One year I watched an orb weaver spider at uncommonly close range. She had set up housekeeping by stringing her web from our basketball backboard to the corner of the house. Just above the eave on that corner is a floodlight that’s triggered by motion. Every night that September I carried my late mother’s lame old dachshund out for her last sniff around, and every night the light blinked on, catching the spider mid-miracle. While the ancient dog did her business, I stood in the shadows just beyond the reach of the light and watched the spider carrying on her urgent work. If I held still enough, she would keep spinning, and I could watch something unfold that normally takes place entirely in the dark. But whenever she saw me studying her, she would rush up the lifeline she’d spun for herself and squat behind the Christmas lights that dangle from the eaves, the ones that wink all day and warn birds who might otherwise crash into the windows when the slant of light changes in autumn.
Human beings are creatures made for joy. Against all evidence, we tell ourselves that grief and loneliness and despair are tragedies, unwelcome variations from the pleasure and calm and safety that in the right way of the world would form the firm ground of our being. In the fairy tale we tell ourselves, darkness holds nothing resembling a gift.
What we feel always contains its own truth, but it is not the only truth, and darkness almost always harbors some bit of goodness tucked out of sight, waiting for an unexpected light to shine, to reveal it in its deepest hiding place.
• Margaret Renkl, Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss (p.185f)