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An Angel of a Different Sort

When I interviewed Rabbi Shai Specht on my radio show a few weeks ago, he taught me about angels. Reb Shai said that in hebrew, the word for "angel" is often translated as "messenger." I learned that anyone or anything that brings you a message you need to hear is an angel.

An angel tapped me on the head tonight, but I am still puzzling over what she is trying to tell me.

There is a spider that lives above my desk. Three or four times over the last week, she has dropped down in front of my face while I am sitting here at my computer. I reach up to touch her and she scurries back up her invisible lifeline. She sits motionless for a long time after that. Maybe she thinks I can’t see her. Maybe she was afraid and has to recuperate.

Maybe I am anthropomorphizing more than a little bit. Maybe that’s OK. Maybe the lesson I am supposed to learn has less to do with the spider herself and more to do with how I perceive her actions. There’s probably not much consciousness in that little spider brain and she is acting purely from instinct. But, it’s human nature to see patterns and meaning that aren’t really there, so I’m going with the anthropomorphizing.

When I tweeted about my little friend this week, someone asked if her name was Charlotte. I guess that is as good a name as any, although I haven’t seen her write anything in English in her web.

This evening, Charlotte seems intent on extending her web down from the upper corner of the room. TWICE, she has come down and touched me on the head. When I looked up, she scurried back up. Maybe she thought my bald head was a big, shiny rock. She came down in front of my face and spread all of her legs and twisted from her thread as if trying to sense something around her to grab onto. I reached up with my index finger to touch an outstretched leg. For a moment, she grabbed on, but sensed danger and skedaddled back up.

A couple of minutes later, she came down about halfway from the ceiling to my eye level and spread herself out again. This time, I reached up and held my finger an inch from Charlotte. When she sensed my presence, she pulled all of her legs in as tight as she could, but didn’t climb up.  I pulled my finger away from her when my arm got tired, but watched for another while. She eventually climbed lazily back up into the safety of the established web.

OK. You may not believe what I tell you next, but I am not making this up.

When I finished my description of my interaction with Charlotte, I clasped my hands behind my head and leaned back in my chair, and said out loud to Charlotte, "What are you here to tell me?" At that moment, I saw a small moth-like creature flitting around the ceiling in seemingly random movements. I was hoping it would get caught in Charlotte’s web. It was almost like waiting for a roulette ball to fall into the slot of the number I placed a bet on. Eventually that random movement bumped that moth into the web about two inches from Charlotte. Oh, boy! Charlotte is going to have a meal.

She reacted, but it wasn’t enough. The web did not hold the moth. It fell down and stopped on the wall momentarily near me. "You escaped this time, Buddy." Suddenly, I’m talking to insects and arachnids.

The moth was not content to stay still. He seemed oblivious to his near death experience. What do you expect? He’s a moth. He zigged and zagged his way up the wall. It may have seemed like a long time in moth time, but it was just a couple of seconds to me. When he reached the ceiling, he got caught in old cobwebs. I thought, "Fine, he got caught in the old stuff, and didn’t become a meal for my buddy, Charlotte." At least I wasn’t talking out loud this time. (No comments about my housekeeping and allowing the old cobwebs to stay, please.)

I was surprised at what happened next, but probably not as dismayed as the moth. I thought all of the webs up there were from dead spiders. But the granddaddy long legs sprung into action, snatched the moth, and immediately wrapped him up. Several of the eight legs grabbed and spun that moth. He would wrap for a few seconds, then pull the moth to his mouth for a second before spinning him around again. Eventually, the spider stopped wrapping and left his quarry an inch or so away. Figuring the show was over, I went back to my writing here. Now, the spider has pulled the moth carcass close to him. I see no movement, but I am guess he is eating. Or maybe just waiting for later.

Meanwhile, Charlotte is oblivious to her missed meal and the feast the long legs is having two feet away. And, now that I look, I see that in all those cobwebs, I see that there are actually several live spiders in that mess up in my corner.

So, what are my angels trying to tell me? I confess I don’t know yet. Maybe I need to learn Charlotte’s patience and not be upset at "the one that got away." Or maybe it’s that random movement without direction can be fatal. Maybe I’m supposed to learn to see that there is a lot of life and energy going on over my head (literally) that I am not aware of, but should be.

Maybe another lesson will come to me later as I think about it, but here’s what I am figuring out right now. Those spiders barely have a concept that I am here, if at all. I am just part of the environment, and they may not perceive me as alive at all. They are not here to teach me. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t learn something.

I always talk about how my horses teach me more than I ever teach them. But, my spiders have shown me that even though the intent to teach is not there, it doesn’t mean they can’t teach me something. When I go out to work with a horse, I intend to teach him something. In our session, he may learn something, but that horse doesn’t care if I learn anything. He’s just trying to get along from one moment to the next. But, I can learn from his actions. He is my teacher, but his intent is not to teach. I learn from what happens in our interaction, but only if I am willing to open up and accept the lesson.

There is a joke I have seen on Twitter several times, but I laugh very time: I was wondering why the Frisbee was coming at me, then it hit me.

Now, I see that I can learn something from the Frisbee (Duck or catch it), but it has no intention of teaching me. It’s just flying minding its own business when I get in the way.

So if horses and spiders are my unwitting angels, what else is out there that I can learn from? What else is flying along, oblivious to me, but if I pay attention, I can learn something from it? How do I learn to pay better attention?

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