Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Spider's Web

Sometimes the mind goes as blank as the white page, as an empty glass, as a cloudless sky, as a spider's empty web.

I get up from my desk. I would pace, but there’s no room for pacing up here in my loft. So I walk down the stairs to the living room and wear out the strip of carpet behind the sofa. Since the house is small the kitchen is only a few steps from the sofa. I pace to the refrigerator, where I search inside for—what? Milk? Juice? Yesterday’s sauteed fillet of flounder? Salvation?

I take the orange juice out, pour and drink a splash, put it back. I don’t feel saved.

I linger awhile in the cold breath of the opened refrigerator, then close the door.

I turn to the windows, look at the lake. When in doubt there's always the lake. I put on my sandals (to keep the pinecones and needles from stabbing my feet) and head out the door. On second thought I should get my Speedo and towel. No, just go to the dock, I tell myself. Go stand there and think how lucky you are to be so completely empty in such a lovely place.

I walk down the sloping lawn over the pine needles. My sandals thump down the gray wooden boards. I check to see what latest webs my spider neighbors have spun. There’s a fresh one on the ladder. I tried to save the last one, but in climbing out of the water after a swim I forgot and ruined it, and felt terrible, until I reminded myself that spiders have nothing else to do but make webs. By ruining one I was keeping a spider employed. Is it the same spider, I wonder, that week after week keeps on building the same web across my dock ladder, the one I destroy each time I go for a swim?

It’s that guy again, the spider must say to himself, surveying the damage each time. That writer who lives in the A-frame. He can't write so and so he comes down here and destroys my work. His mind is blank, and he takes it out on my webs. Those who can’t create destroy, the spider thinks, and goes on weaving his latest web.

Today I won’t destroy your web, spider friend. Jealous though I am of your talent, of the perfection you achieve time and again in your designs, and also of your industry, your tenacity, your perseverance … you who never run out of webs to weave, who spin the most delicate and intricate yarns … while I sit at my desk spinning nothing but loose thoughts, weaving an empty web of words … You have nothing to fear from me. I won't ruin your creation. I’ll climb around the ladder and take some comfort in knowing that, though I made nothing today, I didn’t destroy anything, either.

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