If the title caught your eye, please hang in there to the end of this. Begin by thoughtfully reading Walt Whitman’s short poem, “A Noiseless, Patient Spider.”
A noiseless, patient spider,
I mark’d, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them — ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, — seeking the spheres, to
Till the bridge you will need, be form’d — till the ductile anchor
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.
This poem exemplifies the Romantic writers’ ideal of understanding how aspects of nature reflect the human condition, whether individually or societally. This poem is one of Whitman’s “spots of time” to which William Wordsworth referred. Whitman observed a spider and just thought about what it said to him concerning life.
In that simple little spider, Whitman saw a metaphor for us, human souls seeking connections. We all need connections to make meaning of life, to be assured that we are significant, that we are loved, and that we matter.
Thinking about spiders and webs, I have seen some that are amazing geometrical designs and some haphazard ones. What does this say about our attempts to make connections? Such thoughts depend on many dynamics: personal mood, societal events, life experience, memories, sensory images.
I would encourage you to engage in an experiment. Think about something that is on your heart: positive, negative, questions, plans — whatever. Then, just go outside, go on a walk, sit in your yard, or on a park bench — anywhere outside where you can experience some aspect of nature. Focus on one natural element, whether it’s a tree or a leaf, a deer or a herd of cows, clouds or rocks. You choose.
Have some way to record your thoughts, whatever they are, about these questions:
What is on my heart?
What element of nature am I focusing on?
How do I relate that to the heart matter I brought outside?
What response will I have to the matter now? (Could be almost anything!)
It’s a good therapy, and a positive one. It might inspire getting creative or fixing a relationship or making new friends or embarking in a new career or… What does your heart say to you? When Whitman saw the spider, he wrote a poem. Maybe he felt lonely and knew he had to make an effort, any effort, to connect to his world.
Here’s to lessons from Nature!