Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Spider and the Broom

It's been seven months since I've written and there are a lot of confused, joyful, stressful, perfect moments in that gap. For awhile I was busy adapting to being back in the US.  It takes a long time; maybe more so for me because a close family member passed away right before I came back. The process feels more complete now as I write up my Master's project -- every day the maps and data seem to chisel some new splinter of memory off into my new (old) life.

When my mind wanders to my experience in Guatemala, I think of sweeping the dusty corners of my house in my last days in town. Grandma had just passed away, and sweeping was a welcome respite from thinking.  There was one stairwell corner that had been particularly neglected, and in my sweep of the house I battered it hastily, sending a spider skittering out of her web and into a hole in the corner.

I remembered her then; that spider had lived there for nearly a year. In that moment my power to upend an entire existence with a thoughtless broom-sweep seemed really profound. I bore no malicious intention -- I had just come along doing what I thought I needed to do.

It was clear in that moment that we share more with the spider than I thought. Some days will be ours to tend our webs in peace, with the flies cursing us. Some days will be ours to scurry from the sweeper, cursing the broom, while the flies move on in peace. As we go about our business, we're all vulnerable to a variety of forces, and any appearance to the contrary is a question of scale and magnitude. While scale and magnitude are highly significant, I think a lot of the injustice in the world is born of denial of the simple reality that we are all vulnerable.

Some day I would like come back to this blog and fill in the substantial holes left here by my experience. I think in some ways I didn't do much justice to the general panorama of Peace Corps, or development, or especially the stories of the people I met in the highlands of Guatemala. For now I'll leave it at that, though: the spider and the broom.