…and their webs. Oh, their webs!
In the summer, I like to work outside at my back yard patio table. The large umbrella keeps me cool in its shade on the rare occasion I get too hot under Seattle’s inconspicuous sun. However, in the last couple of weeks, finding a space to place my computer on that table has been like trying to find a Manhattan apartment for rent that doesn’t cost an entire month’s paycheck. Spiders are everywhere. They are either resting in the center of their elaborate sticky orbits, or hanging from transparent threads, floating in the wind waiting for the perfect moment to perch on one of the four chairs that encircle the table. They have created a labyrinth of netting that corners off nearly every exit from my backyard. Lest you think I exaggerate, let me illustrate that which could not be fabricated.
The other day, the kids and I drove to Target. I am relatively sure that on the way there I practiced proper driving procedures and looked in all of my mirrors at some point during the car ride and unremarkably didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. And yet, after our purchase of batteries and breakfast cereal, we got back into the car and noticed a fully complete spider web covering the passenger-side mirror with an eight-legged friend resting comfortably right in the middle. I am certainly not an entomologist, but have lived long enough to know that it takes some time for a spider to build its web. And unlike many, many visits to Target, this time was for an exact purpose that didn’t involve spending unnecessary minutes browsing the Dollar Spot. In other words, we were not in the store long enough for a spider to infiltrate our automobile, and sign a lease to craft its intricate home in that prime real estate local.
So, I started the car and as we drove out of the parking lot, we all watched (I took mere glances) when we got on the road as the spider fled its safe center and traveled up and around to the back of the mirror where it would be safe from the wind cavalierly grabbing its micro-weighted body and tossing it on the highway for road kill. When we arrived at home, and were securely parked in the driveway, the spider came out from behind that mirror and returned to its safe center, perhaps to pray and thank the eight-legged gods for sparing his life. That was a week and many long drives ago. And yet, he remains.
There is something to a spider’s tenacity that keeps me from destroying the result of its labor. My respect for them keeps me from swiping their gummy strands, as sophisticated as they may be, and putting an end to the ninja moves required to ensure my safety from their ever-present threat of surprise and terror. What is more remarkable is that when I was a child I was absolutely terrified of spiders. I would scream at the top of my lungs in the middle of the night begging my father to come in and kill the creature that threatened my very existence. Yet, now, we live together, not exactly harmoniously (I would like to wander out to my back yard patio table and work comfortably without having to stealthily navigate the ropes course that awaits), but in solidarity. The spider will only be here for a few more weeks. He will flee from my umbrella when the cooler weather returns. But in the meantime, I will honor his hard work by finding another place to do my own.
This vignette, like the mysterious spider, might have a greater purpose than to simply amuse. If we can hear every story, no matter how seemingly insignificant, as a reflection of its author, we can know someone more deeply than we imagined. Some questions to ponder might be: There are a hundred different stories to tell, why did she pick this one? What can be known about a person who won’t kill spiders? Why does she value hard work so much? Can she not tolerate even the suffering of an eight-legged nuisance? Does that make her tender, or cowardly? Does she imagine she is less worthy than someone who does all the hard work? Does she diminish the work that she does herself? How does her treatment of spiders translate to people? Does she make the same sacrifices for others?
In my constant effort to increase self-awareness, I am curious about these questions for my own growth. Finding the answer to even one of them gets me one step closer to knowing and understanding myself. When we search for answers to the same kinds of questions about others’ stories, we are one step closer to knowing and understanding them, perhaps. So, what keeps us from inquiring? Maybe, we don’t really want to know or understand. Or, it might be that we just never thought or trusted that there is often more than meets the eye…or the ear.
May we go forth and ask more questions about the stories we hear.