She was actually at the center of it all. Though grown-ups had forgotten, the children knew. Without her help, all would be lost.
She lived back behind the shed at the far end of the yard. There by the east corner her magnificent web glistened in the early morning sun. She was black and her web was silver.
The grown-ups tried to teach children to be afraid of spiders. And many of them listened.
"Spiders are bad. They might be poisonous. They might get in your hair or bite you! Besides, they make a mess. Their webs dirty up my curtains and get in the way of my cleaning the house."
So the spiders, after working so hard to create webs, were struck down by brooms, dust mops or an old white rag. But they never gave up. They just started new webs over and over again. All, that is, except the spider behind the shed. Her web was never disturbed. It only grew more magnificent day by day. You see, no one but the children went behind the shed. And not even all the children at that. Some were too afraid, so they stayed close to the house.
But one little girl and her brother loved that mysterious corner of the yard. They never knew what they'd find there. And you know the best part of it all? It felt safe. There was so little in their lives that felt safe anymore. Almost every night--especially in the summer--they had to sleep on the floor because of guns shooting in the neighborhood. And it was dangerous to play on their front porch or in their front yard because of big kids and their drugs and guns and fights.
It was like they lived in the middle of a war, and nobody knew how to stop it. Except for the spider, that is. She knew how to stop it. She and her creature friends knew how to live in peace. That was why the girl and boy felt safe back of the shed with her.
One day, shortly after a rain, the children were back in the hidden place, hunkered down on the moist earth. The spider was adding a new strand to her web, when suddenly she stopped.
"It is time," she whispered to herself, "to teach the children. They have sat in silence long enough, so now they'll be ready to hear."
"Children," she said, "I come to you in peace. We have sat with one another for a long time. I appreciate the respect you've shown me and my web. And now it is time to speak."
Though the girl and boy were surprised to hear the spider's voice, they listened quietly to what she had to say.
"Your world," the spider continued, "has forgotten the web that holds us all together. It is a web even more beautiful than my own. Its strands are strong and when one breaks, another takes its place. This web--the Sacred World Web--is so large that it stretches across lands and oceans to connect all life on earth. It is bound in love.
"The web has no notion of separate countries, different languages, religions or races. It respects each form of life for what it is...whether woman or man, mountain or stream, rock or tree, skunk or butterfly. Each has a place and a reason for being. The web would not be complete without it."
The girl spoke up, "Thank you, Mother Spider, for showing us the Sacred World Web. It sounds beautiful! But I don't understand. If we're all connected in love, why do we hurt and kill each other?"
"Dear child," said the spider, "your question is wise. And the answer is simple. The people of this time have forgotten. That is the pain. They do not remember that they are bound together by strands of love."
"So what can we do?", cried the girl. "How can we help them remember, so they'll stop the fighting and wars and killing?"
The spider sat a long time in silence. How could she teach the children all they needed to know? Where would she find the words?
Suddenly out from the leafy shadows appeared one of her creature friends to help.
"Gr-rumph!," Frog croaked. "Teach them about tears. The sacred rain that falls from our eyes will cleanse and refresh us.
"It is only when we learn to cry over the violence that we can see it for what it is, and choose not to live that way anymore. Let tears flow like rain and they will fall on the Sacred World Web, making it glisten so people will see it again."
"Thank you, Frog-friend," said the spider. "We will honor your gift of tears."
The children smelled the next creature before they saw her...the skunk.
"Mother Spider," she said, "please speak of self-respect. When each person knows and appreciates who they are, then the Sacred World Web stays strong.
"Especially teach children to avoid anyone or anyplace where they are not treated with respect. Be like me. You can be sweet and cuddly, or you can turn on a bad situation and spray it with the stink of self-respect. Hold yourself tall and straight! Be proud of who you are."
"Thank you, sister Skunk. Your odor of respect is most appreciated."
Next the children spied an iridescent winged creature hovering overhead. It was Dragonfly.
"Look at me!" Dragonfly buzzed. "I bring the lesson of breaking through illusions.
"Illusions are ideas that masquerade as truth. They are false ways of looking at the world. For instance, it is an illusion that we are separate or cut off from one another. We think that what we do--even to one other person--is only between them and us. Not true, my friends! Not true. When you hit your sister, it hurts all strands of the Sacred World Web. When you help her, you help the world.
"So, please teach of seeing things in true ways, of believing in the reality of the web."
"Oh yes, brother Dragonfly," said the spider, "I will teach of breaking down the illusion that we are separate, and learning to live as one."
The last creature to appear fluttered without sound from a nearby bush. Her orange and black wings caught the children's eyes, and they giggled in delight, crying, "Hi Butterfly!"
"Hello children," hummed Butterfly. "I bring the dream of change. It is you who will transform this world from violence to love. It is you who now see the Sacred World Web, and in the seeing, you make the dream of peace come true.
"You have lived in the cocoon of fear long enough. It is time to dance and sing, paint and draw, love and laugh your way to the center of the web. You are already the change that is to come. Live peace now, even in a world that does not seem to know what peace means. As you become your dream, your dream will become you!"
"Thank you, dear Butterfly, for your lesson of peace.
"Children," said Mother Spider, "you have heard the creatures answer your question. So, what are you to do now?
"Let Frog's tears cleanse and refresh the web that it might shine in the sun.
"Live Skunk's self-respect. The web's strands are strengthened in respect.
"Like Dragonfly, break through the illusion that we are separate, and live the truth that we are all part of one web.
"And believe that the butterfly of change is part of you. If you live in peace, the world will be transformed forever.
"So, go now, dear children,
and snuggle deep in the safety of the Sacred World Web. You hold its strands
fast within your heart."
The end...no, more like the
© 1993. Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please
use with attribution.
-Photo of earth courtesy of www.earthimaging.com
-Animal characterizations based on Native American teachings found in Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson (Bear & Company, 1988)