Reflections from the Web

Birds always nested in the eaves of our house where we grew up. Like we didn't have enough going on under one roof. One spring, a featherless baby fell from the nest to its demise on the concrete. Mom found it and picked it up with a tissue and showed me the poor thing. "Isn't that amazing?" she asked. I was both fascinated and freaked (by so many aspects of this experience.) Mom was tuning into the intricate miracle of life, while I focused, wide-eyed, on its premature passing. Other times, Mom pointed out something unusual in nature, say a clown fish and said, "God must have a great sense of humor!" So whenever something fascinated me in nature or makes me smile, I still think of Mom, and what she taught, that nature is evidence of God in the world.

Over the weekend, I was on the ladder outside, washing windows. I had two friends on my mind, each experiencing a different loss, each growing in ways that sometimes felt too big, too fast. One friend experienced the sudden death of her husband, and the other friend, a divorce.

In a divorce, others can assume that you chose wrong, or that you could have done something to change it, saved your marriage. I suppose that's judgement. And that's why wounded people find it's easier to keep it quiet. In the painful places of love, it's tedious to filter through the criss-crossing of communication, what's clear and what's unsaid or miscommunicated. The second-guessing and regret that one experiences while sorting is like chipping at an iceberg with an ice scraper. It never seems finished. When well-meaning friends and others weigh in, sometimes it's helpful and other times, well, it's not.

The glass cleaner I sprayed on the window didn't look like it broke through anything. It didn't have the ammonia-laden, cut-through-the-grime smell. It sort of sat there, all beaded up until I moved it around, and then it did its part of the job. It amazes me to see what accumulates on a window over the summer. And as I wiped it away, I felt something stringy and sticky stuck all over my arm and hand. It was a large web. The spider who built it scurried up what remained of the web and it curled into a ball in the corner of the siding just outside the window.

That's how I feel sometimes, like the spider. I'm more prepared to retreat than to launch out and take a chance on life, on myself. I hold onto what I have, not to be selfish. I suppose I'm avoiding a mistake, further loss. At a dinner in New York City that was given in my honor many years ago when I was leaving my company, a woman who worked down the hall said, "You're so much fun. I wish I knew you sooner!" And that's how I feel like I go through life. It's safer to let people know who I am as we're heading in opposite directions. And I do that with a lot of things.

We each have God-given gifts that are designed to be used to better something in this world. I sometimes think my gift is the ability to appreciate other people's gifts. But it's up to me to discern what mine is and how it's going to be used. Next I need to show up as me. But even my window-washing endeavor may have been a subliminal way to avoid doing a separate activity which required me to come out of the proverbial corner and take a chance.

Hey, awareness is much of the battle right? eh

I returned to my task, but there was still a strand of webbing stuck to the spider that was also stuck to my arm, and, as I moved it, the spider was dragged along on the thread. He didn't expect to get pulled out of the corner, and I didn't expect to see him coming at me. Perhaps he screamed, too. He quickly sped back up the invisible bridge once again, and I performed a careful string check so we didn't have a repeat shocker. I finished cleaning the window and tried not to bump into him again.

My friend, whose husband passed, said that she matured a lot over the past year. She never realized how much her husband's dedicated leadership allowed for her to live a creative, carefree existence. Her focus had been filling her home with love, in her own nurturing way. She guided her children spiritually and through their experiences in school. Now, as she and her four young children grieve his absence, she's had to learn how to do all the behind-the-scenes activities that he always did in his way, one that appeared natural and effortless.

Her husband passed without warning right after Hurricane Sandy, the storm that affected the entire eastern seaboard. It hit right after we lost Dad. Maybe because of their closeness and intensity, these experiences feel long past. Yet when I see Dad's face in a photograph, I don't believe we will never see him or hear his voice again here on this earth. He was an ageless man, a rock. (The party sure has grown on the other side of this life, and I hope he and Mom had a grand reunion.)

I removed the ladder from the window, still fending off strings of web that was stuck to everything. I hadn't really thought about or looked at a spider web in several years, probably since before I worked in retail. Last year we were busy upstate with Dad at this time. So it went as far back as ten years ago, when the weather began to cool and we arrived home from church just as night fell. There was always a large spider in the front of our house, and one in the back. They each created their own incredible work of art that appeared when the automatic light went on behind it.

I learned that spiders often construct their web and then hang off to the side, away from possible spider-eating predators, perhaps keeping one leg on the web to feel the vibes. Many take down their webs after all the sticky substance has dissipated. The spider then eats the web, a very cool method of recycling and absorbing protein. He then musters up his energy and builds a new one. It's no small feat since web construction is a tiresome task (so it must be annoying when somebody bumps into it with a rag to wash a window or something random blows a hole in it.)

The next day, on the other side of the clean window, I saw my little friend had re-emerged from his corner. He showed up as himself and did the thing that spiders do. Then he posed in the center of the web.