Raina Sciocchetti: Ants Like Us

©Genlyne Fiske White

Raina Sciocchetti

Ants Like Us


        Like an ant quivering on the edge of a table before scurrying away, I stand, relying on two crampon points and the tip of my ice axe to anchor me to the icy slope. Inches from my right boot, a threatening crevasse snakes down the glacier, revealing cavernous blue depths. Beside me, the gap is not more than twenty-four inches, but the entire glacier is a forbidding patchwork of fractures. I stare at thousands of tons of dynamic ice, unable to muster the nerve to navigate the uncomfortably broad step over the abyss. I am strongly inclined to turn around and scamper away, but I’m effectively attached to the glacier, the last teammate of five spread along the length of a rope, waiting unsteadily while our leader buries an anchor into the ice in case anyone is to slip.
        Frozen by my fear of falling and failing, I am reduced to a small, terribly unworthy opponent of the glacier. The ice creaks and shifts, producing an ominous growl. My calm is as precarious as my position, and I start crying, terrified, trapped in a personal hell on the cold, hard glacier. I stay there for a moment that stretches longer than my early morning shadow before I step, convinced I’m about to find myself an unwilling participant in a crevasse rescue lesson, dangling far below the daylight in the narrow, unnervingly blue slot and crying until (and likely after) rescue. Over the course of the climb, I’ve shrunk from a slightly below average sized human to an infinitesimally small, exceedingly insignificant ant now trembling on the frictionless surface of a disquieting landscape.


        Perched on a couch back at home, I feel something crawling on me. I catalog speedy little legs and unknown size and purpose. Alarmed, I aggressively swat for the threat, imagining a spider, tick, centipede, tarantula. Predictably, it’s just an ant, one of ten quadrillion members of the ant race alive on Earth at any given moment.
        “It’s just an ant,” says everyone, everywhere. Ants are biters, stingers, predators, destroyers of crops, and eaters of houses. Industriousness and the ability to carry over fifty times their bodyweight constitute a dangerously insufficient evaluation of these underestimated creatures. Ants developed systematic agriculture millions of years before humans, cultivating crops, managing herds of aphids, and fiercely defending farms against pests and molds. Possessing outrageously keen senses of smell, ants are able to detect minute particles from several meters away and identify minor chemical changes in other creatures. Driver ants swarm animals one thousand times their size, bullet ants render their human victims to a reported state of wanting to lay down and die with the most powerful sting of any insects, and leafcutter ants tear up living vegetation and effectively compost the leaves to raise fungus.
        Over 12,000 species of resilient super-sniffers inhabit this Earth, organized into complex social colonies characterized by advanced communication and systematized lifestyle. Like ants, people aggressively protect, expand, and obliterate, relying on physical faculties and self-established superiority to perpetuate the notion that humanity is permanently and exponentially bigger than any other species. As the total biomass of ants is greater than that of humans, perhaps we should be less dismissive of these fellow animals.


        E.O. Wilson, biologist, Pulitzer Prize winner, and renowned expert on anything ant, uses ants to study the evolution of social behavior. His repeated thesis: humans are like ants.
        Ants are an exceptionally eusocial species, defined by their highly organized society founded upon individual sacrifice for the greater wellbeing of the group. Wilson considers the forces of social evolution revealed by ant colonies highly applicable to humans and argues that eusociality is what enabled humans to prevail as the dominating species of the world. Just as humans are supported by the collective nature of civilization, individual ants survive because of the social structure of their incredibly refined colonies, characterized by communication, organization, smell, farming, maintenance, social roles, and practically civilized lifestyles. Although ants are by no means miniature humans and the eusociality of humans was developed differently, intertwined with other aspects of humanity such as higher intellect, complex emotions, sense of free will, and advantageous anatomy, ants and humans both alter their environments like no other living species. Humans can do many things that ants cannot, on a literal level, but both rule their respective worlds.


        The comparison of myself to an ant is a subject of ongoing consideration.
        Ant identity is suggested soon after when articulating the trauma of crawling across glaciers to my best friend, she compares me to an ant. “Ants are strong little things,” she tells me, “And always running.” I protest the comparison, profiling my character with even less mercy than the adversary glacier: weak, unskilled, helpless, frantic, tearful, fearful. I survived the ambitious step across the crevasse by way of miracle; I accomplished the rest of the climb only because every other glacier was comfortably snow covered which ensured that I never again saw a crevasse glowering at me before it swallowed.
        “Do you display agricultural tendencies?” my friend asks helpfully.
        “Well, some ants do, so I thought I’d check.”
        Although any comparison between humans and ants must allow for variation within either species, if I’m brave enough to possess the inclination to be challenged, it manifests in painful, ambitious projects involving dry glaciers and consequent suffering.
        “I’m NOT an ant,” I protest for the second or fifth time.
        “But you are pretty short.”


        Although small and (usually) easily squished, ants are characterized by their resilience and ability to survive extreme adversity.
        In this regard, I feel significantly less than worthy of ant status. A charging dog, a slip into glacial innards, a centipede, a risk, a failure leave me paralyzed or fleeing. Fear aggressively invades my mind, seizing my thoughts in a grip of iron, smashing, melting, and warping logic into a new shape. I point out the glacier as the site of my greatest chicken impersonation, citing my display of hysterics and denial of rational survival skills as clear evidence that I should assume a mascot clearly more resembling of my character. Biologically, some degree of fear is critical for survival as a vital response to danger, so chickens demonstrate not only fright but also admirable survival instinct as they run directly into hazards in their frantic attempts to seek safety. My best friend protests with simple but faulty rationale: “No, you can’t be a chicken, because you’re an ant.” At this stage in the ant discussion, ant has become my nickname, and hers as well, and we strive for an advanced strength of will associated with ants. Yet any level of ant-ness I maintain, fear is my frequent companion and I naturally flutter away from hypothetical threats.
        Chickens are renowned eaters of ants, but many red ants, particularly fiery in taste and in nature, will win. If ants froze and stared at every threat like I do on unstable ice, they’d die so much faster.


        Carpenter ants scurry in a continuous line on the precariously thin edge of the sink, carrying small particles of food and house in an efficient line of production. The ants are not only cleaning the kitchen counters but also slowly nibbling away at the structure of my grandfather’s house. When I was little, present adults would advise that we execute the ants upon sighting. Now, an established vegetarian and general ant sympathizer, I only remove the ants like unpalatable raisins dotting my toast or cereal and pretend not to notice the larger insects parading past me, flaunting chunks of the walls.
        The ants thrive while the house deteriorates into a marginally smaller, messier, emptier construction representative of cumulative neglect. Neither humans nor ants are infinite in quantity nor lifespan, but both populations reach towards the same sense of perpetuity, creating and destroying complicated structures and systems infinitely larger than themselves and altering the natural environment on different but nevertheless impressively exhausting levels. Numerous and busy, the determined little creatures impact their environments and regularly survive.
        Most of us live like worker ants, conducting short lives, ranging, for the most part, only short distances from our homes but impacting much larger areas. We’re small and busy, afraid and brave, tiny and consequential against the immense geography that is the world.


        My list of fears is finite, but not permanent.
        When Ant and I were smaller, we imitated the courageous journeys of ants by flouncing back and forth for hours on a seven-foot tall fence swinging brooms like batons singing fourteen versions of “The ants are marching one by one, hoorah, hoorah…” We astonished passersby and entertained ourselves, not remotely afraid of our reputation or the potential drop. Eight years later, on the steep shore of a lake buried in the wilderness, I’m boldly navigating through boulders and ice when I tumble down a steep snowfield nearly into the water. I drag myself to a halt, fingers dug into the icy slope; I lie on the snow under the rapidly liquefying sky, a foolish, brave, tiny speck of an ant.
        Although we’re no longer brandishing cleaning instruments, we’re still emulating ants, now elevated by our pursuit of ant qualities, growing ant-aided confidence, and dare I say it, occasional ant-boosted success. We’re mildly crippled ants, ever stumbling, but intent on pursuing our ant dreams.


        Ant and I discuss the merits of working toward more definite (braver) ant status.
        There is a proverb: If you do not smash an ant, it is impossible for you to find its guts. Every day, ants are stomped and spared without thought. The question is not if smashing will occur but how much damage will ensue. Ant imitation is an effort to crush insecurity, functioning as a lens through which to be forcefully pressured but not fatally squished, fiery but functional, uneaten and still flying.
        Ant and I remind ourselves of our ant strength daily and arrogantly define our ant-ness as exclusive. “Infinite ant power,” Ant says, and I echo the refrain. We quantify our total friend counts, cruelly, in decimals, but assign each other infinity as a numerical value. It’s impossible, but we’re already impossibly ants.
There are no ants like us. Most are smaller.



Raina Sciocchetti is an aspiring writer from Northern California. She is an Environmental Writing and Media Studies Major at Unity College.

Kaya Pulz: Home


Kaya Pulz




I throw open the creaky front door of my light yellow Victorian house. My bare feet leap down from my porch, covered with cracked white paint and sandy shoes. I look across the street to the dry field as my eyes follow the lime green frisbee that some middle-aged locals are tossing. I catch myself giggling as one of the men runs towards the wooden gazebo, yelling at the other player because she threw it too hard. My eyes glance passed the mixture of aged houses and newly built mansions, while I feel a sense of adrenaline every time I place my foot over a small pebble. The early autumn sky beats down on the small winding tree at the end of the road that I once thought of as a jungle gym. Then I stop, trying to work up enough energy to run across the steaming black road between the two beachside inns to get to my destination.

It’s off season here in Beach Haven, New Jersey. I hear no voices of humans, but faint screeches of seagulls and crashes of shoreline waves. I step through the fields of white sand and broken shells, as if I were sneaking past a sleeping lion, until I reach the end of the dry border of the ocean-kissed floor. While I watch the white ocean foam inflate and deflate from the rough wind, my feet descend into the soft, muddy ground as if I were trapped in this place of pastel blues and misty skies. I can smell nothing but salty seaweed and a slight touch of grilled chicken from the beachside houses. The warm feeling of the sunrays grabbing my bare arms is astonishingly comforting. The beach has always been my go-to.

For holidays, mostly Christmas, everyone on my father’s side, including distant relatives, would join together and celebrate on this beach. After the Christmas feast everyone would hurry to the frigid shore in our sweater dresses and ironed suits. Some would run into the ocean searching for sea glass, while others conversed about the poor horseshoe crab they found washed up on the sand, or maybe about what unimaginable desserts awaited us in the kitchen. With each gust of wind pushing past our ears, it was as if the beach were trying to spark up a conversation too. Maybe about how rough the summer was, or about how happy it is that we were all back again.
On the rare occasion that we would get a snow storm, I would be at the beach all day. I remember my father pulling my bright pink winter hat over my eyes because we were in such a rush to get started. As we ran out of the front door with our multicolored disk sleds wearing snow suits that resembled giant marshmallows, we would try our hardest not to slip to our deaths. The winter wind on the shoreline made me livid, but sliding down the frozen dunes face first was worth the frost-tipped nose on my face. Being so small at the time, I was drawn to the conclusion that I was sliding down mountains. As we descended for what felt like an hour, I would scream a scream that could shatter glass. Thankfully it never snowed too often, but when it did you would know where to find me.

Although the beach was an exhilarating place to be, it was also a place for me to run to when life was not the most enjoyable. Sometimes I would leave a note, sometimes I wouldn’t, but when my father knew I was upset he always knew where I was. I remember a time stumbling out of my house in tears, knowing nothing but the fact that I needed to be on the beach. I didn’t even care about stepping on all of the small pebbles. It was mid-Spring, which meant there may have been another person or two soaking up the sun and enjoying the cool water. I saw someone, but I could not let them intrude on my alone time in the place that taught me stability and restored my sanity.
As I sit here in the warm, dusty sand reminiscing about all the times I have had on this beach, a small sandpiper scurries across my view. As I start to stand again, the lightly colored, miniature bird soars across the ocean. I begin to wonder where it might be going or when it will land again. I continue to make my way to the mussel-covered jetties that my mother always warned me about, mostly because she thought I would slip on the mossy seaweed. As I stroll, I catch a strange movement out of the corner of my eye. I think it’s a wave, but as soon as I turn my head I see a silky grey fin arise from the rugged waters. I decide not to walk any further, but to imbibe the beauty of the local dolphins. Each one submerges in sync with the others. I watch the sun begin to set, as the vivid colors of pink and orange fill

the sky. The dolphins begin to swim away from shallow waters, and my view is like a Bob Ross painting. I look down at my sandy toes and find a full, palm-sized sand dollar inches away from my footprint. Each design amazes me. Every
moment that I spend here, I am amazed by something new. I realize that this place pulls me in as if I were part of the tides. My father calls me to come home soon, but I am already home.


Kaya Pulz is a 19 year old student from Beach Haven, NJ currently enrolled in Unity College as a Sustainable Agriculture major. She plans to run a small-scale organic farm and further her studies in soils sciences. Her ultimate goal is to encourage sustainable practices and healthy living, so that everyone has the chance to experience the beauties of the world. ​

Alison Vilag’s Bonfires

Alison Vilag

Summer’s existence is debatable in the middle of the Bering Sea yet, even there, we continue her quintessential gathering: bonfires. We have to be resourceful—the island’s only wood comes from waves of Russian origin—so we resort to burning pallets that once supported the cases of Alaskan Amber we’re drinking. Your s’mores may be constructed with carcinogenic marshmallows but it gets the job done. 

Thursday afternoon, Halibut Girl Liz pedaled to A-Dorm and shouted through the supersize peephole once plugged by a lock. This is our most reliable form of communication, since she fails at dialing phones and I fail at answering them. Her arrival was a welcome distraction from the brow-furrowing task of how to best cook salmon (having been raised vegetarian, this knowledge is not intuitive).

“You wanna go to the bar tonight?”

“Sure, I’ve got tomorrow off.”

“We’re gonna have a bonfire at Staff Quarters after; Boat Boys are in town!”

“You know I’ll be there.” 

I solved the salmon problem with a squeeze of lemon and a dash of basil, shooed the Aleut boys out of our work vehicles (“You can’t be in there until you’re tall enough to reach the pedals!”), scrambled up the rocks above town, next to the diesel tanks. There I sat with my mandolin, journal, and a beer, watching the halibut boats come in. It was idyllic—the first day I’d seen the sun for over a month, the first time it’d been warm enough (i.e., 50 degrees) to wear just a t-shirt. The evening was calm, the harbor placid, glassy, reflecting green from the hills. 

By the time Liz was done sampling halibut, though, it was after 10:00. Any Thursday night in town, the bar could be open from 9 p.m. till midnight, but there’s a minor technicality: if there are fewer than 10 people inside the bar at 10:00, it closes. When we arrived, there were four—the Boat Boys, halibut fishermen I’d met a fortnight ago at St. Paul’s dance hall.

Tonight at the bar, Andrew and Brandon were shooting pool and Gary was desperately trying to find weed. The bartender was trying to get rid of us and go home; I gestured with a Sierra Nevada I’d swiped from Andrew towards the curling smoke across the road.

“They’re having a bonfire. We should go over there. I’ve got booze.” 

That’s all it took; their boat was registered as a dry vessel and they’d been at sea for two weeks. We walked back towards A-Dorm, Gary pleading with everyone—even young mothers pushing strollers—to please find him some weed. On paper, St. Paul is damp. That is, you can purchase beer or wine, but not the hard stuff. 

These rules don’t prevent anyone from drinking liquor. Just because you can’t buy it means little. We stashed my jug of Alaska Outlaw in Liz’s green backpack and waited behind A-Dorm with the Boat Boys, now 3. (Gary, still weedless, fell victim to a streak of sentimentality and decided the moment was right to send emails to his ex-women.) 

The aroma of burning chemicals led us around the harbor to NMFS the palatial white National Marine Fisheries Service building known to us only by its acronym. Inside, I finally met the enigmatic Sean, who I knew only for his pre-dawn rising (commendable in the land of midnight sun) and skill at enraging male fur seals (unfortunate, since his job hinged on not enraging male fur seals). This remains all I know about Sean, for he shook my hand, informed me it was cold, and then retreated—presumably to bed.

We continued out to the burning pallets. Beers were cracked, my whiskey began making the rounds. Halibut Liz tried to convince Brandon, an Alaskan native, that he was actually Samoan; when she failed, she instead taught him South Pacific war cries. Bobette, queen of seal pups and classless jokes, got so drunk she couldn’t stand up. 

Halibut Liz was struck with an irrepressible urge to show me the inside of a rotting warehouse near NMFS Palace. She grabbed my hand and led me to its yawning entrance. The sagging metal exterior housed an abyss of broken glass and questionable smells—the perfect set for a horror movie, I thought. Halibut Liz and I both forgot that I was wearing sandals. I promptly cut my toe, although I couldn’t feel it.

“It’s fine, my tetanus shot is up-to-date,” I reassured her.

We continued into the dark, and Liz handed me a hard hat and told me to hold my breath. She then opened a long-unplugged chest freezer. Its contents were mostly unrecognizable, but we could discern a knee-high brew of soupy reindeer remains.   

We departed hastily and decided that, having shared that experience, we should pee together and further cement the 

moment. Back at the pallet fire, the whiskey jug was still going around. Anthony—one of the Boat Boys who I’d spoken to twice that night, both times in ridicule, followed me towards NMFS Palace. He staggered a beautiful serpentine.

“Couldn’t pass a sobriety test like that,” I prodded, waltzing ahead of him. Next thing I knew, two rough hands grabbed my hips firmly, pulled me backwards. I ripped Anthony’s hands off my body and spat, “I don’t think so. That’s not happening. Don’t fucking touch me.” 

I marched back to the fire, seething.

  “He fucking grabbed me,” I told them.

It was an effective way to kill a party that should’ve ended long ago. I walked back toward A-Dorm with Halibut Liz and an Anthony search party. 

My whiskey and Liz’s bike were also missing—seems he’d been grabbing everything he could get his hands on.

The next afternoon, Liz pedaled to A-dorm and yelled through the peephole. She’d found Anthony swimming half-naked in the boat’s live well and interrogated him. They found her bike in the road in front of the cannery, salvaged my half-gone jug from a patch of grass. Bobette had puked during seal harvest, Andrew looked like death. Brandon—the biggest of the crew—had passed out on the deck, leaving his boatmates with the challenge of carrying him to bed.

The paucity of wood on St. Paul may be a blessing; if it were easier to bonfire, the island might not be able to handle the consequences. Being resourceful, however, we tend to find a way. Perhaps that’s why St. Paul has banned liquor.



Alison Világ is has been studying Environmental Writing and Media Studies at Unity College since 2014. When school isn’t in session, Világ moonlights as a professional birding guide; her work has carried her to an array of far-flung places (Philippines, Michigan, Alaska.) Follow more of Alison’s work through her blog, Peregrination, and Medium.


“Bonfire” by Deanna Witman modified from source  “Image Drifwood fire 2” by Mike Fernwood; Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Unity Student Artist Ru Allen’s “Harvesting Unity”

Harvesting Unity

Ru Allen

Unity College student Ru Allen, an Art & Environment Major, embarked on a project as part of a Community-Based Learning class “Environmental Photography”. In this project-based course, students pursue a semester-long project that pairs them with a community organization of their choosing. Students hone their technical skills and vision in the medium while exploring the inner workings of the organization, as well as develop new relationships with individuals who are part of the greater community.
Ru found a perfect match in “Veggies For All”, a food bank farm in Unity that works to relieve hunger by growing vegetables for those in need while collaborating with partners to distribute and increase access to quality and nutritious food. Since its founding in 2007, VFA has provided 108,000 pounds of vegetables to more than 1,500 food‐insecure central Mainers and engaged hundreds of volunteers in thousands of hours of community‐based hunger relief. The Veggies For All program is part of the overall program offerings and initiatives of Maine Farmland Trust.

Allen’s work is currently on display at Maine Farmland Trust Gallery in Belfast through November 16th.

A special thank you to Veggies For All Director Sara Trunzo (Unity College, ’08) and MFT Gallery Director Anna Witholt Abaldo for making this possible.

Allen’s statement about her work: “Harvesting Unity serves as document and exploration of an issue facing many communities, that of food and people. My understanding of the relationship between humans and the land has been reframed through food we grow and those who grow it. Veggies For All (a project of Maine Farmland Trust) cultivates produce that goes to the food pantry in Unity, Maine so that those who use its services have access to fresh and nutritious foods.

Alternating between camera to my eye and hands in the earth, I attempted to capture as much of the growing process from start to finish in one harvest season. These images document much of the harvest and community interactions that lead up to a product ready to be distributed around the community. The time I spent in the fields and at the washing station made it clear to me how this organization’s success relies on the hard work of a few core members and a network of part-time employees and volunteers from the community. I am grateful that my presence was accepted and through this acceptance, allowed me to capture many different aspects of the harvesting processes. Surrounded by busy people, I found it an enjoyable challenge to capture their movements in ways that reflected the atmosphere and their individual behaviors. What I was naturally drawn to, however, were the suspended moments in places that were easily overlooked. Harvesting Unity reflects the spirit of a small community operation held together by work of people passionate for the land, the food they grow, and the people around them.”


Building on poetry slam tradition @ Unity College

Robin MerrillPoetry Slam @ Unity College
On April 27th, Unity built on their budding poetry slam tradition with a rowdy show of student poetry. Six talented students participated, with Brian Fisher taking first place and the $25 cash prize that was generously donated by a member of the community. Judges came from near and far to hear these poems and score them subjectively, but the poets know that the points are not the point!

The evening opened with a feature reading from slam poet Robin Merrill, who will represent Maine at the National Poetry Slam in Oakland, California in August. Visit her at robinmerrill.com.


Unity College Students visit with local artist Kenny Cole

Unity College students visit with local artist Kenny Cole

Recently, as part of HU2121 Art and Sustainability Science Gallery Series students from the class visited the studio of Kenny Cole of Monroe, ME. He shared his newest project with us “Flood” which deals with a vanishing culture of Sea Nomads from Thailand and a discourse of both biblical and contemporary issues. Kenny will be showing this work later this summer as a solo exhibition at BUOY in Kittery, Maine.