It’s getting colder at night now, so I brought the pot with my big mandevilla vine, covered by its showy pink flowers, inside from the deck. I am going to try to overwinter it in a sunny spot in the living room. It turns out I also brought in a tiny spider with it, some kind of orb-weaver, and he or she made a lovely web between the leaves of the mandevilla and another house plant. Yesterday the sun shone on it at an angle that made the web strands glitter with all the colors of the spectrum, a delightful and surprising sight.
I tried to get a photograph of this spider, so I could enlarge it and study his/her patterns more closely, to see if I could identify the species. But every time I got close enough to take a picture with my phone, the spider ran up out of the center of its web and took refuge under a leaf.
I was surprised, because I guess I thought that I was too big for the spider to notice, that its world-view (as it were) was so limited or tiny that it would not perceive a huge thing looming over it.
For several days now I have been thinking about this piece, pondering what exactly I want to say, and what it might have to do with travel. Am I like the spider, with such a narrow little web that I really can’t see anything beyond my most immediate neighborhood, and do not perceive some extremely large context that commands the space beyond my small view? But then once in a while I am shown the large context beyond my little neighborhood, and I am stunned and fearful?
I think I have been thinking about this because we are about to travel, and our travel will be preprocessed for us affluent Americans; in some ways I will still be in my neighborhood of comfort and safety, cleanliness and a full stomach, even though I will be far distant from my home. However, a few weeks ago I was confronted with a glimpse of a larger, menacing backdrop behind my comfy place.
Perhaps you saw the images I did, in the October National Geographic magazine, of the child miners in the mud in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Did you see them? Did you see the little boys, the ages of my grandsons, slogging in the filth to find bits of gold? There is no hot shower with shampoo and sweet-smelling soap waiting for them at home. There is no soft clean bed where they can sleep in safety. There is no school for them, with its promise of a different kind of life.
There is only mud and muck, ruined little bodies and suffocated minds.
That prodigious waste and horror is the too-large-to-be-visible backdrop for my pinpoint world view. I run away from it, and hide from it.