A voice comes to your soul saying,
Lift your foot. Cross over.
Move into emptiness
of question and answer and question.
—Rumi, The Glance
Halfway across the pedestrian bridge I halt my stride, midair. Re-aim my foot.
Hello, Woolly Bear Caterpillar.
Black and reddish-brown bristles stripe a body the size of my second toe.
I salute a fellow “eating machine.” Colder weather has amped up my appetite, too. I’m hoping to burn off a recent binge.
Now drama looms. (So much for aerobics.)
At my feet two ill-fitting planks gape, the crack one-third Woolly Bear’s length. A stream runs beneath us.
Does Woolly Bear see danger or potential? Caterpillars have twelve eyes yet only perceive light intensity: no images.
Oh dear. It means to cross the gap.
Should I help?
Two stumpy legs on Woolly’s back end grip the plank we share. This part, I understand: Anchor to what feels stable, proven. Known.
Twenty leglets edge forward. Several more windmill air as the upper body launches itself over the gap, head moving side to side.
Segment by segment it ripples forward, a marvel of micro-engineering.
When the front legs finally alight on the next board, lots of belly still overhangs stream. Entrenched, the rear legs hold fast.
No going back.
Innate drive compels Woolly Bear’s autumn quest for a hollow log, where it will spend the winter, flash-frozen. Then spin its spring cocoon.
Daring the unknown precedes transformation.
Consider paths we take with their pitfalls and blind corners, our inability to see the outcome, the sudden drops in our confidence.
Would I belly-crawl over a drop twenty times my height? Would you?
Now the fuzzy caboose goes airborne, front legs barreling forward. Bravo!
Does Woolly Bear know it is brave and tenacious? Uncommonly graced?
Does it know that one night, months from now, it will rise: an Isabella Tiger Moth?
Daring the gaps
Navigating emptiness offers us choices: backing away, re-routing, or flat out daring to cross the gap.
We determine our strategy.
Seems we must also learn—empirically, and repeatedly—that grace will help us cross the next relational crevasse, the next washed-out road of personal failure.
Grace meets us, even in free fall, all our extremities flailing.
“The gaps are the thing,” writes Annie Dillard. “The gaps are the spirit’s one home, the altitudes and latitudes so dazzlingly spare and clean that the spirit can discover itself like a once-blind man unbound” (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek).
Whether you’re adventurous by nature or impelled across a new threshold by circumstances, don’t you find that each move made in good faith leads to the next one?
And it strengthens us in the process.
MAKING IT PERSONAL: What does the quote below say to you?
“The future is inevitable and precise, but it may not occur. God lurks in the gaps. “—Jorge Luis Borges, “Creation and P.H. Gosse” [“La creacin y P.H. Gosse”]