You make your own life, people say. Or: the stories we tell ourselves are what make us human, are in a sense reality itself. We spin our webs and cover over the world, like spiders you might say. But as I watch the spider work outside the window in the wind and rain, doesn’t it show me something different, in its patience?
It spins its filaments out of itself, arranges and rearranges them in widening circles. One thread quivers and drops off the eave: the spider crawls up to replace it, stops to rest, starts again. Slim pickings in this weather but what else can it do but build its net, heal it when it breaks, rebuild elsewhere when its weaving is disturbed, wait? It’s so easily displaced, so easily makes another home. Each unique web spreads out in any old nook, its gaps growing wider, sometimes only visible in the sun. The worker sits still for ages, its labours apparently all for nothing, until the web is either wiped away (as I’ll probably wipe this one away when the weather’s dry) or comes into its own when shaken into life by an insect. It can’t control when the insect will come: perhaps it never will. It’s a small but important part of a wider ecology, it occupies a niche in a network of interdependent organisms, a vast field of life and death, becoming and passing away.
We cast our own, fine-meshed nets over the earth, mapping and monitoring it with pinpoint accuracy. Military-developed GPS satellites circle the globe, linking to billions of receivers on the ground, synchronizing them via atomic clocks. They plot every millimetre of the world, guide missiles, aid logistics, stock-market trading, weather forecasts, infrastructure grids and the internet. Even farm machines are now fitted with positioning systems that automate ploughing, planting and harvesting: the farmer can run his driverless tractors from anywhere while he downloads weather data and sells his grain on the global market.
A dark age, that insists on closing all gaps, all holes in its world, leaving nothing to chance. The more we cover it up, the more nature hides from us, leaving us to our own devices, our own stories – and the more distant, spectral, even hostile it starts to seem.

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