Willow Wonderings

Walking in Spiderwebs

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On Sunday night, I walked back to my dorm alone around midnight after talking to a close friend on the phone and my body felt heavy with exhaustion. The cicadas’ sound echoed across our hushed campus. Feeling a bit timid, I carried my grandmother’s blanket in my hand as a protector against potential strange creatures lurking in the night. Clutching my cotton comfort, I neared the trees next to my dorm and walked straight into a spiderweb.

Sometimes, getting a spiderweb on your face is just unavoidable.

The moment struck me as quite amusing given that a) I was so worried about a boogeyman I didn’t see a spiderweb right in front of me and b) it hit me right when I thought I was safe, under the premise of being near my dorm. It reminded me that most car accidents occur less than ten minutes from your house, and most accidents happen during routine jobs. Funnily enough, it had been the third spider web I had encountered that weekend – though I did not touch the others. I had been on walks and noticed a glistening miracle hanging between tree branches that stopped me in my tracks.

Spiderwebs signify more than life’s stringy hairs of entanglement – they are a symbol of  receptivity, divine creativity, and patience. It symbolizes our opening to life’s ebbs and flows as we weave our destiny.

Take these examples of spiderwebs – interconnected miracles – throughout my week:

1) Since I came to Davidson, it has been my dream to garden with children. I have always loved working with youth – especially while getting our hands dirty and growing food. Last Tuesday, when I visited the Community Involvement Fair, I went to the Ada Jenkins table to sign up to become an after-school tutor in hopes I would later be able to explore gardening with them. As it turns out, the program director recognized me from meeting at the Farmers’ Market last year and proposed that we start a garden club! Within two days, I was meeting parents and children at a booth, asking for them to sign up to join the Green Growers. Our first club is this Friday. The opportunity comes – and tada! – interconnection weaves itself into creative opportunities.

2) That night, I was trying to do homework (kind of) when I realized my headphones were completely broken and I couldn’t complete my Spanish listening activity. I asked my roommate to borrow her noise-cancelling headphones at it was a miracle! I couldn’t believe how concentrated I became by isolating myself in a noiseless bubble. I asked my professional shopping sister to look for how I could invest in a pair. She sent me back her recommendation on Friday, and while I was tempted to buy immediately, I decided to wait until I felt confident that I needed a pair. That afternoon, the Community Involvement Fair coordinator e-mailed me. He told me that I had won the raffle prize of a pair of brand new Beats headphones. I could not believe it – but I did learn the value of patience.

3) Last Friday night, I skyped with my one of my best friends, Joe, as he has finally returned from nine months of travel from Lebanon to Palestine to Egypt to Kenya. Our conversation brought me back to the joy of walking in the Pearson woods and sharing stories and dreams, hardships and passions. Joe reminded me that the beauty of wandering and traveling is its impermanence, and no matter what community we belong to, we must always be centered in peace within. After we finished talking, I wasn’t sure how to spend ten minutes before dinner but I felt an urge to go for a walk. I wandered where I thought no one could find me on a path behind freshmen dorms. Within two minutes, a friend who also just returned from Palestine rode up on his bike and as we walked, we were intercepted by a car pulling up to us. It was my friend Elyas, who met Joe when they were in Cairo and subsequently saw him again by chance in Nairobi. The interactions felt divinely coincidental. Later that day, Elyas echoed the words that Joe had spoken – the beauty of impermanence and self-determination. The day reminded me to let go of attachment to people or places and just enjoy the gift that each moment brings.

I could continue for hours about the strange, and sometimes terrifyingly coincidental, moments that weave throughout my day. Living in a small community is definitely a contributing factor – but sometimes the connections stretch out across the globe.

This semester, I am taking four incredibly related courses: Spanish 101, Human Rights in Latin America, Liberation Theology, and Psalms and the Self. As I learn how to say “human rights” in Spanish (derechos humanos), I read anthropological case studies of Peruvian women taking leadership in Christian Base Communities based on the liberation theology text I am reading by Gustavo Gutierrez. Then, in Psalms class, we discuss ancient wisdom and the Christian faith, deepening my appreciation of Latin American spirituality. Somehow, every day feels like a seamless flow of information about liberation of humanity through faith. I am reminded that I am here to study for a purpose – to connect peoples and cultures for peace.

Today marks the anniversary of one of the most defining – and painful – memories of my generation in the United States: the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The dehumanizing event has never strayed from my mind as I recall the media coverage of families and firefighters, New Yorkers and government workers affected by the event. It rocked my childhood world and began a war that has lasted more than half of my lifetime.

But this day – and this event – does not exist in isolation. My sister Rahael is currently studying in Chile, and she sent me a message today reminding me that today is also a day of fear and pain in South America. 9/11 also marks the fortieth anniversary of a terrorizing event forever changing the course of Chilean history. With the support of the United States military, Genereal Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected president, Allende, on September 11, 1973. The bloody coup and brutal attack on civilians began a sustained period of violence during which Pinochet’s regime used torture, disappearances, and the systematic murders of thousands of people in the name of neo-liberal economic progress backed by the United States.

Where are we today? We are still woven into a web of our interconnected world, watching the Syrian people suffer of torture under their government. The threat from President Obama to bomb Syria left a pitfall in my stomach and brought tears to my eyes. Bombing Syria would hurt innocent families, putting in danger my friends’ families and brothers and sisters from across the globe. I know that the political situation in Syria is much more complicated and nuanced than I could understand or describe, yet I also see an interwoven pattern of innocent human beings suffering at the expense of global powers and economic structures. Today, I pray that we always remember that violence to our neighbor is inflicting violence upon ourselves. I pray that we remember the only means to peace is non-violence.

“Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.” — Oscar Romero 

Sometimes we need to walk into spiderwebs to realize how connected we are. We need to remember that when we call a friend in another country, we are talking across time zones in a way humanity has never been capable of before. We are connected on more than a physical or communication plane – our spirits are interwoven as part of the web of human destiny. As this week has reminded me, we are part of a much larger and connected body than we can imagine – and we are here to awaken from the illusion of our separation.

As I tasted the interconnections of this week, I am reminded that God is present in every human being and in all life. May we open our mouths, ears, and eyes to experiencing reality in its fullness each moment – even if this means our hearts are broken open and our faces get dirty. I pray that we may always savor the vitality of the interrelated human family – and taste the fullness of human liberation.

O Taste and See

by Denise Levertov

The world is
not with us enough
O taste and see

the subway Bible poster said,
meaning The Lord, meaning
if anything all that lives
to the imagination’s tongue,

grief, mercy, language,
tangerine, weather, to
breathe them, bite,
savor, chew, swallow, transform

into our flesh our
deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince,
living in the orchard and being

hungry, and plucking
the fruit.

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One thought on “Walking in Spiderwebs

  1. Elizabeth, Your writing is amazing. I hope lots of people get to read your interesting, thought-provoking, and inspiring pieces.

    Love, Patty

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