TERMITE5There is a barn in the distance, covered in a light morning mist. It is a bit ramshackle yet picturesque in the soft glow of the new day. There are no sounds. It is quiet, like a tomb, or better yet, a still photograph.

I have the idea to make it my own. I want to preserve this vision for posterity—even if just for my own enjoyment. My equipment can be readied in minutes. I study the scene looking to mentally crop out extraneous details. I don’t want to eliminate anything. It is all so very lovely as an extended image. Why segregate a piece like a lost portion of a total reality?

The barn upon closer inspection is laden with color. The wood has been eaten away by termites, their tiny wings in evidence. The carcasses are stacked in morbid piles. They sit in stark contrast to the beauty of the barn. Reds and ochers stream through the brown structure, enlivening the almost dead wood. Bits of other hues are remnants of long-ago attempts at beautification and a modicum of décor. The window ledges are green, the door is red. The barn suddenly blooms with tints of delightful intensity.

The camera goes in deeper to reveal abstract patterns and swirling designs worthy of the best abstract expressionist painter. This kind of isolation makes sense. It is a microcosmic world never before seen in just this way. The termites have been left to attack the barn, its owner obviously deciding that the cost of termite treatment was far higher than the value of the old wooden barn. They’ve worked their way through the structure and eroded the wood unevenly, giving the barn surface the feeling of a living creature in the process of metamorphosis—right before my eyes.

The camera is quick. Shot after shot from close and then from afar. Snap, snap, snap, it devours the subject with greedy glee. I let it roam freely, an instrument of revelation. Slowly and surely, after a time, I rest and stop to contemplate the wonders of my new discovery. The light has changed in the sky, and surrounding trees are more aggressive as afternoon shadows loom. Perhaps the late day will bring out more beauty in this diamond in the rough.

Patiently I load my gear, drugged with the exhaustive scrutiny of the day’s photography. I am captivated as local colors withdraw their intensity and the world grows dark. I feel like Monet while painting that series of haystacks and those cathedral facades. Each moment in time is on display. It is a sort of loose time lapse technology at work, but oh so simple in conception.

I have to give due credit to those termites who made such a glorious scene of romantic splendor—albeit unintentionally. Nature truly works in mysterious ways. They are my muses today in ungainly form in spite of their off-putting reputation. I will feel differently the next time I spray their translucent hides with toxic poison in the war zone of my kitchen. For now, they have given me hours of visual pleasure and sensory richness of a kind not experienced as deeply ever before.