Written at the beginning of the pandemic back in March (there are definitely no daffodils in the garden right now, on the last day of November!). But the feeling still holds, eight months later. ‘We are all enmeshed, there are no boundaries. To protect what we love, our love must be boundless, expanding; as open as the sky.’
Every morning the backyard is laced with spiders’ silk. Strands of silver reach from the tip of a fiddlehead fern to the mossy rock wall and weave the bare branches of the fig tree together. You only see if it you get up early, like me; frost still shining in shadowed patches, rays slanting sideways through the fence panels as the earth tips or the sun rises or both – I’m not sure. ‘Why don’t I know this?’ says a voice in my head, a voice from before. I do know that we’re spinning, freefall, into another day of ‘social isolation’; day 29 of my ‘plague diaries’ and I can hardly remember what it was like when my mind was busy with plans and hopes and the long, sticky, snail-trail of my past. What was I so full of?
The garden remembers. Daffodils – gorgeous this year, the biggest, brightest, sunniest ever – lean towards the light and follow its perfect loop across the sky. Do they watch the clouds too? The giant fish scales, the lenticular moons of high wind? Under the soil the seeds know when it’s warm enough to ease their way up, where their unfolding leaves will be hooked and linked by a tiny spider; to a branch dark above them, to a tulip not-yet-opened, to the soil; back to the earth they’ve just broken through.
Only at first light can you see the silks. But their presence is still caught sometimes: revealed by a leaf or a red bug twirling slowly in what looks like clear, empty air. This time last year the red mites or motes (no one knew what they were) caused a ruckus where I work when one of our residents announced that the floating-red-things were spies. ‘They come in through your eyes and ears and mouth,’ he told us, hitching up his bandana. ‘They get inside and listen to your thoughts. You’ve been infected,’ he said, pointing. ‘And you.’ We tried to calm him. ‘It’s just your voices, James. Motes in the air don’t infect us. Now we’re in lockdown; a novel virus shaken from its biome by our greed and our grasping; jumping from a mouse-with-wings to a mammal-with-scales, a rare, semi-mythical creature that the human creatures capture and cage, sell and eat. Even dear James’s voices aren’t that overwrought. And no one knows who’s infected. ‘Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold,’ said Yeats, a century ago, and here we are freefalling back in time, too, with our medieval protections: bandanas, isolation, quarantine.
Sometimes I see a silk when the wind bends it into light. Sometimes when I lie down, nose to the earth, and glance sideways there’s a mesh of them sewing up the scales of bark on the fir tree. At night, pulled outside by the moon, I walk straight through them, sticky on my face, pricking my skin as the stars high above prick my darkness. My body is as dense with life as the thicket where the wrens nest and the spring mushrooms bloom, yet there are spaces within it as wide as the sky.
The mushrooms: our own mysterious eruption of the unknown. Somehow – from plants we dug in last autumn maybe, the dog’s paws perhaps (he loves to dig in the woods) – we’ve been gifted with morels, the most desired wild mushroom in the world. Invisible strands of mycelium from the forest, that no one saw or even dreamed of, spread under our yard over winter and now, in spring, with the magic that’s puhpowee (‘the force that causes mushrooms to push up and appear overnight’ also ‘rising’, ‘emergence’, ‘growth’) they’re suddenly here, making their home on the body of our soil. Enchanting as the first crunch of snow under moccasin or paw; delicious as manna from any kind of heaven.
Watch out, though; some mushrooms have voices that urge you to fly. Others can kill you outright; stone dead.
There are billions of connections that people can’t see, the mushrooms tell us. They’re happening all the time. If you stop, and stay still, you will notice. The buds on the fig tree have popped since I wrote this, vibrating the silks, which sing their sweet songs to the birds, who knows? Look! A spider’s web swells in the breeze like a sail; the spider sits in the centre, waiting for lunch to be tangled. A fractal; mandala. A creation of creation. If you grasp it, it will vanish; but if you wait, and soften and lie at odd angles and listen for the murmur of voices you barely comprehend, you might just glimpse the enigma, you might just feel the future, there inside your fathomless bones. Maybe I leave a trail as I move round the garden, mulching the gooseberries, gathering greens. Maybe, to some kinds of being I’m too big, too different to notice, like the dark matter that passes through our earth, our little garden planet twirling in space.
Lying flat on my back the sky reels above me. My body settles, like a ship on the ocean. The clouds fall into me, into the wide open spaces inside that this shorn-back life has exposed. If I stay still long enough, I can feel the silks spinning, linking life with life. A robin pops up on the fence, spilling curls of song from her beak, they twirl down like autumn leaves, and sink through my skin. She checks out the vista with a waggle of feathers and brightness of eye, then swoops across our yard to the next, trailing joy. The shadow of a Cooper’s hawk moves across my face and dives deep in my borderless heart.
We are all enmeshed. There are no boundaries. To protect what we love, our love must be boundless, expanding; as open as the sky.
 Potawatomi (A Native American language of the Algonquian family).