I don’t suppose I would have heard her fall in anyway. I doubt if she made much of a splash. She was just a tiny bit of a spider – all spindly legs and a body with no more than a breath of weight. She may have already been in the tub when I turned the taps on. But I never saw her. Not until I lay back into the water for a good long soak. And there she was, floating next to my elbow, woefully quiet and bedraggled.
Even when I lifted her out on my fingertip and placed her gently on the side of the tub, I detected no life left in her. Then the dog came over and snuffled at her. Pulling her back out of his nose rather confirmed my suspicion that this little spider had probably and sadly not survived the day.
But spiders can be a hardy lot, despite their appearance of faintness and fragility. So I watched this one closely, and breathed across her repeatedly in an attempt to help her revive. When I got out of the bath, I gathered her onto a bit of tissue and put her in an open windowsill, hoping the sun might dazzle her back into being. And then I left her there, wrapped in a cloud of softness and sunshine and good thoughts.
A short time later, I was attending a “Midday Mindfulness” session under the guidance of Dana Rideout, a wise woman filled with beauty and lightness. Toward the end of the class, during a quiet time of imaging and mindfulness, at the very edge of meditation, I was lying on my back on the floor, my legs propped up against a wall; and, quite suddenly, my spider came vividly back into the forefront of my mind.
She was the perfect symbol, the ideal allegory for me. A spider is a terribly “mindful” creature, after all. Perhaps mine had intersected my life with some purpose, some message of intentionality, some secrets just for my heart.
I imagined her in life. I envisioned her web. I know that not all spiders weave webs, but I felt certain that mine would have. Without anyone to show her the way, she would have spent what little time she had allotted to her creating a most intricate and beautiful piece of art and remembrance. Relying entirely on instinct, she would have crafted her silken home … her source of nourishment, her place of rest, her expression of being and creating, her legacy, her witness that she had existed.
I focused on the fact that the spider’s silk is considered to be the strongest material in the world – with 10 times the strength of man-made steel. It is enhanced in resiliency by its absorption of the dew and moisture in the air that surrounds it, and it can ride on the wind for miles at a time. It has the power to heal human skin and wounds. Yet it cannot be replicated by human technology.
I thought about how spiders can decide to make their webs sticky or smooth or stretchy, as needed, and then they recycle the leftovers. And I remembered that they use strands of silk to keep themselves tethered to the world around them – connected to the reality of nature – as they travel and explore through life, and to keep themselves safe during storms. Some make and remake new webs every day.
It doesn’t surprise me that most cultures have myths and folklore and stories that started long before written history – about the spider and her webs of intention and beauty for its own sake. Some believe it was a spider who “thought” the very world into being when she wove the first web. Spider webs created curtains of protection and safety for David in Jewish tales and for Mohammed in Islamic ones. Buddhist beliefs and the Vedic philosophy of India share the same sort of spider story roots and remnants. Native Americans learned to weave “dream catchers” when their people moved so far away from their homelands that they feared the spider goddess could no longer protect all the children as they slept.
I returned home that day with my heart filled with mindfulness and life examples, hoping my spider had recovered, but she had not. The breeze had dried her legs, the sun had warmed her back, but that was all. I said goodbye as gently as I could. I hoped it was enough that, in the end, she had been wrapped in softness and compassion. And that I cared that she had lived, that I had understood her lessons and would remember.
I suspect that may be all that really matters for any of us. Not the size of the splash we may make, but the beauty of the strands we weave while we’re here, the sense of strength and purpose we leave behind. And someone to remember.