The other day while taking a shower I noticed a small black spider hiding behind the calking, struggling to survive. Any slight splash would end his brief existence, pushing his ever so slight legs into the strong surge of water from above. Clinging onto the damp corner, he nervously waited for my shower to end, his fragile life waning before my eyes.
Turning the shower head away from his spindly body, my thoughts traveled to my father, a man with a similar philosophy to Mahatma Ghandi. A strict vegetarian and animal lover, my father would go to extreme lengths to ensure that all animals (and people) were treated with the utmost respect and admiration.
I can remember many times driving down a highway in the Midwest, watching my father pull over to the side of the road to remove a poor beetle or grasshopper that had unluckily flung itself against our windshield. If you were a bug lucky enough to cross paths with my father, your life would be wholeheartedly spared.
In my novel, The Gossamer Thread one of the character’s is based on my father, a man that I feel we all can learn more from. Growing up in South Africa he observed his mother, working in her rose garden, cultivating and caring for those gorgeous roses with the love that only a mother posseses for her young child.
Here is a passage about the character Michael from the novel:
Watching his mother cultivate her rose garden, Michael also developed a love and affection for the smallest of creatures, whether they were winged beings or creatures that hugged the earth. The birds, butterflies, bees, ladybugs, crickets, beetles, flies, ants, caterpillars, snakes, spiders, worms, snails and slugs all became his dearest friends as he attempted to see that none of them ever came into harm’s way. And if nature managed to work in her sometimes cold and indifferent way—a spider enveloping her prey in her delicate web, a helpless beetle turned on its back, he tried his best to bring order back to his mother’s rose garden, knowing that while he could never save every creature’s life, he would make his best effort to try.
Perhaps this subtle appreciation for and awareness of the fragility of life he developed as a young boy drew him toward becoming a pediatric radiologist, scanning for the tiniest of fractures in the delicate bones of infants, always striving to save their lives. From the inside out, his sole aim as a doctor was always to mend and repair, put what was broken back together, correct the problem and make it right.
Perhaps this love of putting things back together stemmed from all the things that fell apart in his world when he was a child. He had watched his parents’ marriage slowly split apart, crumble and come undone. He had seen his country gradually collapse and break up, as the violence escalated and the racial tension mounted. And yet the rose garden continued to grow beautifully, the deep burgundy, pale peach, dark pink, yellow, red and white petals of the roses bloomed and flourished, magnetizing hundreds of winged creatures—butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, insects, birds. Beholding their splendor, the young boy learned that no matter how difficult life appeared—even if you were being threatened by a scorpion or attacked by a rattlesnake—there was always beauty and hope resting somewhere. Order and balance could always be restored and a connection to spirit attained.
But you had to be still and mindful to reach such a place. You had to attend to the subtle cracks and ruptures hiding beneath the unbroken wholeness of the garden—watering, fertilizing, planting, nourishing and paying close attention to the plants, flowers and creatures as if they were one’s own sweet and imperfect children. Tending to nature from this place of non-judgment and stillness, one beheld the secret of creation—allowing imperfection to find its way, to grow, manifest, expand and thrive.
And then, backing away from the small details of the imperfect garden, as if he was a winged creature flying many miles above the plot of land, he gained a certain perspective, recognizing the importance of beholding the totality of the garden. From this vantage point, every damaged leaf or yellowed blade of grass blended in with every other flawlessly shaped leaf and perfect green blade and the image of the garden appeared magnificent, extraordinary.
From his time spent in the garden and his innate love for winged creatures, Michael began to learn the importance of observing details as well as the art of knowing when to release himself from the particulars, soaring far above the garden, the boy, the country.