Being Alive

“I know I can walk through the world, along the shore or under the trees, with my mind filled with things of little importance, in full self-attendance. A condition I can’t really call being alive.”  ― Mary OliverA Thousand Mornings

Today (Sunday morning) round about 7am, I received an alarm call and woke up. I was already up and about. The alarm came when I opened the door from Launde Chapel onto our little graveyard. My eye was caught and stayed on the largest stone cross for it was festooned in spiders’ webs. It was a misty morning but the sun was rising and one instinctively knew that there was a beautiful clear sky just beyond the gauzy mist. Caught by the low sun the extraordinary and intricate works of art that are spiders’ webs demanded attention. I had to pause, look and stay.

Moments like this go back into childhood. I remember stopping and looking at orb webs, the classic spider’s web shape, clustered with dew diamonds, on my walk to primary school; being transfixed by sheet webs, the type that lie like blankets on the grass in the very early morning. Today a beautiful orb web hung on one side of the cross and on the opposite was what I think was a cob web. It looked like a string basket but was flat, not a funnel – obviously a different design from a different member of the spider family.

I in my rather lazy way have used words laxly. I have often used the word “cob web” to denote any kind of spider’s web, not consciously taking on board the different types of spider even though the evidence was there before my eyes. Yet again I realise that I have not attended. I, like Mary Oliver, have walked through the world with my mind filled with things of little importance, “in full self-attendance.” I have often had what I know is the common human experience of walking automatically to a destination and realising when I got there that I had no conscious memory of what I walked passed at all. I simply wasn’t present.

But someone inside us does wake up sometimes, and the more we practice trying to wake up the more it happens. Often the moment of waking feels like a response to something other than ourselves, something outside, as in the case of the spiders’ webs and the rising sun this morning. At other times it feels as if we are jarred awake internally, and we are not sure what has woken us.

Rather late in the day I have come to believe that this trying to wake up is one of the most important tasks of being human; one that is very hard for us to do in our western culture with its dependence on constant distraction and speed. But wake up we must, if we do not want to sleepwalk to death.