Start with a girl
given to wondering:
add one mirror,
a sigh, her What if
as she teeters
upon the mantel,
and then . . .
I feel invisible, young Alice thinks, having tumbled through the Looking Glass. “It’s so very lonely here!”
O how the individual world upends when least expected. Say our loved one dies. The morning mirror throws back a reflection we scarcely recognize. Our equilibrium stutters.
Who will ever stop wishing for one more day with the beloved? We wander terrain made strange by their absence.
September has been strange.
A dear friend is in mourning. I listen to her stories and bow my head. What an honor to be a safe place for her sorrow. Wait. Did I almost recognize the name of her mentor?
But no, having so recently bade farewell to my own, empathy is uppermost.
Still, something niggles — an elusive, quivering thread I can’t quite place. (I’m also mostly steamrolled by COVID-19, so I give up; the noggin’s too full to process anything else.)
A week later, a longtime friend tells me her cherished brother-in-law passed. Over four decades I’ve often prayed for his wife and for him, at her request. Some prayers feel fiber optic: a flexible tendril of caring stretches forth on behalf of someone we’ve never met. Little pulses of light traveling through a line.
Yet I am increasingly mystified.
Each friend’s loss encompasses a faithful, richly loving and wise influence, lavished on them by a fabulous human being for nearly half a century. Again, like my own experience.
Far as I know, they’ve have not met. Except. One day, a conversational aside grabs my attention. So I ask each woman separately for the deceased’s surname.
And lo, the mentor and brother-in-law are one and the same person.
My raveled breathing smooths for a moment, an uncoiling of awe.
How tender yet tensile the weave of history among those who love God. Strand by strand, seen and unseen, myriad joinings surround, enfold, and uphold us. They glint like spider silk across air we thought was empty — and with such substance. Stronger than steel, we’ve been taught.
Now, research shows spider silk is surpassed in strength by the composite fibers within the teeth of sea snails! Turns out they are thousands of times tougher (and tinier) than our super, man-made nanofibers. Ten percent stronger than one dewy line of a spider web.
The small counts for more than we dare dream.
Start with a girl. A spider. A snail.
Or start with three friends. One God. Felicitous grace.
The connections are there, born of the eternal. Glimpsing them, don’t we feel less alone, less invisible?
Lord of Life, peel back a gauzy corner of the mesh, slender yet hardy as roots, diaphanous as your Northern Lights.
Friends, tell me something you know about sinewy delicacy . . . or mirrors . . .
Read about spiders and sea snails here.
Read about my mentor here.
Watch Alice step through the mirror here.
“There’s no use trying,” Alice wails. “One can’t believe impossible things.”
Her Royal (Peevish) Majesty sighs. “I daresay you haven’t had much practice. When I was your age, I practiced half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”