"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

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Weaving Reality


In the absence of information, I fill in the blanks, usually without much awareness that I've woven a reality out of nothing more than some impulses in my brain. Because of that, I often reach conclusions about people and situations that are wrong, and I never fail to be surprised at how one small brushstroke can change an entire picture. As is often the case, something will trigger a wondering for me, then life provides an abundance of answering.

The webbing was strung from one bush to another across at least twelve feet of open space. Its weaver hung at eye level, the sun illuminating the silk and her body so I saw in time to avoid destroying her work. At first she was alone, but after fussing with my camera, determined to get a shot of this arachnid in the air,  I looked up to discover two spiders, face to face with each other.

I stood watching them for the longest time, expecting the smaller to end up in a tightly cocooned bundle to be hauled away for the larger spider's dinner. I assumed the web was the work of the larger because I'd seen her there first. I assumed the smaller was at a disadvantage and could not figure out why she stayed, or why she wasn't consumed. I assumed they had to be enemies.

But aside from some leg waving, the two spiders did nothing to confirm my assumptions. Neither gave ground or seemed to try to push the other into retreat. I finally moved on, finished my usual circuit with Toby, and when we came back, the web was empty. I was left to write my own ending. Which I did, trying out multiple scenarios, but the not really knowing still haunts, just a little.

The spider encounter still fresh in my mind, I was at Costco checking out a few days later. The young man at the register was not one I'd seen before and he seemed much more interested in talking to the guy who was doing the boxing than he was in customer relations. He didn't look up once, or greet me in any way.  I studied him, deciding he was probably a snotty narcissistic hotshot who was mean to his mother, and thinking Costco made a huge mistake allowing him on a register.

He scanned my items with skilled efficiency, all the while keeping up a running banter with his friend. He stopped with the latest issue of People Magazine in his hands, and inspected the cover as though it held the secrets of the universe. I amped up my stare, willing him to notice. He finally looked up, made eye contact for the first time, and said, "That obvious, huh?" The grin on his face made me laugh out loud.

We ended up talking about fame, laughing over a headline that declared an actress's big comeback as an appearance on Dancing With the Stars. From there he said something about how today's movies just didn't tell stories in the same way they used to. How nothing is like the old black and white films, like his favorite, Of Mice and Men. As I agreed that it was one of the greatest, he went on to say he not only watched it a couple of times a year, he also reread the book every year.

A Steinbeck fan. A literary man. With a wicked sense of humor. Maybe the other things I decided he was earlier weren't wrong - those could still be true. They just weren't all of him. And the new information turned him from potential enemy into a connection that has the power to make me smile even now.

I don't get to know the ending to the Costco guy's story any more than I'll ever know what really happened with the spiders. What I do know, if I can remember to remember, is that people, situations, and stories are always more complex and more interesting than anything the threads of my imagination can possibly weave.

19 comments:

Wanda..... said...

I enjoyed your post, Deb, it made me smile....my husband is one to draw possible conclusions in any situation. I'm wondering if that was a 'death stare' you were giving the young man; my mother was good at that! You weave a good story, Deb!

Charlene: the Polarblogger said...

Another beautiful lesson from nature. So neatly expressed and enjoyable to read.

patricia said...

So true. I almost enjoyed the story of the spiders more than the people, which is not typical of me. It reminded me of how Joe has named all his favorite spiders who have weaved webs around our property. =) I also fill in stories about things and people. =)

M said...

Being someone with a "history", I'm always intrigued how people would react if they knew my story. Most people are always kind and friendly...mostly not afraid of who they see and talk to. But if they only knew...? The truth is, we "all" are so much more than can be seen (or assumed) from a brief encounter.

I loved the post...and the personal reflections that it brought me.

Love you
Mark

Terri Tiffany said...

And that is the thrill of humanity-- everyone is so complex. I love to dig and find out more about those around me--sounds like you did:)

Gail said...

I guess that fits with Granny's saying, Never believe what you hear and only half of what you see.

Tabitha Bird said...

So true. Gosh, I am like you. I weave a story for people and then I am shocked that it doesn't match up. Love the spiders. I think they were both visiting the web of a friend and they went there individual ways when the friend was not home :) That's my answer and I' sticking to it :))

Carrie Link said...

Yep, one of the Four Agreements, make no assumptions...

Anonymous said...

aahhh..your splendid spider portrait and story sent a physical reaction rippling through me like velvet. Creatures of autumn, scent of leaves, anticipation of my favorite holiday: Halloween. I know, spiders are just plain creepy. I have been a casual student of these weird wonders since I was a bud though. Arranging spider battles on neighboring webs, bottle captures, insect sacrifices to orbs and funnels, I confess to all. You probably have found out by now that the smaller spider was actually a male, engaged in ritual mating. Seriously! The female has probably trundled off to create her egg sack. Who knew?!

I smiled all the way through your latest three writings, Deb, from start to finish, actually gasping out loud with glee at Mark's news. Because of all that you have shared. How fabulous. You are an elegant storyteller, as always. I hear your voice and its lyrical cadence as you unravel treasures from your past and present.

Costco guy? Yeah, I'm on your train with that hairy eyeball drill too. Good thing he redeemed himself!

You rock.

Love you,
Lisa

Linda Myers said...

We've been sharing our garden with a BUNCH of spiders this year. And their beautiful webs, which would be impossible for anything but a spider to come up with.

Kathryn Grace said...

Fascinating! Perhaps the mama spider was teaching the teenager spider how to weave. Though I'm pretty sure it doesn't happen that way, it's where my brain went.

Love the story of the checkout guy. Seems he gives as much of his attention to each moment as he can. Interesting and much food for thought. I can always count on that from you.

Kathryn Grace said...

Duh. But of course they are two different kinds of spider, from the look of things. What chance, perhaps, brought them together in just this way?

Jerri said...

A former counselor used to talk to me about "holding opposite poles." I would wonder at the gulf of contrast between two pieces of information about someone or something, and she would murmur, "And both are true."

It's the dance between the poles that makes people endlessly fascinating and creates the stories you tell so well.

kario said...

A little less weaving and a little more connecting would do us all a world of good.

Love you!

deborahjbarker said...

Lovely,thought provoking post Deb. My husband always tells me I never fail to surprise him by my habit of always looking for the best in a person. So, I look at someone like your Costco guy and think, maybe he has had a tiring day - maybe he has been polite and considerate to all his customers but just for this minute, just now, he has forgotten himself. Same for those drivers who cut me up on the road or don't indicate before turning right - it may be their one small mistake, the one thing they will regret all day and who am I to judge? I have probably made one small mistake today that has upset someone. So, I too weave a little and maybe I would be surprised if I knew the truth. I prefer to weave!

Wanda said...

What does this mean?

"That obvious, huh?"

Barb said...

Hi Deb, Great musing about reaching conclusions (perhaps too quickly and not correctly!). I like to think about people's stories, but I'm sure the ones I weave in my mind aren't nearly as interesting as the real thing! There is so much to know - just under the surface of our awareness.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I think we all have our moments when we make judgments. Always more fun to point out someone else's mistake rather than our own. When I'm not rushed, I have a tendency to be more forgiving. Wonder more about people -- or the spider webs. Enjoyed this.

YOU buy People? No judgment there.

Amber said...

What a good post! A good lesson.

I remember this time in highschool, I was in a bathroom stall when these two girls came in and I realized they were talking about me... and they were saying not good things, and how I was this and that, and as if I were some spoiled "rich girl" (lmao!)...I knew they both had hard lives. But they thought I had this blessed easy life. So I came out of the stall, and they both about died. And I simply, quietly, told them one thing about me they might not know, and how they shouldn't think they know people based on the outside.
Much later, one of them told me she never forgot that. I never forgot it either, and it always made me want to be as honest and authentic with people as I could be, so they wouldn't assume what was in my heart, and they would know they could be safe with me.

See how your story makes people think?? lol Once a teacher, always a teacher, lady.

:)