Yesterday, I was sweeping the floors. The girls were away and I had an hour so I really went for it. I crouched down and swept under furniture. I swept the dust from the top of the baseboards. I got into the corners and tried to free the dust bunnies that were held captive by invisible spider webs. If I am sweeping more than the major thoroughfares, inevitably, I sweep up some tiny spider home along with the little spider that was hanging out waiting for an unsuspecting microscopic creature to land on it’s web. I can only tell the spider isn’t a speck of dust because it moves in a straight-ish trajectory away from the other dust. These spiders are tiny.
I really love sharing my dwelling place with these spiders. They don’t seem all that dangerous (if they are, please don’t tell me), they are unobtrusive and they are evidence, right inside my home, of the amazingness of nature and life. Spinnerets? Webs?! I need frequent reminders of this amazingness because remembering is part of what keeps me engaged and interested in my own life. Sometimes, I’ll be doing something I’ve done 1,000 times before and have decided I don’t enjoy, like dishes, and then I’ll go to scrape food off of a plate and into our compost bucket, which I haven’t taken outside to the pile because I decided I don’t like that either. When I peel back the lid, I get hit with the smell of nature decomposing on my counter. I kind of love-hate gross smells. Sometimes I can’t believe how disgusting old food can be but I kind of like that a smell can make me cringe and want to barf. Is that weird? (If it is, don’t tell me that either.) There is both pleasant and unpleasant in that experience. There is also the reminder that I might not want dishes to pile up or compost to decompose on my counter, but with or without my participation, life goes on. If I pay attention and participate it’s much more interesting and amazing.
Now, back to spiders… In my sweeping frenzy yesterday, I swept up a corner cobweb and the spider that constructed it. This spider was bigger than a speck of dust, but not so big to be worthy of carrying outside in a cup with a piece of paper slid under it. I’d say it’s body was the size of a sequin. I decided to let it co-dwell with me, and assuming an air of benevolence, I watched it limp away from the dust pile, a little slower after the broom attack. I expected this spider would find a corner, make a web and that would be that—no big deal.
Well, this morning, I was sitting in my bathroom (a-hem), and I looked down and saw the spider with its legs curled up into itself. It was the same spider and it was dead. If it had been one of those teeny spiders, I wouldn’t have noticed it. A dead tiny spider would become dust. This one was that seqin-size one, big enough to see. Somehow, it had walked from my bedroom to my bathroom, which must have been the equivalent of 70 miles in spider distance, and then it curled up right there in the middle of my bathroom floor and died.
Seeing this spider and remembering seeing it alive the day before made me feel sad. It really did. I don’t know that I have some big yogic lesson to glean from it, either. But I noticed that being connected to nature and its amazingness doesn’t always feel good. Sometimes little spiders die from green plastic broom bristles. That’s just the way it goes. But I didn’t have the attitude of “oh well, life goes on,” I felt sad. And I didn’t like it. I started to wonder…when I’m making the effort to be present for an experience, why do I expect that it should only be lovely? Why do I think that just because I am better able to focus my attention and listen to the information that comes up in my body and my heart that it will all be sweet? What’s with thinking that connecting and breathing and noticing means I’ll be better able to avoid this broad category of “unpleasant feelings”?
This poem was on the inside wrapper of a chocolate bar that I bought last week:
From Elegy XVIII: Love’s Progress
Who ever loves, if he do not propose
The right true end of love, he’s one that goes
To sea for nothing but to make him sick.
Love is a bear-whelp born: if we o’erlick
Our love, and force it new strange shapes to take,
We err, and of a lump a monster make.
Were not a calf a monster that were grown
Faced like a man, though better than his own?
Perfection is in unity: prefer
One woman first, and then one thing in her.
I, when I value gold, may think upon
The ductileness, the application,
The wholesomeness, the ingenuity,
From rust, from soil, from fire ever free;
But if I love it, ‘tis made
By our new nature (Use) the soul of trade.
All these in women we might think upon
(If women had them) and yet love but one.
Yeah, John Donne, what is the deal with thinking that love will last forever and not even considering that it might have a right true end? I like this poem because even though there is such beauty expressed in the love he finds in the one woman he chooses, there is grief, too, right there in the title. You might believe that women in general have all these lovely qualities, like gold, but you choose one, knowing that an end may come to that love. You unite and engage with love, with her, and it is in the participation, in the unity, that you get to feel the love and the grief. They are both there. Don’t go thinking that they aren’t. The chocolate was good, too.
I was sad about the little curled up spider. I continue to be amazed by what spiders are and what they can do. It’s all in there- a part of the experience of being connected to the fullness of feeling and the divine. The sadness, the wonder, the beauty is all a part of life and it can show up in your compost bucket, at the end of a broom, or when you are loving someone deeply. Yoga doesn’t claim to keep the bad stuff from happening or even from keeping you from feeling difficult emotions. It does give you tools to refine your perception and stay connected to your SELF, even when little spiders die or much worse stuff comes your way. I understand why we’d all like to avoid unpleasant things, but I just don’t think it is very useful to assume that difficult feelings aren’t inherent in experiencing life. There might be value in feeling those feelings and the reactions to the feelings is where our participation is so meaningful. I guess that’s my lesson.