大地上的事情 / from Life on Earth

Chinese

   我观察过蚂蚁营巢的三种方式。小型蚁筑巢,将湿润的土粒吐在巢口,垒成酒盅状、灶台状、坟冢状、城堡状或松疏的蜂房状,高耸在地面;中型蚁的巢口,土粒散得均匀美观,围成喇叭口或泉心的形状,仿佛大地开放的一只黑色花朵;大型蚁筑巢像北方人的举止,随便、粗略、不拘细节,它们将颗粒远远地衔到什么地方,任意 一丢,就像大步奔走撒种的农夫。

   我看到一具熊蜂的尸体,它是自然死亡,还是因疾病或敌害而死,不得而知。它偃卧在那里,翅零乱地散开,肢蜷曲在一起。它的尸身僵硬,很轻,最小的风能将它推 动。我见过胡蜂巢、土蜂巢、蜜蜂巢和别的蜂巢,但从没有见过熊蜂巢。熊蜂是穴居者,它们将巢筑在房屋的立柱、檩木、横梁、椽子或枯死的树干上。熊蜂从不集 群活动,它们个个都是英雄,单枪匹马到处闯荡。熊蜂是昆虫世界当然的王,它们身着的黑黄斑纹,是在地上最怵目的图案,高贵而恐怖。老人们告诉过孩子,它们能蜇死牛马。

   穿越田野的时候,我看到一只鹞子。它静静地盘旋,长久浮在空中。它好像看到了什么,径直俯冲下来,但还未触及地面又迅疾飞起。我想象它看到一只野兔,因人类的扩张在平原上已近绝迹的野兔,梭罗在《瓦尔登湖 》中预言过的野兔:“要是没有兔子和鹧鸪,一 个田野还成什么田野呢?它们是最简单的土生土长的动物,与大自然同色彩,同性质,和树叶,和土是最亲密的联盟。看到兔子和鹧鸪跑掉的时候,你不觉得它们是禽兽,它们是大自然的一部分,仿佛飒飒的木叶一样。不管发生怎么样的革命,兔子和鹧鸪一定可以永存,象土生土长的人一样。不能维持一只兔子的生活的田野, 一定是贫瘠无比的。”
   看到一只在田野上空徒劳盘旋的鹞子,我想起田野往昔的繁荣。

十四

   冬天,一次在原野上,我发现了一个奇异的现象,它纠正了我原有的关于火的观念。我没有见到这个人,他点起火走了。火像一头牲口,已将枯草吞噬很大一片。北风吹着,风头很硬,火紧贴在地面上,火首却逆风而行,这让我吃惊。为了再次证实,我把火种引到另一片草上,火依旧溯风烧向北方。

十六

   五月,在尚未插秧的稻田里,闪动着许多小鸟。我叫不出它们的名字,它们神态机灵,体型比麻雀娇小。它们走动的样子,非常庄重。麻雀行走用双足蹦跳,它们行走是像公鸡那样迈步。它们的样子,和孩童做出大人的举止一样好笑。它们飞得很低,从不落到树上。它们是田亩的精灵。它们停在田里,如果不走动,便简直认不出它们。

English Translation

1

My observations suggest that ants build three different types of nests. Small ants spit little grains of dirt around the entrance to their nests, building up a little circular pile of dirt in the shape of an egg cup, or the fire hole in the top of farm house stove, or a grave mound, or a citadel, or a sagging honeycomb cell. Slightly bigger ants do their work more evenly and aesthetically, building what look like little trumpet mouths, or the openings to underground springs, or black flowers blossomed on the ground. Big ants behave like north country folk when they build nests. They work absentminded, roughly, with little attention to detail. They carry grains of dirt in their mandibles a long way and then just chuck them down any old place, like farmers broadcasting seed as they stride through the fields.

4

I am looking at the corpse of a bumblebee. I have no way of knowing if it died naturally or of sickness or was killed by an enemy. It is lying supine, wings askew, legs curled up. It is stiff and very light, the slightest breeze moves it. I have seen the nests of hornets, wasps, and bees, including honeybees, but I have never seen a bumblebee’s nest. Bumblebees nest in tunnels dug in the in the wood of building columns, purlins, cross beams and rafters and in the trunks. Bumblebees never move around in groups, each bumblebee is a lone hero, a solitary swordsman roaming the land. Bumblebees are the obvious royalty of the insect kingdom, their black and yellow regalia is awesome, noble, terrifying. Old folks like to tell children that a bumblebee can sting a horse or an ox to death.

6

I was crossing a field when I saw a Sparrow Hawk. It was circling quietly and it drifted there in the sky for a long time. Then it seemed to see something and dove straight down but quickly flew back up before it reached the ground. My guess is it must have seen a rabbit, which would be a rare thing because wild rabbits are disappearing from the countryside with the spread of cities and towns. In Walden, Thoreau writes, “What is a country without rabbits and partridges? They are among the most simple and indigenous animal products;…… of the very hue and substance of Nature, nearest allied to leaves and to the ground…… It is hardly as if you had seen a wild creature when a rabbit or a partridge bursts away, only a natural one, as much to be expected as rustling leaves. The partridge and the rabbit are still sure to thrive, like true natives of the soil, whatever revolutions occur……. That must be a poor country indeed that does not support a hare.”[1]

When I saw the Sparrow Hark hovering in fruitless labor over the field, it made me think about how rich with life our fields used to be.

14

Once in winter I was out in open country and discovered something marvelous that changed my understanding of fire. I never saw who it was who had started the fire and then left. Like a horse in a pasture, the fire had eaten a large patch of withered grass. There was a north wind blowing hard. The fire was staying low to the ground but it was moving into the wind, which I couldn’t believe. To make sure, I moved some fire over to a fresh stretch of grass and the fire continued as before, burning toward the north.

16

In May in paddies where rice seedlings have not yet been transplanted there are lot of birds of one particular kind. I don’t know the name of these birds, but they move very quickly, seem very smart, and they are smaller and more delicate than sparrows. They strut along as if they are up to something extremely important. Sparrows move in two-footed hops but these birds stride along step by step like chickens. They are as amusing in this as little children who imitate the way adults walk. The birds fly close to the ground and never fly up into trees. They are like the very soil quickened into intelligence and life. When they land in the fields and are motionless, they might as well be invisible.

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REFERENCES

  1. Thoreau, Henry D.Walden: A Fully Annotated Edition, edited by Jeffrey S. Cramer (New Haven: London University Press, 2004), pp. 271-2.

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