Monday, August 30, 2010
I spent the last week at school, my final residency dedicated to defining my thesis and planning out my schedule for the next few months. Each time I make the trek there, I am please to reunite with certain students. It's a treat to spend time with them at meals or walking to the library. Sometimes, though, I feel like a fish out of water - I don't share much common ground with many of them. Social justice and books about Trotsky and the Revolution occupy their thoughts. I'm more likely to rhapsodize about my favorite children's books as a source of inspiration - Mrs. Frisby, Caddie Woodlawn, and Charlotte's Web just to name a few. There are moments at school when the connection is like an electric zing, a phrase or a certain sentiment that's expressed and I feel an instant bond with that person. When engaged in a conversation about creative writing, photography, or what I'm reading now, I can go on for hours. (My friend M and I spend many an evening comparing notes on the novels we love.) On my last day at school I spent a few moments in the Garden House. I had never noticed the intricate carvings: the essence of lizards, turtles, pigs and owls was somehow capture in the wood. On each corner of the roof a bunny or squirrel, sculpted out of stone, stood watch. The house itself, though immensely charming with a few stained glass windows framed in the doors, is in a bit of disrepair; reminding me of the Secret Garden and treasures that await for those who seek them. I instantly felt an affinity with all of the carved creatures, and for the spiders who contributed their own webbed masterpieces to the windowsills.
I used to be afraid of spiders. Not any more. I don't think we lose fears as we grow older; we just find other things to be afraid of. Now I'm afraid of pain. The pain of my children. The cost of college. I'm still a bit afraid of ghosty things, that fear hasn't diminished since childhood. I'm afraid of the demise of the planet, but only in a vague sense - my own five-acre patch of planet is quite lovely and willingly gives us food to eat, so the idea of global devastation is a hazy one. Some days I'm afraid of coming to the end of my life having accomplished nothing but the laundry. Other days I recognize that laundry is a fairly huge accomplishment and if that turns out to be the case I should be proud anyway. I'm afraid of early-onset dementia. I'm afraid I'll grow more and more uncomfortable in crowds and one day decide never to leave the house again. I'm afraid of failing my kids in a million ordinary ways. But spiders I've made peace with. They decorate the front porch with their webs, they eat flies and mosquitoes. They're quiet neighbors. The spiders can stay.