands in dances unteachable.

The stream trickles softly – softer than the gushing river preceding it. She is thirsty. The seasonal snow has melted, revealing dirty secrets. Once pure white, now the flakes shrink with morsels of black blights. The ants admire the charcoal sparkle, but she twinges as it seeps out and gathers, forming thick dredge. Life chokes.

Wind ceaselessly sweeps the long grasses. She frolics through the yellow – over smooth granite boulders speckled with sparkling quartz and capers with upward creeping moss. She whispers ‘tread lightly’ before whipping their faces. She is kind but furious. The rain spatters, mud forms, feet trudge. Raincoat fabric rustles against itself as the ants move. They quiver under her force but push on in pursuits of conquest. She is soft but growing impatient.