"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Value


When I took this picture a few days ago, I was so enthralled with the gemstone glitter of waterdrops woven in spider webbing, I saw nothing but the jewel-encrusted quilt on the monitor of my camera. I took several shots from a variety of angles. Even then, it wasn't until viewing the photos on my computer that I saw the spider herself. Big as life. In every single picture.

It made me think how our brains settle on one thing at the expense of unlimited other possibilities. I have always had a strong inclination to assign value to, to define, to decide about things, and people, and situations. Good/bad. Pleasure/pain. Strong/weak. Pretty/ugly. Happy/sad.  Almost always in opposing pairs - one or the other.  Black. White.

Once I've defined a thing by whatever value seems to fit in the moment (usually the one that makes me right or safe or energized in some way), it's very difficult to see anything else.  And almost impossible to allow new information in. I was so focused on the beauty of the raindrops, I missed entirely the wonder of the spider.

Assigning absolute value in relationship, ceasing to look beyond the first glimmer, often leaves me backed into an emotional corner with no easy way out.

For better or worse, Walt, whom I love more than anyone else is also the one whom I've judged harsher than anyone else. A habit of old survival defenses I'm trying hard to break. With some success.

We've been having a problem with mice in the pantry. The cats are no longer interested in playing Cat and Mouse, and so the rodents have become bold. First a few black specks, then the discovery of a bag of almonds nearly emptied, and before long the sound of rustling during the day and the surprise of a face to face meeting upon opening the pantry door. Enough was finally enough. I emptied the pantry of everything so Walt could plug the holes, denying the mice access, and life could go on. Except plugging the holes didn't work. Morning after morning we woke up to either a dead mouse or traps licked clean of their peanut butter lure. For weeks. 

In the meantime the contents of the pantry, which is in my office, have been stacked on the floor of my office. For weeks. 

My old habit would have been to be mad at Walt. For weeks, or longer.

And I would have justified the anger with a litany of his past behaviors that proved (to me, only to  me) he wasn't trying hard enough. That anger would have blocked my view of the fact that this was happening at the beginning of the school year, the most intense and exhausting time for any teacher.  He was already spending every spare minute trying to fix his recently broken tractor himself to save money and to get the lawns mowed before the fall rains made it impossible.  I wouldn't have heard the unbelievable sacrifice he offered when he asked if I wanted him to do the new walls and shelves we've been talking about forever, since the pantry was empty. I wouldn't have been able to share the victory with him when, two nights ago, he found out how the mice were still finding their way into a completely sealed off space.

Because no value was assigned this time - Walt was not the bad guy - the situation was inconvenient but without emotional suffering (beyond my angst over killing the mice). The problem was solved in a way that means it will be unlikely we'll find mice in the pantry again. And best of all I'm seeing my husband in multiple beautiful shades of gray - neither black nor white. 

A whole picture that includes both the living center and the magic webbing spun outward, ever-shifting to catch moisture, light and sustenance.

22 comments:

Jan said...

Love this. Beautiful. And you are lucky to have such a gem of a husband (and fortunate to be able to see it).

Nonetheless, I cannot see the spider. Says something about me, I'm sure.

sallylwess said...

This web and spider story really made me think. I will remember your lesson. Thanks for sharing.

kario said...

Reminds me of when I first read The Four Agreements and was so struck by how my view of life changed when I began recognizing that the actions of others were not about me. That taking things personally was a recipe for judgement and frustration.

I love your awareness of your before and after reactions and I'm willing to bet that Walt feels an immense difference and is grateful for it.

Love you.

Wanda said...

Gray is one of my favorite colors.

Wander to the Wayside said...

I love the way your mind works, Deb, and your ability to analyze these parallels with nature and man, as you've done in other posts. You seem to be able to see what should be so clear to any eye but remains hidden to most.

We're also having a mouse problem as we have a field behind our house. I had to empty my pantry, too, and everything is in the oven! Just when we think they must be all dead, there are those little poops all over the tops of the cans (which I didn't remove). I wish they weren't so darn cute, because it makes killing them all the more hurtful. In fact, after a few days we have to stop for a bit as it starts turning our stomachs. We had one the other day that was caught by the butt, and he cried and cried. It was late at night, so when he stopped we thought he was dead, only to find the next morning that he had dragged the trap across the kitchen and partially into the dog crate! Still alive, and suffering. Too too sad. But, we've tried all the no-kill traps, and they just don't work.

Deb, since I'm relatively new to reading you, can you give me a couple of posts to read that would tell me a little more about you?

Tabitha Bird said...

Wonderful! I love the way you see nature and the way it speaks to your world. you are amazing Deb.

Carrie Link said...

Healed behavior.

Katie Gates said...

I love where you went with this one. I should follow your example and find some introspective metaphor in the ants that have been invading my kitchen this week!!!

Amber said...

These last lines are great.

I love the way you can find the meaning in one thing, and see how it teaches you everywhere.

ox :)

ps, that spider needs to diet.

Elenka said...

What a beautiful post. He is a lucky guy.

Lilith said...

You sound so much like me Deb. I do the same and I'm trying so hard to let it go, to see all the beautiful shades of grey.

Barb said...

I like the way you spin this web of a story. (And I'm glad your mouse problem seems fixed.) We also came face to face with one today - it's that time of year. Luckily mine isn't in the pantry - yet...

Wanda..... said...

We all can improve on how we look at things or react to them. The older one gets, the more obvious it seems to be.

Pam said...

Have just finished reading The Colour Purple (I'm a very late starter on my Alice Walker journey)and loved the way how, over time, the characters mellowed and became more understanding of each other. I was thrilled to see your link to Alice Walker's site a while back as I had just finished "By the Light of my Father's Smile".
Our attitudes seem to soften when both parties come to a gentler understanding though it's not always easy!!x

Pam said...

...oh, and hope the mice have well and truly gone, for good!!

Jessica Nelson said...

This is such a great and true post! I find myself getting angry with those I love the most too. Not a good thing.

I love spiderwebs that glisten! Beautiful. :-)

Carol............. said...

Aren't those amazing? They're everywhere in my garden and they do look wonderful after a rain or morning dew.

Your words are again inspiring.

kim said...

Deb, a lovely and thought provoking post. hugs

Terri Tiffany said...

You opened my eyes to some of my way of doing things--I probably would have hugely overreacted to the mice especially upon seeing one. HATE them and are afraid of them. Yes, I tend to want to see a situation in one way and have been learning over the years to step back and consider some other explanation or strategy. Not always easy. Great example.

M said...

What a beautiful post! It's amazing how scotomas cause us to NOT see the whole picture...but only those things we want to, or think we want to. I'm glad that you have moved far enough in your healing that your wounds no blind your vision.

Love you
Mark

colbymarshall said...

Sounds like you have much to be thankful for :-)

Kathryn Grace said...

Thank you for sharing this. What a beautiful example of how we make peace in our lives starting with those closest to us. Stories like this give me great hope for the future of the humankind.