It is May Day and everything begins anew. The thunderstorm clouds have finally passed over the rim of the Black Mountains and I gaze at the slate grey slant of Celo Knob on my way to – yes – a new job.
As luck would have it, just when my savings is essentially diminished and just when I sign my life away to more student loans, an opportunity presents itself. “Put your dream out there and the universe will support it,” Veva said to me on the square in SmallTown, NC right before she left, sailing on the coattails of her own dreams as a sculptor. In this case, it’s a make-your-own-hours gardening job that will supplement my income for the summer when my teaching job ends.
And so I find myself carving my way up the face of the foothills of the Cane River Valley about twenty minutes from home, driving up the slope for two miles continuously and topping out at the well known home of Libby and Ted, owners of Tasty Dirt Wad studios.
Libby comes out to greet me, standing to at least 6’2” and shaking my hand gently. Her skin is springtime pale, emerging newly from months of winter layers and dappled with red freckles from head to toe. She is in her late fifties though her hair bears only a touch of grey, giving way primarily to strawberry blonde ringlets that frame her easy smile and pale blue eyes.
“I’m so excited you’re here!” she says warmly. “I just can’t get Jill and Ted to work in the garden with me. I need it to get out of my head. I’ll show you around the property.”
With that we begin the tour, glancing into her clay and glass studio, Ted’s crazy sculpture studio, several landscaping gardens, an mangled power cut that needs clearing, and three raised garden beds in dire need of weeding.
“You can begin here today since you’ll be working alone. But ordinarily we can work together, or I’ll just be around if something comes up.” She paces slowly through the garden while we chat, occasionally bending over at the hips to uproot a weed or two. Within twenty minutes I am set up with tools and a wheelbarrow and I slip on my own gloves that I keep stowed in the back pocket of my Carhartt’s.
Working alone under the clear May sun, blue skies above and wispy white clouds kissing the tops of the surrounding hills, life couldn’t have felt much more relaxing. In the face of so many books to read for the master’s, financial stresses, matters of the heart tug-tug-tugging at my sleeve like a needy child, and the struggle to balance my art with my jobby-jobs the garden life seems inspirationally straightforward.
I rejoice in the hatching of a spider’s nest, squatting nose to nose with hundreds of infant baby yellow spiders. I watch them as the leader boldly passes his filament into the wind, fate taking care of the rest and wisping the thin strand’s sticky edge safely to another blade of grass. One at a time they crawl, climb, and topple their way through the dense forest of grass, heading towards some mysterious object of desire.
And in these few breaths, as I stare at the hundreds of spiders, each one becomes momentarily like a thought in my mind passing by haphazardly yet without fail, constantly moving and examining, pressing on until something is gained. The words of Walt Whitman’s poem return to me again though this time with an easy heart – and I consider that Whitman had tunnel vision when he wrote about his spiders. That it is more like each spider has an infinite supply of silk filaments, which it can create. And that furthermore, if each filament is a longing or desire, that every filament doesn’t have to be about a painful search for love. That there are all kinds of filaments to put out into the world and just as many places for them to land.
The fresh smell of pulled weeds and cool soil drifts up from the ground and the scent awakens me from my arachnid trance. More than one filament. Millions of places to land. Yes, I can see it now. Love does not have to be a single idea that is longed for or clung to. Filament after filament, love can be one thousand, no one million things at one time. It can be limitless rather than limiting. It can be something given rather than something sought. And it is eternal – it has always been this way, I just need to choose to see it that way.