Many of my social media friends in the Pacific Northwest have been posting incredible photos of spiderwebs they are finding everywhere. October is the month when our 8 legged friends make their stand but this year, as with everything in 2020, has been different. I am used to seeing large intricate webs here and there but this year there are multitudes of webs cast all over our yard. Two in the rhododendron; three in the apple tree. Gossamer strands floating from the house to the fuchsia plants. The fountain is wrapped in a silky maze.
These natural works of art are only truly visible because they capture the water droplets from the Puget Sound fog as the sun comes up. Only then can we see the detail, the beauty, the work that it had taken to create such a masterpiece. Think about it. An intricate, delicate, deadly mesh of sticky strands, woven together in a terrible, beautiful configuration reflecting the water and the light. For some creatures, it’s a death trap. For the spider, it’s survival. Like the Sirens in Mythology, the web seductively beckons its prey who become trapped in the sticky grip, never to escape. Nature at her finest.
The word “web” has several connotations in the human lexicon, sadly, not all of them positive. The spider’s domain is synonymous with fear and distrust. Web of deceit. Web of secrets. Web of lies. Silky vortexes that can spin your mind into confusion and mistrust as they pull you into their orbit. Sometimes there is no water or light to warn you of the web you are walking into. The biggest web of all is the world wide web and the social media platforms within it. It all begins innocently enough, the fun of connecting with family and friends from anywhere in the world, glimpses into everyday events or momentous ones like new babies, weddings, or a long-awaited trip. But then the strands begin to pull you closer, and suddenly you are defending your political or spiritual beliefs and arguing with total strangers over deep-seated differences, sometimes trading insults no matter how civil you hope to be. These are turbulent, uncertain times. Photos of flowers and birthday cakes are replaced with news feeds, memes, or reposts that support a view or try to change one. Fake vs real. Fact vs fiction. Truth vs lies.
The webs in my yard got me thinking about the web on my phone. As a writer, social media is a boon, connecting me with readers all over the world and with other writers for a robust exchange of ideas and support. But it has also trapped me into using my voice to speak up and speak out. As good as that sounds it is a slippery slope. I get upset and angry and start to think of responses I can give to those ideas I think are deception and lies even when I am off social media. It is not something I consider healthy for my mind or my spirit. I think of our children, a generation who has grown up on social media, whose sole means of human interaction is through a five-inch screen in the palm of their hands. And as if it were not enough that this was happening before COVID, the pandemic has made the isolation even more complete.
In an earlier blog post, I wrote that the thing I missed most during this unprecedented time was the sense of touch. I miss hugging and kissing my children, face to face meetings with friends, simple pleasures we took for granted. It’s sad that our interactions are all virtual now. I feel completely wrapped in this web despite being grateful for the silver lining of living in a time when we can connect at all. I don’t know the solution and that bothers a person like me who is anxious when there is something out of my control. Perhaps that is the lesson in itself.
The other day I walked through a spider web as I made my way to put a fresh bunch of lavender on my beloved cat’s resting place. The gossamer strands pulled at my face and hair and I made futile attempts to brush it away, hoping its weaver was not lodged in my hair somewhere. I was struck by the strength of those fibers, able to withstand strong winds and rains, resilient, tenacious. Maybe that’s the true lesson of the web. Not the negative but the positive. That we work hard to connect with our loved ones, sending out strands to keep us together. That we have resilience in the connection despite the winds of change and the reins of fear that threaten to pull us apart. And if they do, we rebuild even bigger and stronger. That thought gave me comfort and I looked at the webs I passed on my way back into the house with new eyes and new respect. It feels like it is time to weave another web. But first, I will turn off my phone.