Tag Archives: stories by Linda Claire Hess Groshans

The Queen Ant a fable by Linda Claire Groshans, December 1973

The queen ant leaned forward in her throne, balancing her head between her two upper legs. An idea was racing madly through her elegant brain, but it was the kind of an idea which one can never put a finger on, especially an ant. Disappointment spread over the face of the beautiful queen, as she crossly pushed away the blank sheet of paper in front of her. The pen, which she had picked up with her second leg set, dropped with a ping to the small tile floor. One of the many work ants, which surrounded the throne room, made a move toward the fallen pen. While, at the same time, two other handsomely dressed ants raced to re-fluff the cushions and dampen cloths for the forehead of the queen. The queen, who appeared to be quite out of sorts, looked sadly into the solemn eyes of the young ant who was holding the cloth on her forehead. The young ant, in return, moved his eyes toward the floor, as he had been conditioned to do in such a case. 

“Dear young ant,” spoke the queen in a very gentle voice, “I am very anxious to help you and your fellow ants. I realize how hard it must be to live as a common working ant.” 

The young ant, who was a little uncertain about how to handle such a touchy moment, reached back into his mind for some words he might have been taught at the Conditioning School for Young Male Ants, but he could not remember learning any such words. Frustrated with himself, the young ant boldly replied, “Dear queen, I am not fit for thy service.  Please may I be excused, so that I might be executed in a manner which befits such a stupid ant as I.” 

“No” the queen answered boldly, as a smile broke across her face. “No, I command you to remain in my service!” 

The poor young ant, whose antennae had already fallen, began to cry desperately, “Dear queen, I couldn’t…I am just a stupid, oh dear.” 

The other work ants had frozen in their places and were witnessing the whole scene with dumb-struck faces and tear-filled eyes. The queen jumped up boldly on her throne. She looked over her court with happy eyes, and screamed very loudly, “I love you all, and I want to give a present to each one of you to show my love!” 

The female ants swayed in their shoes, and several of the male ants began to develop symptoms of a nervous breakdown. This seemed to make no difference to the queen, for she only smiled wider, and giggled louder. 

“I will give you freedom. I will give you free will, free choice, free speech, free education…Oh my dear ants, all your years have been spent in serving me, now you shall be your own masters. You have freedom.”  

“But what is freedom?” one of the boldest ants in the group finally managed to blurt out. 

“Why my dear friends, it simply means that you are now as I am, and you can choose to do things, just as I always have done.” The queen answered patiently.  

There was a moment full of silence amount the ants, as they each gave themselves a pinch. There was another moment full of realization as the work ants began to understand what the queen had said. A few of the young ants began to giggle nervously, but the older ants began tearing at their clothes and shedding huge ant tears.  

Finally, an old ant stepped close to the queen and whispered in a cracked voice. “You have apparently experienced this ‘freedom’. Perhaps you could explain to us older ants, what we must do in order to appreciate freedom.” 

“But” blurted out the queen, who had been taken a little off guard, “Well, you see, um…. To experience well it is quite simple, you just, all you do is, oh dear…I don’t know.” The queen fell back down into her throne. 

“Your Highness, if I might suggest something?”  

The queen, who was really a bit upset cried out, “Well, yes, go right ahead.” 

The old ant leaned forward and began to speak in a thoughtful, determined way, “Well, freedom seems to be a state in which all ants would have the opportunity to decide what is best for themselves.” 

All the ants seemed to agree that this was a reasonable conclusion. And the queen motioned him to continue.  

“Aren’t we then implying that we all know what is best for ourselves?” 

“Well yes” cried the queen, “that is exactly the point.” 

“Well,” the old ant proceeded “What would happen if we all decided to would be best to stop working?” 

The queen who was a bit confused, answered truthfully, “we should all die.” 

“Exactly, and what would happen if each ant decided it would be best to tell all the other ants what they should do?” 

“There would be no order!” said the queen. 

“Quite right, you see dear queen, all ants do not want to be work ants. They would rather have the privilege of freedom.  But, if all ants had the privileges that you do, there would be no ‘common’ cause to do the work which must be done. For this reason, we have set up conditioning schools for your young ants. And even you, dear queen can never have freedom, because you are bound to be our ruler, and the mother of all new-born ants.” 

“Stop” cried the queen. Her big eyes looked out at the court. “You don’t have to worry. I know now that I was only talking about a dream, but it was a very colorful dream and I’ve never had one quite like it before. “Now I order you back to work.” 

Some of the ants grumbled, but others knew the old ant had just saved their lives. 

Bunny Paw Prints – a short story by Linda Claire Groshans

photo by Linda Claire

Years ago, on a summer morning, I was sitting at the kitchen table with my mother. She loved doughnuts and I had brought along a box of Tim Horton’s pastries for the visit.  I also had brought cups of black coffee that were aromatic and steaming hot. I felt so grateful for this fine morning and the company of my sweet mother. Afterall, I was sitting in the company of my mother who was also my best friend. 

Mom and I sat together. We didn’t talk much. We spent quite a bit of our time just looking out the large front kitchen window.  She didn’t get outside as much now, but she loved the nature views out her windows.  

“What kind of doughnut do you want?” I asked her as I opened the box to display our choices. 

She gave me her sweet cute coy smile and said, “Oh, you pick one out for me. I like them all. In fact, I might fancy a taste of each one!” 

I was happy. I got up to go over to the cupboards to collect plates, silverware and napkins. I looked over my shoulder and saw her peeking at the doughnuts just like a little girl excited for a special treat. This simple moment, a cup of coffee and a collection of doughnuts to share with my mother. This was a good day.  I clattered the plates a bit on purpose so that she would look over at me. No matter what I did, no matter how old I got, her gazes towards me were always admiring. I knew that I was very loved. 

“I just hope you don’t want a piece of the long john because that is the one, I picked out for myself” I kidded her. Oh, how we both loved to tease. 

“No, I don’t like that type,” she said while looking a dramatically disappointed. 

“Liar!” I said and then I cut her a big bite of the long john along with some other samples. We are both smiling because our little joke had amused us. 

As we began to eat our treat, we looked out her window. 

“Mom, look…look now.” I urged. 

Right there in the middle of the driveway was a bunny. The morning light was misty, the grass beside the drive was full of dew and a bunny had arrived for our entertainment. The bunny who was obliviously content to sit on the cement driveway of all places! 

“Mom, do you see that bunny?” 

“Yes,” she replied. “It comes here quite often about this time of day.” 

We both sipped our coffees and continued to watch the bunny who now appeared to be frozen in place at one spot in the very center of the driveway. Then, just like that, it hopped away. Gone. 

“Mom, look! It left little wet pawprints on the driveway. He must have been on the wet grass before hopping here.” I was so taken by the visual image of those little dew prints that the bunny had left behind. 

And then in just seconds, I said: “Mom, the pawprints are disappearing!” I felt disappointment for the end of that fleeting scene. 

“The doughnuts are disappearing too.” she coyly stated and smiled at our plates. 

“No Mom, not the doughnuts, the pawprints. They are almost gone they are disappearing so quickly!” I wanted to express how things can disappear, how special moments shared can end too quickly.

The sun was getting brighter and filtering light across the grass and the drive. The sun was erasing the little bunny pawprints. It had also started to dry the dew drops on the grass.  

“The sun erased the prints.” My mother said gently. She reached out to touch my arm and continued talking, “Prints don’t last long, the sun erases them.”  

I continued sipping my coffee as her words played in my mind. My mother was a wise woman. “The prints don’t last long; they are erased by the sun.” 

She is right. Prints don’t last long.

Even the prints in our lives that are our sad mishaps don’t last long. In fact, in the scheme of life, all the prints or moments are fleeting.  

I got up and squinted out the window looking again at the concrete which was now dry and full of dappled sun patterns. The day was turning out to be fine. The birds were starting a morning concert. Our coffee was gone.  

“I love you.” I said as I hugged her before leaving. “Want to have a picnic soon, we could ask everyone over?” I asked her, but I already knew that she would be thrilled.

I got into my Jeep to leave, and as I drove past her front door, I could see her standing there and waving at me. She always tried to make each moment together last.

On my drive home, I thought about how the sun had illuminated the day. I thought about how delicate those little paw prints looked and mostly I thought about how precious my aging mother was to me. 

Years have gone by since she passed away. Every day, she is in my heart and mind. Her gentle nature and joy for the little things and her unwavering love for family. She was and will always be my hero. 

Picking a word – a memory by Linda Claire Groshans

Hess family in the woods

(The photo above is one of my favorite photos of my childhood family.)

After I got home from the book study group on a mid-winter January eve in 2014, my mind started to go into deep thought about a word. What word? Well, that was the question at the time.

The woman’s book group always gathered in one of the member’s homes where all of us drank coffee, tea, and enjoyed a dessert treat. We laughed and told our personal stories and then delved into the evening’s book topic. The book group’s main facilitator at that time was a woman named Penny. Penny always had brilliant insights and ideas. Everyone adored her creative mind and fun humor. On this 2014 evening, Penny posed a word challenge to the group. “You select a word,” she said and then continued, “your word will assist you through this new year with meditations and insight for your personal journey and growth.”

“Why should we do this?” asked Nancy whose logical mind was simply curious now.

“The word should embody what you want to be or what you want to work on during this New Year. It can be used instead of a New Year’s resolution. Your word will be a way to apply change into your life, a sort of guiding light.”

You could hear only silence as all of us started to think and then willingly accept the invitation to spend the next week in the selection of our word.

“You will need to spend time in deep contemplation, meditation and prayer.” Penny explained. “Your word will be a powerful aid to you in the coming year, and one that will guide you to a better self understanding.” Then, Penny told us, “I already picked my word”.

We all leaned forward in anticipation. “My word is BEGIN,” she said.

I loved Penny, but that word seemed an odd choice. Really, “begin?” Too simple? Or was it? Hmm, I would have to think about that later.

“Wow” I thought, “there is a lot at stake here.”

I am fascinated with words and I also possess the less than admirable trait of needing to be competitive. If I had to choose a word and go back to the next group meeting, I wanted my word to be the best, the most powerful. Certainly, I could do better than “begin.” My word would have to rock-and-roll the book group. I needed to win.

Over the next few days, I found myself saying various words out loud and waiting for a sign from the Universe. “Adventure, unconditional, boldness, ” I said testing those words. But, an annoying word begin to continue to come to me. I squelched it. It was not the grandiose word that I wanted. While at work, I listened carefully to conversations hoping to find that word that would impress. “Authentic and connection” seemed like good choices. But there it was again, that word creeping into my mind and becoming only the more powerful. I felt now, like the word was some sort of gift from the Universe but it was such an odd choice. Why would I even think this word? It wasn’t even a very pretty word. It wasn’t going to give me a winning edge.

Well, by now, you will want me to get on with it. The word that came to me in a repetitive way was “PRESERVE.”

I laughed at my chance to be a “word winner.” After all, doesn’t the word preserve make you think of pickles or jam?

In great humility to the Universe, I accepted this was my gift. My gift was the word “preserve” and I would just have to go with it. I was unsure of how to support the word, so at the next book study when we all shared our words, I was under no illusion that my word would wow the group. My word was the type of word that would only garner a few sweet smiles from friends who would then be announcing their profound choices.

I was right. My word underwhelmed everyone there.

But, it did not take long for my word to begin to work in my life. “Preserve” I would say to myself in the morning as I sipped my coffee while looking at some family photos.

PRESERVE…I stopped in my tracks. My word was perfect. These photos needed to be preserved in a way that they could be archived, indexed and shared. The actual original photos were only in my possession and could not be shared easily with other family. From that day forward, I began digitally preserving and sharing thousands of photographs all in indexed and searchable data cloud based websites. These photos have been viewed countless times by family, cousins, genealogists, historians, and others.

PRESERVE…my father was 90 years old at the time I made this word selection. His life, his memories, his stories needed to be preserved. I started the mission of documenting his life story. This was a man who had done remarkable things and was also the father who told whimsical talking stories about his dog Rover and his childhood adventures in the 1920’s. His WWII stories were stand outs. His work as the scientific advisor to the US Army was a story of genius. I started to research and write. I engaged myself in many conversations with my father and I promised him that I would continue to share his legacy and his stories. As I continued in this pursuit, I also realized that his story was the human story and I started to blog about so many others.

PRESERVE…friendships, associations, memories, ancestry, documents, our planet.

PRESERVE…I needed to start thinking about preserving my health. I began the habit of a morning walk that continues throughout these past 5 years. And, often these walks begin with my whispering the word that did become a guiding light.

Yes, my word, was and still is…”PRESERVE.”