My family has an ongoing internal disagreement about the spiderwebs on the back deck. I leave them be. My daughter and my husband like to take them down. The argument goes something like this:
Me: “But they’re so beautiful, and the spider worked so hard on it.”
My daughter: “Yeah, but there’s still a spider.”
Me: “But they catch the flies.”
My daughter: “I’ve never seen a single fly in one of them.”
Me: “They’re not bothering us.”
My husband: [wise silence]
I really do think the spiderwebs are beautiful – amazing, even. That some tiny creature can create, simply by dropping liquid silk into nothing but air and hope, a web of fragile beauty and functional design astounds me. I can barely make a Zen doodle. And then, if you catch a web at just the right time in the morning, when the slant light hits it and refracts on the pearls of dew? Perfection.
Plus I like spiders. Blame it on E.B. White, blame it on my dislike of other bugs. I never kill a spider in the corner of a room or in the bathtub. I’ll chase it away, but I never kill it. They are artists who perform a necessary function. Sure, some of them might bite you and a few could kill you, but I have this fantasy that because I don’t kill them or destroy their webs they know I’m on their side so they won’t hurt.
Ah, the webs of deceit we weave.
But maybe it’s all masking my desire that innocents not be hurt, and their labors not mocked. When my child was in second grade, the teacher assigned the class a project of making a pig’s face out of a paper plate. My daughter did. But she was a chatty girl, and when she did not stop talking after being asked more than once, the teacher threw her pig in the trash as punishment. I was appalled. By all means, I told the teacher, have a consequence. But asking my child to create something and then throwing it in the trash? What kind of message are you sending? My relationship with that teacher, who really was a good teacher in all other respects, was tense for the rest of the year.
I admire those who are called to protect the vulnerable. It’s an endless task, as there are always those others who want to take advantage of the innocent or just be plain mean to them. So I respond by leaving the webs be, and offering a word of thanks for that short-lived web. Soon enough the wind will blow the web away and the spider will start all over again.
The vulnerable and fragile we will always have with us.