Saturday, September 10, 2011

the summer of the spider.

yesterday, my english professor gave us a prompt. it was pretty simple.

1. wander around campus.
2. find a patch of light.
3. sit with it. speculate about it. be philosophical.
4. write a three to four page personal essay about your philosophical speculations.

um. that was my first thought.

i just finished writing about my experience with the patch of light. and then i began to realize it sounded a hell of a lot like a blog.

so why not make it a blog?

i know you're absolutely curious about what happens when i philosophize about a patch of light. it's not nearly as epic as that gigantic ray that lights up baby simba in the lion king, but it is, after all, my patch of light and my speculations on it. so that's why you're going to keep reading.

you are generally curious. i still think i am too. here we go.

During the week, I am not apt to wander around the campus searching for a patch of light to speculate about. I am someone who is positively petrified at the idea of being late and often focus on getting places on my mysteriously long legs. This is somewhat remedied by the unnatural curve in my neck, which makes my head stick out for a world view.
          I had grand visions of wandering aimlessly around campus, examining light. I have often examined light in these fashions on slow, dull Sundays, but never on a Friday morning or afternoon packed with classes, meetings, and business. I do and do not die when I write things in lists. I flourish as much as I die. These grand visions where I found a beautiful tree with soft, dappled green light began to vanish as my to-do list grew and my planner slowly filled. They all but vanished as I headed to accost a professor about jumping a year ahead in my Spanish lecture.
          But that was where it happened, as I hurried with my summer school book, my summer school syllabus, and a plan to convince a stranger that I deserved to move ahead with my Spanish prowess.
          I did not have time to contemplate. I did not have time for speculation, for being philosophical about this magical piece of light. All I did was look at it for a total of maybe three seconds.
          I should not have been focusing on the patch of light. I was fast approaching Superior Street to cross onto north campus to find that Spanish professor. But I looked at the corner of the dorm building and there it was, lighting up a tangled, reeled, ancient garden hose and making the grass look more alive than I had ever seen it.
          In the less than three seconds in which I looked at the off-white sided corner of the Nisbet Hall where that tangled garden hose hung, I was transported back to childhood, to summer, to bright blue skies, fat clouds, best friends, and no thoughts of anything except my own happiness. I was taken swiftly into my backyard where I was pushed on my swing set by my father, kicking a soccer ball with my older brother, and inspecting the different colors of my mother’s vast garden. I sat on the picnic table with a gigantic slice of watermelon and macaroni salad and I waited in anticipation for a summer storm to roll through from the west.
          Three seconds.
          During those pleasant summers of my childhood, I had a best friend whose backyard connected to mine. Her name was Melissa, and every single day, I would scale the fence, cross her backyard, and ring her doorbell. She would come bounding down the stairs, throw it wide open, give me a tight hug, and we would bound off on an adventure. We built a fort in a gigantic pine bush and decorated it with hanging willow branches. We rode our bikes to the neighborhood pool together. We spent endless summer days catching and inspecting insects. We jumped on her trampoline, and most of all, we climbed trees and pretended that they had voices, that they could speak, and that they loved us as much as we loved them.
          One summer, when we were about ten, we caught four, gigantic, fat, bright garden spiders. Two of them were black and two of them were rust with an intricate olive and white pattern. They lived together in the cramped corner of my critter hut and we poked live bugs through the small door that kept them locked inside. We even built a maze out of Legos and tried to have them navigate it. We kept those spiders the whole entire summer. We finally let them free the week before the first week of school because the black ones had concocted an egg sac. Back then the egg sac was creepy. Now I realize that we created something magical.
          Melissa and I were summer friends. During the winter, while we wore sweaters and went to different schools, we never spoke. We never wrote, we never called. But as soon as the final school bell rang and I could scale the fence to ring her doorbell, she would answer it as readily and as excitedly as if I had been there all along.
          The corner of my house, the corner between the laundry room and the kitchen where my dad would wash dishes between hanging up clothes on our laundry line, had our tangled garden hose. Our siding was off-white. During that three seconds where I looked at the corner of Nisbet Hall and that piece of light radiating through the grass and lighting up the magnificence of a sad and tangled garden hose, I remembered one particular afternoon when I was twelve.
          Two summers after the Summer of the Spiders, my brother and I found a large, fat, black garden spider with a tightly made web in that corner between the laundry room and the kitchen. My brother, who was thirteen, was not afraid to poke it with a stick. It curled up into a protective ball and surrounded itself with its protective web while I stood uncertainly back a fair distance, arachnophobia beginning to set into my almost-teenage mind. The spider was fascinating to me; it was terrifying but such a wonderful reminder of what had happened two summers previously and the magical times that Melissa and I had had with those four spiders.
          My father came out to inspect the spider. He is a chemist and my mother is a biologist, and together they speculated about the species. My mother identified it and wandered off, but my father stood with us while we watched the spider. When I was twelve my father was tall and superman. Now that I am twenty and he is only an inch taller than me, he is more superman than he ever was when I was younger because I understand everything that he has done for me.
          My father did not poke the spider with the stick like my brother had been doing. He did not spray it down with the garden hose like I suggested. I was becoming more wary of the large spider, which was slowly uncurling itself from its cocoon. I did not want a large scary spider living by the hose. I did not like it. I was afraid of it because I didn’t understand it.
          We stood in silence, the three of us, watching the spider. Eventually my brother grew bored and went inside, but my father and I stood and watched it. He asked me if I wanted to come closer, but I shook my head in silence. I was afraid. I was very afraid, and I wanted my father to be superman, I wanted him to knock the spider down. He was imposing.
          I am twenty years old and have not unraveled great life mysteries yet. I have not discovered why looking at a ray of light that illuminates a sad garden hose for a mere three seconds can transport me to so many places at once; entire summers, best friendships that die when climbing trees is replaced by shoe shopping and there is no longer fun in catching bumblebees, and one, fat black spider that made its home in the corner of the outside of my house.
          My summers were magical. And I am beginning to realize that that spider is magical as well. I was afraid of what I didn’t understand, and what I understand now is that that spider is no different from me. He made his home in the corner with the off-white siding behind our sad garden hose. I made my home at the end of a cul-de-sac with my backyard connecting to my best summer friend. We were living together, living apart, living.
          Three seconds.

i should blog about my childhood more often. my childhood was super tight. and you should give yourself a gigantic pat on the back if you actually read this. you deserve major, major props.

1 comment:

  1. *yet another pat on the back* and, I suppose, a *pat on your back*, too.