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Creative Writing

Nature Journal

March 17, 03 Nature Journal

I walked around the lake this morning, starting out in a dense foggy mist with a bright white sun burning in the east, promising a warm clear day. There is still ice on a large portion of the lake, and the matte surface of the ice contrasts with the reflective mirror of the open water. Ducks and geese are swimming in pairs and a flock of seagulls has visited the lake, swooping and calling, their black wing tips outlining their shining white wings against the sky. We are only 4 days away from officially beginning spring and the feeling is definitely in the air! Warm temperatures, damp ground, migrating birds, and I even saw a turtle swimming under water! Most striking of all, to me, this morning was noticing the fine network of silken strands connecting plant to plant all along the lakeshore. Spiders, hidden throughout the winter, have emerged and begun to spin. Using these delicate and strong aerial ropes, they navigate through life, linking land and air. It would seem to me that spiders could travel more quickly and simply on their silk webs than if they had tried to maneuver the ground level, walking between grasses, roots, pebbles and puddles. The silk parachutes they create provide a form of flight, allowing the spider to move "as the crow flies" across the upper surface of earth. They can't "fly" great distances on these silk strands, only long enough to link again to the things of this earth that anchor them.

The silk strands this morning reminded me that there are so many rich unseen connections between all that inhabits the earth. I heard a statistic from my daughter that, throughout our life, at any given time, a spider is no more than 3 feet away from us. How could we live with something so closely present, yet so invisible? It is an unsettling fact for those of us frightened by spiders, but also a powerful testament to the unseen work that goes on without our awareness. Everyday in nature, life is being nurtured, homes are being built, young are reared, elders teach new skills to the young, the next generation is launched on its path and takes its place in the parade of life.

It is a wonder to watch how spiders navigate their silken webs. This morning I watched a tiny spider making its way along one of the silken strands between plants. The strand was probably only 18 or 20 inches in length, but the spider was little larger than the diameter of the silk tightrope it was slowly inching along to make its way to a place of anchoring. This was going to be a long journey for this small being and it required a certain level of faith to set out upon.The strand of silk this creature was traveling along was suspended 2 feet over the lake -- a great distance below in spider measurement! If the spider were to fall, it would have to spin a parachute out of its own body to allow it to drift on the wind to a safe anchoring spot. This is an enormous act of faith -- it requires the belief that I can be supported by a seemingly ephemeral insubstantial strand; it requires conviction that I carry within me the resources to spin the support I need should my path be aborted or torn asunder; it requires faith that the strand I'm traveling will eventually lead me where I want to go, indeed that an anchoring arrival point exists at all! I thought about how we must walk our paths, tenuous thin paths where we cannot see our arrival point; and I know I resist this condition of nature, wanting reassurances along the way, promises of a payoff at the end of the strand! People say that animals have instinct, they move ahead unknowledgeable of concepts about future and past. They act unconsciously, according to instinct. I cannot know what motivates a spider to move, but I can learn faith from watching the spider's persistent journey.

And, observing the spider, I can learn about beauty, patience and generosity. When the spider moved along the single silk strand this morning, his pace was incredibly slow to my eyes. Tiny segment by tiny segment, his legs reformed the liquid dew that coated the silk. Small sparkling beads were formed where I had once seen a continuous damp strand of dew. I wondered if the dew offered sustenance -- was it lapped up by the spider as nourishment? Or simply rolled into jewel-like orbs by the delicate movement of its legs along the silk? Either way, the image gave me delight. I am surmising that the silken webs I saw strung between plants were not necessarily created by the same spiders that later traversed them. It seemed to me that the tiny spider I watched this morning was taking advantage of a highway already laid out in the night by kindred eight-legged beings, weaving lovely silvery paths that others could follow, linking one plant to another, one source of sustenance to the next.

It occurs to me that writing is something like this-- extruding words from our very own center, making delicate connections between the stuff of life. We string our words together hoping our sentences provide a path, (a lifeline even!) to others as they travel on their life journeys. This stringing of words requires persistence and patience and constant diligence. It requires that we let our minds drift airborne and that we anchor ourselves securely to the stuff of the earth. We hope that our words will shimmer and shine like dew on spider silk. And in their gleaming, we hope that they will be a beacon and point the way so that another may find the journey easier.

This morning's gleaming strands remind me that unseen powers are at work, linking us one to the other, laying a path before us. Call it what you will--our guardian angel, our inner wisdom--this guiding spirit has a level of deep knowledge that we are unable to discern with our limited vision. Where our guiding spirits know the larger pattern and see where our souls can spin out the true work of our lives, our small eyes see only the stack of bills on our desk and the fear of how we will meet next month's expenses. This practical attention to immediate matters of housekeeping is essential for survival; but we fool ourselves if we believe that the whole picture is formed by this pragmatic close-up perspective only. We need to step out and imagine the larger picture of our lives spun out before us. Along the lakeshore watching the plants from my 5'5" aerial view perspective, I saw laid out before me a network of silken connections. I felt affirmed that we are interconnected, that help is available, that support unseen lies before us if we but have faith.

I saw, also, a metaphor summarizing the work I want to do as a weaver of words and images. My work involves the delicate spinning of strands connecting the things of life, throwing a verbal or visual image forward that can provide a place for the mind to discern paradox and touch mystery. I know life is full of this mystery and it is that which I long to share -- through images, words, movement, and silence.

My task is to trust that the lifelines will be present to allow me to do this work. That delicate but sturdy strands will be in place to provide enough financial means to take the next step. The small spider showed me, that one step at a time is enough. The steps add up to arrival at a new place of grounding.The strands showed me that there are beings and guides that help us, nearly invisibly, to take the higher path, rather than staying earthbound concerned with every pebble, clod and root in my path.