A Noiseless, Patient Spider
I eat to “fill” my emptiness. This has happened before, but with myriad birthday treats around the house, I am officially crossing into dangerous territory. To make things worse, the gym is closed Sundays and, of course, for MLK day tomorrow. My stomach grumbles with dissatisfaction and a mix of the wrong foods in all the wrong amounts. What I should do is hike into the snow-topped mountains to meet the sunlight, but even under today’s glorious blue sky, I cannot crack the inertia and put my boots on.
I recall Walt Whitman’s noiseless, patient spider, written in 1900 from Leaves of Grass:
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.
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.
For years I carried these two stanzas around in my wallet, like a badge proving the ruggedness of my scarred heart. Oh, this human struggle of lonliness and love is like a canoe, so easily overturned into the vast oceans of our pasts. We try to paddle forward, each stroke like the patient spider’s filament, yet never gaurnteed a place to land.
And though “the heart has reasons which reason cannot know” (Blaise Pascal), one thing is for certain: Both have reason to remember. This means that even the slightest bruise can burn deep into the skin, charring muscle then bone, igniting fibrillations from eons ago, fueling heart-fires that seemed so long ago forgotten.
In my cabin, the wood stove has safely held a smoldering fire all afternoon. By dusk, there are only cornrows of heart-shaped coals left, breathing softly and slowly. Veiled in shallow layers of grey ash, they have almost extinguished themselves.