Experience is never limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web of the finest silken threads…~Henry James
I sat this morning curled up on the couch, snow falling in huge, moisture-laden flakes outside the window. I wrote by the light of candles, the little white lights of the Christmas tree, and a fire burned in the fireplace. A rare, rare time to be treasured. The sun is up now. Somewhere. It is covered by rafts of snow clouds that continue to make the world outside my window look like a just-shaken snow globe.
Student papers are read and responded to, grades posted, data collected and submitted, and students registered for next semester. Today is mine to write. I absorb every. precious. moment.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the nest. A dear friend, Jenny, with a vibrant life full of art, a vast body of exquisite pencil drawings, fit in among the children and grandchildren in the US and around the globe, wrote to me:
“Just in case you might think that those tugs from outside the nest subside with age – don’t! They do seem to get more complicated – well, no, complicated not the right word – numerous? More like a spider web – think Charlotte though! Interesting to think where that visual image takes me as I near the end of my years (not volunteering though!). The nest is gone, replaced by the web – beautiful, fragile, strong yet evanescent. I am happy to be there.”
I gulped. Hard. The tugs from outside the nest get more complicated? I read again, “The nest is gone, replaced by the web…” and a deep part of me chimed with familiarity. Jenny gave voice to feelings that have been expanding over the past few years, but I’d yet to articulate – this complex spider web of relationship that composes a life richly lived.
I immediately envisioned the intricate lace of a spider web, glistening with dew in the morning sun. I thought of the strength and tension of these gossamer strands and how the slightest movement or touch anywhere on the web sends waves of vibration through its entirety. How very like life. The web of each of our lives, interwoven and connected. I think of the web of my own life and relationships – of how often I have felt the vibrations of each movement on each strand. Whether they are vibrations of joy or pain, they affect the whole, ultimately collecting a lifetime of experiences.
I think of the spider moving about the web on delicate legs, mending this tear, strengthening this strand. How often have we all felt this? Tending to this child, mending this rift of misunderstanding, strengthening this strand of healing, working frantically here and there, and often stepping away against our will, but in alignment with our intuition, we are called constantly to various places throughout the whole. And those times when the wind howls and threatens the web’s existence, and all we can do at that moment is clutch the threads, ride it out, and hope to hell we make it through intact. As soon as the wind abates, immediately we set to work to repair the damage. If we don’t mend the web, the strength of the whole weakens.
Mi amiga querida, Lupe, wrote me, “I cried when I read The Nest because I feel I’m drifting away from my nest…I wish I could spend quality time with my grandchildren but I’m always cooking, cleaning or running errands. I’m always on the go, doing things that tire me or bore me. I’m thirsty for quiet time.”
As I sat here this morning, looking at the window at the pebble-sized flakes now falling heavily and sticking to the window pane, the piñon logs popping in the fireplace, their smoky scent tickling my nose. I made Christmas tea, the steam licking up into the air, bringing the scent of the cloves, orange, lemon, and cinnamon to mingle with those of burning wood.
I thought of the nest and the web and they fell place in a spectrum along the narrative arc of life.
The snow fell thickly on the juniper trees outside the window, the heavy snowflakes sticking to the pane, creating a span of sheer lace against the white sky.
I went to our art supplies closet and grabbed some paint and paint brush and painted a web on our window.
And I realize, it is not that we lose our nests, it is that we move into our webs. One doesn’t fully replace the other, it’s their prominence in our lives that shifts. Perhaps it is some ancient instinctual knowing of this shift that deepens our sense of friendship and relationship during these next chapters of life. My own sense of treasuring of these friendships and relationships has taken on new poignancy in recent years. I wrote in The Nest, “The nest is not about physical proximity; the nest is about the closeness of the spirit.” This holds true for the web, as well. My own web spans several states and across oceans to lands far away. The tending, the mending, the strengthening, the vibrations know no distance. Invisible threads connect us across time and place. As the years pass, my sense of cherishing each of these strands grows.
Who will sit with us by the fire through the years? It is those who compose our nests and our webs. I return to, “The nest is gone, replaced by the web – beautiful, fragile, strong yet evanescent. I am happy to be there.”
The nest and the web – both hold and shelter us in the open expanse of life, give shape and form to our journey. Unique textures, richness, pain, and rhythms compose both the nest and the web. Wherever we are, let us be happy to be there.
~ ~ ~
3/4 cup instant tea
1/4 cup dry lemonade mix (Countrytime)
1 cup dry orange mix (Tang)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon cloves
2 tablespoons with a cup of boiling water.
Makes a lovely gift in small mason jars for your web. I wrap with curled ribbon around the top. (If we have ribbon, and I can find it with the wrapping paper under our bed…) My own web starts asking me for Christmas Tea in November. A wonderful book to accompany the gift, “A Cup of Christmas Tea” by Tom Hegg and Warren Hanson. My mom has yet to read aloud without crying…
(Thank you to Jenny French and Guadalupe Rodriguez, for your wisdom and your tears – and for allowing me to share your stories.)
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