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Kathy Bradley - Gazing into the web of ambition
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    Filtered by summer fog, the sun — almost halfway up the sky at 7:30 — was a flat white disk, a poker chip dropped by an inattentive gambler.
    I heaved my briefcase into the passenger seat of the car, buckled my seat belt and turned the key, the sequence of rote motions that sets the rhythm of my life five days a week. Lifting my eyes to the rear-view mirror in preparation for backing out of the carport, my mind already racing through the list of tasks that awaited me, I felt the startle before I realized what I had seen.
    Directly in front of me, stretching from one of the deck posts to the arm of one of the chairs was a spider web, at least a foot and a half across, dangling from the thinnest of supporting threads.
    The diffused sunlight silhouetted every one of its strands glistening like icicles. It quivered in a breeze so slight that I hadn’t felt it when I’d walked out into the damp morning. I couldn’t move. Just stared for a few seconds like a hypnotist’s fool.
    When I felt my heart beating again, I unbuckled the seat belt, got out of the car and walked carefully — tiptoed really, almost like walking into a church — up the steps of the deck and over to the web, kneeling down to stare into the gauzy labyrinth.
    Surrounded by uncommon quietness — the morning birds having sensed, it seemed, that silence was the only psalm needed — I counted the sections, 23 pieces of spider web pie, each seam etched with beads of dew smaller than pinheads, tremulous and hesitant but never falling. I looked for the weaver, but saw no sign of the creature that had spent the entire night spinning.
    Anonymity is not something to which many of us aspire. We want to be known in a deep and soulful way by those we love, but we want more. We want to be known by strangers, by people whose faces are caricatures, whose voices are nothing more than vibrations on our eardrums.
    A significant portion of American children asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” now answer, “Famous.” Not fireman. Not president. Not mommy or daddy or teacher or cowboy. Famous. Our children want to be an adjective?
    There is an e-mail going around (and around and around) that asks the reader to name the last five Heisman trophy winners, the last five Oscar winners, the last five Pulitzer Prize winners. Only the nerdiest of trivia nerds would be able to get all the answers, of course, and the punch line comes with the last questions: “Who was your first grade teacher? Who taught you to drive a car? Who gave you your first kiss?”
    Thinly disguised moral of the story: Being famous doesn’t equate with making a difference in the life of another human being.
    I have to admit that, as I approached the masterpiece spider web, I half-expected to see something written in its strands, half-expected to find in its elegant tendrils a personal note, an answer to the deep heart question that had been keeping me company for weeks. I wanted to believe that Charlotte, not just a great writer, but a great friend, had found her way to Sandhill.
    But I didn’t. At least not literally. There was no pronouncement of my terrific-ness or radiance or humility. No words proclaiming that I am “some woman.” No answer to my question.
    And, yet, there in the morning sunlight, kneeling silently before that web, the lifework of an anonymous spider, I did get a message: a reminder that one life lived, one effort made, one web spun with passion and love can change the world.
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