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 hit 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 be 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?”