"We dance in a ring and suppose,
but the Secret sits in the middle and knows."
- Robert Frost -
Somewhere near. Somewhere far. Depending on where you are. There can be found a wild garden of curious delights. Overgrown with mint and moss and myth. Untrampled by a stranger's mind. Time is its only keeper and rarely pays a visit to this mountain valley of mist. Where the wind chants its invocations of chance and circumstance. Where the rain enchants the dust to flower. Where the shadows huddle to keep warm in the secret corners of the night. Where the sunbeams come out to dance away the day. Here a bemused grasshopper twiddles with his old fiddle, preaching an empty sermon to the afternoon sky.
So, just out of the blue, a spider drops by and she hardly knows why. Not even a key to a clue. What is a spider to do? She senses that there must be a reason for every season. Stays on to grasp that big idea by its little tail. Waits and awaits but nothing of itself will come. Thinks and thinks about thinking of something. Can't even make belief, not knowing what to believe. Only aggravated frustration with exacerbated exasperation. So the spider takes it into her tiny head to track down that sneaky secret and teach it a lesson she will never forget. After all, the evening sky ought to know why.
And the grasshopper fiddles away a private tune to the newborn moon.
Look carefully and you will see. The spider is a handsome creature. Eight slim legs. Eight inquisitive eyes. Dressed in a fashionable exoskeleton. Still supple and tender from her last molt. So little, she couldn't hurt a fly, if one should wander by. As she makes her way in the tangled labyrinth of the undergrowth. Through the deep, dark forest of bluegrass. Around the thorny thistles. Beneath the lucky clover. Her winding path follows quietly the silver thread she leaves behind. Suddenly, she stumbles upon the most colossal pebble in the land. This evidence is self-evident. Obviously, it must be it. But what of it? So close the answer. So far from the question. Quite a riddle with a spider in the middle. But she has only to retrace her line of thought and tie the solution in a neat knot. One step at a time. A few feet at a time. In a circular motion, makes a round loop out of a notion. And finds herself right back where she had asked the question why of the evening sky.
And the grasshopper retires to his favorite place in the shade, littered with the missing notes of days gone by. Drifting off to the soft melody of his dreams.
Already the morning has dragged itself out from the night. Already tomorrow, when today has not yet been explained away. At last, the spider resolves to grasp the gist with nothing amiss. Shading in the shadows of meaning to catch the sunrise by surprise. Conducting a systematic survey of each hole that makes up the whole. Accounting for every mite in every niche. Checking if all the flowers fit the facts. And so, on her magical loom, the spider spins the long yarn of her short life. First lays down the power lines radiating from her hub of control. Next she weaves her sleek thread around and around, all over the ground. In whirls and spirals and swirls. A finishing touch here. A quick patch there. And soon enough a garden has turned into a map. A polar azimuthal equidistant projection of fine silk, just to be exact. Or something more or less like that. Every space has its speckled, green treasure tucked away someplace. But where did the evening sky hide the answer to the question why?
And the grasshopper awakes to his little world gone astray. Scratches his head with a toe. Puts his trusty fiddle away. As his two antennas feel for the rustle of invisible wings sailing on the wind. Now, the radio will play in his head for the rest of the day.
Meanwhile, the spider is only trying to make ends meet. Following all the leads from stem to tip, bit by bit. Every blade of grass must be connected to another so they make more sense together. Each dot got to be securely anchored to its spot. Not even leaf may fall without any permission at all. As the web of knowledge spreads its tenuous threads. Pulling gently on its puppet's strings. So the spider hustles and bustles tending to the architecture of her designs. Mending what is past bending. Sawing shut the gaping, yellow jaws of dandelions. Mooring the moss to a stone. Just to wrap up those loose threads and bind each cause to some effect. Only to make that final link between a thing and a think. Surely, the great reason ought to be snared somehow by now. Yet for all the dew of dawn, there is not a single fish in the net. Instead, somewhere in the innermost middle, there is a little spider entangled in her own affairs. Living in her homespun cocoon of silk stronger than steel. Sometimes, she wishes that she had been born a fly and had known only the evening sky. But the web catches her thought in flight. Before it escapes from this wild garden of curious delights.
Postscript: This is the first story I have ever "sold"; in response to the question "What do you expect from a university education?", it was submitted as my scholarship essay for the Computer Science BA Program at McGill University. I couldn't have been all that far off the mark since I won the $2000 scholarship.
Copyright © 1994 Mark Grundland. All rights reserved.