This morning, while talking on the phone, I pulled a book off the shelf and out popped this card someone wrote to me about “Tales of Wanderland:”
“When I crawl into bed,” she writes, “I pick up your book from the nightstand and begin to turn the pages. I start my walk, through the forest along with you, Thor and Light’n. The smell of the evergreens slide through the branches and fill the air. I feel the moss under my feet and hear the creek rushing past stone. The birds sing quietly as the sun filters through alder leaves and my last thoughts as the book slips gently from my hands…”
AUTUMN from Tales of Wanderland p. 126
“The spiders are recreating the world. It seems like overnight, circular webs are everywhere. They sway heavily with mist, some in the most amazing places–delicately balanced atop bushes, flat against the main room windows, as a background to the Quan Yin statue on the deck, and one hanging this morning directly over the hot tub, making me wonder if the spider dropped down last night to hear the conversation of the 5 women who hot tubbed in the mist until midnight. But what is it suspended from? There is no tree or structure over the hot tub. I have discovered that spiders are curious. One time, I watched a large brown spider drop down in front of a group of musicians playing in the forest house. It descended on a single silken thread until it was right in front of one of the drummers, hovered there for awhile, as if listening, and then ascended back up to the ceiling.”
I am sitting on the upper deck to catch the last rays of the sun before it disappears behind the trees. It is only a little past noon, yet the sun is so low on the horizon that it barely makes it over the trees at the edge of the clearing. Something about the angle of the sun’s rays through the trees this time of year, gives the light a golden glow. A few leaves from the Cascara trees have begun to fall, drifting slowly to the ground in their own golden dance. A breeze catches the trees around me and I am dusted with a shower of Hemlock needles. The Earth smells sweet with the gifts of Autumn–falling leaves, an overnight shower.
I am tracing spider webs with my eye. There is one strand that begins about 30 feet up on a Hemlock branch at the edge of the clearing–a filamental thread catching the light as it swings through the air to anchor on the deck in front of me. Along this thread, is spun spiral webs, much like ethereal CD disks, shining and turning gently in the sun, reflecting rainbows. Sitting in the center of each, a female spider waits motionless.I am basking in the pleasure of this tranquil scene, barely aware of the insect on the deck railing, fluttering its wings in the sun, poised for flight. Then before I can even think about the outcome, wham! the web right in front of me is vibrating, the insect caught and the spider moving with astounding speed for something that had, a moment before, been so still. There is a rapid movement of spider legs and fluttering wings (a moment worthy of a sci-fi flick) then all is still. The spider slowly backs off, revealing the insect neatly trussed in a filamental cocoon, prepared and ready, when the time is right, for dining. “Architecture for the belly,” Chet Raymo calls the spider web. “silken snares set for dinner” (Natural Prayers, p. 176) In no other animal has the need to eat inspired such cunning and elegant beauty. According to fossil evidence, spiders have been refining their talent for spinning for at least 300 million years.
This Old One, this spinner of webs and weaver of Fate, inhabits our mythos and imagination through time. In Hopi mythology, Grandmother Spider is the Creatrix, born at the time of “The Purple Light” at the very first dawn. She is known as Sussustanako, Thought Woman. It is She who spins the first thread of creation into the vastness of space; She who makes the connections, creates the patterns; She who is the weaver of worlds. Sitting here, looking at these ethereal web weavings swinging in space, I understand the imaginative correspondence–how thought, spinning out from us, begins to shape and solidify the world we create; how we like Grandmother Spider, spin the patterns from the center of ourselves.
FOR A TELLING OF THE HOPI MYTH OF SPIDER MOTHER watch Wanderland Iseum events in December.