Morning’s Beautiful Tragedy

One Saturday morning I woke to a beautiful sunny day, cool enough outside to require a sweatshirt as I worked through a morning ritual of stretching and yoga movements, to revitalize and soothe my aging body. At 50 years of age, it requires more rest than I allow to feel fully motivated, and sometimes I wake sore from the past day’s busy physical activities.

In the spare room where I stretch out, I raised a window shade to take a brief look outside before beginning the movements that would pump energy into my body and help me wake up. My view, living close to the freeway in a urban part of eastern Cleveland, Ohio, is not spectacular, consisting of a few backyards, a long brick retaining wall that muffles traffic noise, and snippets of freeway lanes where cars flash by on their way to wherever.

Focusing on the window itself, something else caught my attention almost immediately. A spider’s web stretched across the left hand side of the upper window, and bright sunshine illuminated it in a way that would not be possible an hour or so later. The shimmering web was intricate, and it moved precariously in the wind, holding steady. I’ve often watched spiders building webs for more than a few minutes, marveling at nature’s ability to provide all creatures with the means to survive.

dew-on-a-spider-webThis web was not spectacular, if not for one element of surprise that, to me, was beautifully tragic. A single mosquito was trapped within a couple of the spines of this web, and after a few moments, the insect moved, expending the last bits of energy it had in a desperate attempt to free itself and escape a certain fate.

I consider myself nature’s friend, adopting a simple philosophy that says, “harm no creature that lives.” I’ve carried the smallest of insects, dead or alive, outside numerous times. It’s not a hero’s conscience that drives me to do this. It just feels to me like the right thing to do, as if returning something to the environment in which it belongs. Others would think nothing of killing a moth, swatting a fly, stomping on a bee, towel-snapping a wasp, or otherwise eliminating any other pesky insect that had the misfortune of wandering into human territory – Peter Gabriel’s video for Digging In The Dirt comes to mind.

If you’re an existentialist, you might consider how often this happens in the course of a day, an hour, even a few minutes, around the world, as man continually alters his surroundings in Homer-Simpson-like fashion, to his demise.

Perhaps it was either a moment of weakness or profound insight that made me feel helpless, standing at this window and staring at this mosquito, struggling to break free, to live a few more moments, to follow its instinctive path toward survival. A number of thoughts traveled through my brain, and for me, the moment was an opportunity to compare my own struggle to become significant in the eyes of life to this creature’s swan song, so to speak.

I believe in a higher spirit, one that often communicates with us as human beings in profound and mysterious ways. It was a beautiful tragedy, then, that I would feel, all at once, guilty for not finding a way to reach through mere inches of glass to rescue the doomed insect, respectful of the spider’s catch, that it might survive another day of its own, sad for the cycle of life that allows one thing to survive and another to die, and both empathetic and grateful for the chance to witness, in my mind, a reminder of the fragile nature of life.

Appreciate that which is before you, stay strong, and respect the world you live in, in every way possible. Only then will the sun shine in every day of your life.

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