Saturday, September 20, 2014


A noiseless, patient spider,
I mark’d, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them ...
On Tuesday, as I was getting ready to head south in the steamy New Jersey morning, I noticed what amounted to a gossamer tightrope strung from the middle of my roof to the middle of the hood of my car.

I don't like spiders much (though they do rank higher than ants on my scale of likeable insects), but I didn't see said spider any more, and I'd already shut the door, so I figured I'd let it blow away on its own.

Only it didn't.

Every now and then I'd catch a glimpse of it in my peripheral vision, sun glinting off of it as I coasted downhill, arcing ever so slightly in the updraft from my hood.  It swayed and flapped, but stuck, determined, where it was.  I marveled at the hardiness of that strand, imagining how sticky it would be if I tried to get out and brush it away.  I wondered whether rain would do it in.  I thought for sure it would be gone when I returned to my car at the end of the day.

Only it wasn't.

For five days, I watched the spiderweb, wondering when it would tear, testing it against my speed and changes in direction, sometimes forgetting about it entirely until the sun hit it in just the right way.

You start coming up with metaphors for something you watch that long.  Or at least, you do when you're a former English major, and not a scientist.  You start to think about things that are deceptively hardy, like that frail-looking little old Jewish woman who lived in your apartment building, the one who lost her family to the Holocaust.  You think about bridges, and how important it is for them to sway and bend, so that they don't crack, and you think about your own bridges, wondering how flexible they are, too.  You become more and more impressed by this super-spider, wherever it is now, perhaps crushed on your driveway, perhaps spinning more webs in your basement.  You think about connections, relationships, and wonder if you've ever made something that secure, that stubborn.  You think about writing.  Maybe you think about blogging.  You wonder where you own webs land, and which ones are still stuck there, long after you've left them behind.

The other day I looked for the spiderweb, and noticed that it was gone.  I was disappointed; I'd wanted to notice it breaking, see it fly away into the meadow as I crested the hill, joining the cornsilks that blew across the road.  I found myself missing it, missing the indomitable sway and bend, the unpredictable strand of sunlight.  But even the strongest bridges don't last forever, do they.

What bridges have you left behind?

And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,—seeking the spheres, to connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form’d—till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.
-Walt Whitman
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