August 17, 2014
The last two weeks have brought much joy and many things to think about. Writing about these new things must wait, however, for another day. Today’s space belongs to unfinished business with that spider that I watched take down a web, and—Patience, please! Don’t go away!—a postscript to the Chicken Little Story.
That early morning as I watched the spider, I was intrigued at what I was seeing—in a business-like fashion the spider was disassembling a web. This was a new experience--I hadn’t seen a spider unweave a web before. As I thought about the experience, I concluded that the small brown spider I had observed was a neat and tidy soul (perhaps a bit OCD, spider-fashion) and was demolishing an old web that was no longer useful.
What I experienced was real—the spider and the web and the spider’s behavior were not figments of an aging imagination. Lack of a sense of reality was not the problem. Nevertheless, like Chicken Little, the initial meaning I attached to my experience was incorrect. I eventually discovered my mistake although this required considerable thinking and a great many questions.
When I thought about the unweaving spider in the context of my life experiences, the questions began to rise. In years of housekeeping, why had there been so many cobwebs to remove from ceilings and light fixtures? Why was it that, inevitably, on a trip to the attic or the cellar, at some place on the journey I would find myself wiping my face to remove traces of a spider web that, unnoticed, I had walked into? I had regularly come into contact with spider webs on trips to the well house and the barn. In the garden I had often seen diamonds of dew caught in their fragile nets. In my rather long history there had truly been countless numbers of spiders and spider webs. How did this fact fit into my understanding of the unweaving spider?
On that morning on the porch had I observed a rare event, an anomaly—had I actually seen the only tidy spider in the universe, the only recorded case of spider OCD? Were all those other webs I had encountered the abandoned webs of ecologically irresponsible spiders who had simply moved on and left their trash behind?
Put that way, my first conclusion seemed highly doubtful. Something certainly had happened—I had indeed seen that spider sever three of the anchoring threads to that sorry-looking web between the porch and the barberry bush. But was my conclusion valid—was that spider cleaning up the place, picking up web trash, removing an old building from an old lot? Or was there another explanation?
And, to reconsider the spider: it was a very small spider, brown and totally unremarkable in every way.
And suppose I reconsidered that ragged, irregular, shabby-looking web?
What if this was not a garbage collection story after all?
What if the unattractive appearance of that web was the result of an inadequate first effort at spinning? What if I had seen a spider dealing with a failed first effort?
What if I had seen a story about learning, a story in which the pattern did not come right the first time, a story in which not only did the pattern fail to come right the first time but the sorry first effort at spinning was not anchored in a safe place?
It is possible that I saw a spider disassembling the results of a poor first choice, then setting off to find a safer place in which to weave again.
Comforted today to think—again—with you about the gift of choice.
Finding an acorn instead of a piece of fallen sky can leave us feeling foolish. However, like that small brown spider, we can accept the loss of bad beginnings and chose to weave again. To do so sometimes requires that we detach unstable anchors and clean up the debris in order to move on to build better in a safer place.
I wonder: were some of the most intricate, beautiful spider webs I’ve seen a second effort at spinning?
I know that some of the most beautiful lives I’ve seen are the result of people who with great courage have begun again—and again—and, for some, yet again.
See you next week.