Monthly Archives: August 2015


Three days in a row, I have skipped out to the barn to feed the chickens and make sure the horse gets his carrot, and there, at the end of the barn, attached to the gate, I have run into a spider web spanning the entire barn aisle.   Three days in a row, I have shrieked, flailed, and desperately smacked my clothing and whipped my hair, hoping to dislodge the eight-legged villainous insect that was probably creeping down my collar to bite me in the spine.

The first day, I was horrified.  The second day, I was horrified and a bit annoyed that the giant web had been reconstructed.  By the third day, I was horrified, annoyed at the spider, and kicking myself for my lack of memory.  But today!  Today I was prepared and armed with a rolled up newspaper, my sword which I brandished as I took halting steps towards the gate exit.  And of course, today the spiderweb was gone.  Apparently the spider was just as annoyed with me as I was with it and chose to relocate.

Anyone watching would have thought I’d gone mad.  Step.  Wave newspaper wildly in front of me.  Step.  Wave paper to the left and above head.  Step, duck down.  Wave paper to the right, squinting up into the shadowed corners.  Those silky filaments can be so transparent in the right light.   (I could take this as an indication that I might need glasses, but just yet I refuse to submit to the beckoning crook of Age’s finger.)

But anyone watching would not have known about the first two days I’d spent picking dead flies out of my hair.  Or the time I went out to the back deck to water the plants and found a suspiciously large lump in the middle of an enormous spiderweb between the roof and deck railings.  Curious, I inspected and was heartbroken to find the thin thread of a hummingbird’s beak poking out from its sticky cocoon.  A terrorist spider was preying on the most innocent and fragile of creatures!  After angrily ripping down its web, I lay awake at night thinking about how big a spider would have to be to eat an entire bird.

So that’s the thing.  We all have our particular spiderwebs, things we’ve encountered and crazy friendhit head on that make us flail around like maniacs on occasion. Our reaction to our spiderwebs might make those walking along beside us look at us with concern.  They can’t feel the gossamer threads; they aren’t imagining the bird-eating spiders.

One of the great gifts of this messy, crooked, scratch-and-dent life we get to live is the privilege of showing up for each other.   What a wonder if we can look at someone swatting and ducking at their personal spiderwebs and, even though invisible to us, we can come alongside and nod knowingly, yeah, me, too.  Me, too.   Next time it will be us, when life is swell and we’re whistling along, when we run right out into life’s traffic and freeze as the proverbial bus bears down.

When my children were very small, occasionally their imaginations would invent scary things in the night that would make sleep impossible.  After songs and water and reassurances, the one thing that would usually get them to sleep was Angel Wings.  I’d spread one of their blankets out underneath them and they’d lie in the middle.  As I folded and tucked each side of the blanket around them, I’d tell them these were angel wings protecting them from all the Scaries.

The monsters under the bed when we are children morph into nasty spiderwebs when when we are grown.  We call it being practical or being a realist and give it nice names, making it into a pet that slinks around our ankles with a sly grin, when really we are just getting cozy with fear.  Instead of trying something new, heeding an inward call, taking a risk on ourselves, our talents, or our heart’s desires, we hang back, convinced there might be spiderwebs ahead, convinced that we will not have what it takes to brush them aside.

Too often, we go through life running from something that isn’t after us.

Ghosts.  Spiderwebs hanging tattered and dusty, the spider long gone.  All that hair-whipping and arm waving wasted energy because the spider had moved on long ago.  We only imagined its sticky threads wrapping us in the snare of its cocoon, when all along we had been free to run and dance.

I hardly ever read comments on internet posts.  I’m usually stunned by the hatred and nastiness people seem to take pleasure in at others’ expense.  Don’t bangel wingse someone else’s spiderweb.  Don’t make the comment that plants a seed of fear and ugly.  Don’t voice the judgement that says very little about the person you speak of and volumes about you.

We can all be someone else’s angel wings, wrapping each other in grace.   We can all be a hand to hold, sweepers of spiderwebs, real and imagined.  Is there anything sweeter?   As George Eliot said,  “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”

Packrat and Purger

I am a stealth purger, forced to live in the shadows.  If there were a court of law with juries and judges of packrats, I’d be led before them in shackles, their angry accusing eyes casting withering looks of disdain.  The judge, outraged and shocked, wouldn’t hesitate to mete out the sentence for my capital offense.  “You threw it AWAY?  How could you?”

In my case, the judge looks suspiciously like my husband, King Packrat.  Over two decades of marriage we have gone many rounds in the ring over the issue of keeping or tossing.  Before we got married, our premarital counselor told us we “complemented” each other, which as it turns out was a nice way of saying we were complete opposites and we’d better buckle up.

I organize in files.  He organizes in piles.  His system drives me to the edge of my sanity as his piles grow and expand by the bedside or on the coffee table, where eventually they will topple and be tripped over (usually by me).   Impossibly, he seems to know vaguely what is in each pile, sliding his fingers down towards the middle and plucking a rumbled paper from the stack, where it lay between junk mail and trade journals.   Which is why, if the pile is moved or its items shelved or neatly put away, he panics and the tirades begin.  Where did you put my stuff?  I’ll never be able to find anything!   His justification is that he’s prepared for any eventuality.  You need it, he’s got it, and he loves to be able to produce just the thing.  This is us, in a nutshell:

But see, he’s a busy guy and even a casual sifting through the piles reveals that not everything in there is worth holding on to.   Gum wrappers?  Catalogs for past conferences?  Childhood report cards?  This is a man who, at 47, still keeps pictures from first grade in his wallet, a wallet  that is so fat with “keepsakes” it threatens to ruin him chiropractically.

Periodically, to maintain walkable pathways and useable shelf space, I purge.  Gently, but with a giddy sort of uncontainable glee.  I am unsentimental and cold, he said, as I tossed page after page of the kids’ school work and drawings.  We might need that some day, he said, as I threw I away outdated science text books from college, donated bags of too-small clothing, and hauled to Goodwill boxes and bags of household detritus.  A month after I die, I point out, you will be featured on TLC’s Hoarders!

No yard sales!  Never a yard sale!   I had one.  Once.  He prowled the tables, secretly pocketing items and taking them back inside, incredulous that I would sell perfectly good things.   Apparently this stems from some long-held childhood resentment that his mother once sold his Matchbox cars to a friend at a yard sale, cars he believes could no doubt pull our country out of debt with their current market value.  It’s always the mom’s fault.

A messy desk is a sign of genius, he quips.  Studies have shown that disarray can boost creativity and get people to think outside the box.  Cleanliness is next to godliness, I counter.  Some truth there as well.   People in clutter-free environments tend to make more moral, healthy choices, their clean conscience a reflection of their surroundings; chaos begets chaos.

Clutter, to me, is a choking ivy.  I cannot abide.  In our digital age, it’s gotten easier to tamp down the clutter.  You can scan the best of your kids’ artwork instead of keeping an entire bin from each grade.  Pinterest can show you how to make achingly cute bulletin boards or displays of container storechoice items.  Pinterest is an organizer’s fetish.  And the Container Store!  After an hour walking the aisles in there, I start hyperventilating and need to breathe into a paper bag, one pulled from a color-coordinated plastic bin and labeled with the appropriate font.

My father, widowered twice, has had the unenviable task of sorting through two lifetimes of belongings.  He is approaching his 80’s and feels the Burden of Stuff, knowing all too well you can’t take it with you, no matter how clever you are.  He lightens his load with generosity, offering random items each time he sees us.  While we appreciate his impulse, we all carry our own acquired loads.  With the death of my mother’s parents, some in her family were so consumed by greed and lust for stuff that it ended in murder and a prolonged court case, like something straight off NBC’s Dateline.  We watched in disbelief and when my mother herself passed away, there was no scrabbling, grabbing, or conniving for any of her things.  They were Just Things and would not bring her back or make the memory of her any sweeter.

Maybe it is that realization that makes it easy for me to live with an open hand.  If I have it and you need it, help yourself.  If it doesn’t add peace or benefit to my life, out it goes.   Have you moved recently?   Nothing makes you face the excess stuff in your life than being overwhelmed by mountains of boxes full of stuff you’d mostly forgotten about.

While my husband is out of town this week, I’ve been able to come out from the shadows and organize without reprisal.  Don’t worry, hon, I haven’t touched anything vital to your existence.  Plus, I know he’ll be bringing home suitcases full of Stuff and eventually I’ll have to start all over.  It’s the Circle of Life.