Our connections to each other and the world around us are made up of largely invisible threads, that together form a delicate and intricate web. The Web of Life. A precious web of interconnection that sustains and nurtures us. After 2 years of separation, disconnection and disruption, it’s time to attend to the Web of Life.
I spent the first 6 months of the pandemic in northern Italy, bearing witness to some of the worst that Covid-19 had to offer. Then in July of 2020, I was able to make my way back to Australia – just as the borders slammed shut. Two weeks in quarantine, then another 260 days in lockdown: ample time to contemplate these two extremes of isolation and separation that the pandemic had presented.
The nostalgia for connection during those turbulent times was worldwide. I heard it and felt it everywhere I went. As is often the case when that which we take for granted is suddenly gone, we feel its preciousness in the acute pain caused by its absence. Those delicate, gossamer threads of relationships that make up the Web of Life became as important as the more obvious, physical possessions of day-to-day life which normally claim so much of our attention.
I often use this idea of the Web of Life in climate leadership training programs to help explain the concept of interconnectedness: the way that all the living things in an ecosystem depend on all the other things – living and non-living – for continued survival. Years of running a nonprofit organisation that relied on the generosity of others helped me to develop an acute awareness of how this web of human connections has nurtured and sustained me, enabled my work, and shaped how I move through the world.
In the days and weeks of unnatural isolation generated by the pandemic—whether quarantined in a 4mx4m hotel room, unable to open any windows or doors, or as the sole person on 100 sweeping acres with only horses, sheep and cattle to talk to— I used this web to give me perspective, patience, compassion and understanding. As I did so— just like a spider who uses her web to extend her consciousness out beyond her physical body — I also felt each vibration, tremor and impact as it shook and trembled before this turbulent storm.
And so, as Australia finally opened its international borders after almost two years, I knew exactly what I needed to do. To attend to the Web of Life. Specifically, to the parts of it that make up my human family connections.
What is this work of attending? A quick dictionary search gives a list of definitions. To be present. Check. To give practical help and care to. Check. To pay attention to, to accompany and wait on, to occur with or as a result of. Check, check and check. For me, it’s a simple message: I am here. I see you. I love you.
And so I started what was to be an eight month journey (ending still TBD) to attend to my web. But of course as with many things in life while the message may be simple, the work is complex. There are holes in the web to be grieved. There are new lives to be celebrated and woven in. There are broken threads and new points of connection.
In my book The Weaver’s Way, I talk about the important work of tending, mending and repairing that is part of a Weaver’s role. Flicking to the chapter, I re-read the words I wrote during those long days of isolation.
“We must first see the individual threads and acknowledge the brokenness. Then we can begin strengthening, building, and renewing.”
To attend well is to be precise with your attention. To listen closely and deeply. And that is what I’ve been doing for the last 5 months. As I do, it settles on me that the hardship of the last few years has not ended here. The brokenness is still emerging. And so this work of attending feels more important than ever.
As I try for the hundredth time to fit my travel-weary body into the rigid confines of an airplane seat on my second long distance red eye in as many days, I remember that line about brokenness. It brings with it an easy acceptance of temporary discomfort, knowing that right now, this is the work that must be done. The work of a Weaver.
There is a place for all of us to take up this role of being a Weaver. We all have a responsibility to attend to the Web. How are you attending to your web at this moment? What parts can you strengthen through attention and intention? What parts may need tending or mending? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Send me a message and let me know.
Until then, may you find comfort in these threads of connection that hold, nurture and sustain you.