• Cynical Candor

Natural Degradation

Outside my window, a wisp, like a thin fishing line, or a light strand of hair, wafts in the wind, connecting the handle on the lid of our fire pit to something I can’t see through the window. It glints in the 92 degree sun, unusually hot, but maybe appropriate for the day before independence day.

You’d never know it was there if the sun didn’t catch its dance, steady yet unpredictable like waves welling up, heading to shore, snapping back when the breeze slows to a calm, and again, as a mild gust rushes in. How does it stay tethered?

How did the eight-legged creature manage to attach this long, horizontal string from one object to the next? Surely spiders don’t fly; there are supposedly jumping spiders, but I don’t even know that a spider created the tightrope. There are silkworms, I think, though that seems like a ground-dwelling creature; less likely to be able to bridge some gap through mid air, about three feet off the ground, on a downward slope, or upward—we have no idea where the insect began their work.

Do caterpillars do this? Maybe they use their silk to find their way back to where they came from after bursting from the cocoon. A lifeline. A way back.

How many webs they’ve weaved; how many have I broken, intentionally or by happenstance, that I missed, when I just wasn’t looking? Every minute our hair grows, our nails lengthen, without us noticing, but we know it does. We don’t choose this, it just is, and day by day we ignore it until suddenly we think, “I need a haircut.” But I guess, reflecting, it’s different.

They abound in fall, intricate snowflakes woven with the excrement of small black bugs, seeming appropriate as spooky season approaches. Harvest. The deer population comes to grow and age, increasing sightings of the horse-like horned, muscular beast, peaceful enough, but denser than the crunching aluminum of most standard vehicles. So awe inspiring, yet so capable of causing harm. We should not expect death, but we can accept it.

How many spiders have I killed, not paying attention to what I can hardly see? Running on my way to take care of my needs up the sidewalk to the stoop of my front door, I’m sure it’s been many. Or maybe I just destroyed their homes. It isn’t always clear to me, because I never cared to understand until this very moment. I never cared to see when I'd looked until this very moment.

The impact is immeasurable, I think. Will this pandemic divide the classes further, or strengthen a middle class? Deer, overpopulating, winning back their land, destroying cars and consuming gardens. Will malls, restaurants, the average middle American lifestyle, be erased as we know it? The dodo bird of old, the spiders I smash, destroy, the bees that pollinate such glorious and life sustaining nature. And if you can’t see it, do you even know it’s even there?

We act like it’s not, bustling through our routines and rituals, a dash of spontaneity here, a dab of impulse there, all the while maintaining the tether to our reality, ignoring death. We act as we please, whether that’s to please ourselves, or please others, because that’s what we know. That, and death.

There, untouched, floats the silky hairlike thread, and I have the compulsion to break it, let whatever set it there in the first place find its way back without a past, without its breadcrumb trail. But I don’t. I leave it to disappear on its own, by wind, or rain, or its natural degradation. Because I think, honestly, it’s never going to return, and maybe it left it there for someone else. Maybe it’s already dead.

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