I kept my appointment on Tuesday. It seemed like a
foolish thing to do. I had barely mentioned the crazy old man on the
beach to my husband, but I was reluctant to tell him about the coffee
shop, and especially that I had agreed to go meet that weird old man
whom I didn't even know, alone at his apartment. I was just a housewife
and mother, for god's sake. I was sure he wouldn't understand. I didn't.
Why should he? So I went without telling him my plans. I felt like a
little kid on Halloween sneaking into the yard of the outcast neighbor
that all the children had been forbidden to go to, just to see what was
Although I didn't think Domano planned to cause me any harm, I was
afraid of him, and even more afraid of being in his apartment. Once I
arrived I began to wonder if I had made a mistake, and I wanted to
leave. But as I had too often in the past, I let the momentum of the
situation pull me on. I didn't notice it then, but sometimes I wasn't a
very decisive person and was easily influenced by the circumstances
around me. I had never learned how to stand up very consistently for
what I thought or wanted. I suppose, like so many women of my era, I was
raised to be an obedient daughter and wife, seen and useful but not
At Domano's invitation, I stepped into the doorway with hesitation and
wonder. His little apartment was sunny and bright. The furnishings were
simple and sparse, with only a few artifacts, not as decoration but as
necessary utensils. The hardwood floors were bare, and there were no
curtains or drapes, only white pull shades on the two front windows.
Instead of a sofa there were two very low sitting rustic wicker benches
with no pillows or cushions. A wooden orange crate sat against the wall
with a plywood board on the top. A handmade leather sack hung on one
wall, four hand drums on another. There was an overhead light, and large
candles on the floor with an abalone shell full of ashes.
He invited me in again and motioned for me to sit on one of the benches.
As he went into the kitchen I turned around to look out the front
windows at the ocean, and the sunlight was reaching through the windows
in long beams. This place was peaceful. Unusual, but altogether
comforting. Perhaps for the first time, I thought Domano might be
telling the truth.
"I am happy you are here," he said as he returned from the kitchen. He
seemed unstable on his feet. "Would you like hot water for tea? I have
"That's very thoughtful, thank you. I don't want you to go to any
trouble." I was worried that he might overdo it, that he might be in
"It is not trouble that I seek, but to share the peace of my home." He
seemed so generous and polite, a real foreign gentleman.
"Coffee," I quickly said, hoping I hadn't inadvertently offended him.
"Can I help you?"
"No," he said smiling, "this is easy coffee. You be restful. You enjoy
the sunlight." He returned in a moment with a tray and suggested that
because I loved the light so much I should sit on the bench by the
window while he talked.
He certainly was astute for an old "derelict."
"I am kala keh nah seh. That is a storyteller, or speaker of magic
words. The one who learns to speak the fibers of Earth Spider's web, the
old singer of the sounds that pull things apart. A kala keh nah seh is a
dancer, a builder of webs of balance. By these webs I lead balance.
"The world is such a delicate place. Like a very thin spider web. We are
so much like the spiders. Yes, the spiders of Earth. I am Spiderman,
yes?" he laughed, flexing his arms.
I pictured him shinnying up a skyscraper in leotards. I laughed.
"As the little spider lives, so she works, she builds, even as she
walks. So as we live we build our worlds. We can walk our world, or knot
our world. Or think it. Some are makers from their heart. Or some
birthers. Some build like the wind. I will tell you all these things. I
will tell you how my teachers taught me to pull on the web. It takes a
long time. First we find Patience. Perhaps you will meet Patience in
this sunlight and become good friends. You have similar natures. I think
you will like each other good."
I must have had a quizzical look on my face. He stopped and tilted his
head and looked at me the way a dog does when it's confused.
"Don't you make any need to worry," he said, straightening his head and
smiling. "I will tell you again. I will tell you again and again until
your insides knows. It takes a long time to learn. You will make a new
world. We will teach you how to be a Spider Woman," again flexing his
arms and giggling. I laughed, too.
I didn't understand him, but he seemed to know exactly what he was
saying. He was confident, clear, and perceptive. I didn't suspect or
fear him any longer. I did still wonder if perhaps he had picked me by
mistake. He seemed to have such a clear purpose. My mind strayed off,
wondering what was involved in learning someone's whole tradition. It
seemed overwhelming. How could I find the time for such a major
undertaking? I had a family to take care of and a college career that I
wanted to prepare for. I love studying and learning with a passion, and
what Domano proposed was so very appealing, but I was convinced I
couldn't do it. He must have the wrong person; he must have mistaken me
for someone else.
I thought how exciting and beautiful, even exotic, it would be to study
with him, but it couldn't be. I had my life, my all consuming
obligations and responsibilities. And he would be sure to find his
mystery student any day. My mind zipped around at all the possibilities
of what he might teach, his culture, his oral traditions, arts,
histories, religion. I felt very envious of that lucky student.
"Patience tells me now that you have much work to do. You have given up
already. You give your job away. You say, 'Ah, this can't be my job.'
Yes? It is you I will teach. I'll tell you why.
"My teachers gave me a dream. They showed me where you live now and what
you look like. I saw many things that would show me where you would be.
Animals came and agreed to point you out when the time came.
"I saw you in the town here, and I thought she's the one. So I watched.
I watched the animals. First a little white cat followed you and stopped
and talked to you. I am sure he told you that we were near. You petted
that cat just as you did in my dream. So I watched more, as my teachers
instructed me. I saw many signs that the world gave me, just as they
said it would. I went to the beach cliff in the storm and called you.
You were very good. You waste no time. You were the only other person to
come on the cliff all day. Yes. It is you.
"When you saw me on the cliff, you saw your destiny. It is a very shaky
feeling the first time you see your destiny. Yes? There can be much
fear. Destiny has a sister who is stuck to her body. Forever. She is
Death. They grow together, these sisters. You knew they were there. That
is good. You heard their cry. You thought it was a sea gull. The
lightning pointed you out, too. It struck on both sides of you at once!"
he giggled. "You are the one all right! Lightning never lies!" He sat
back on his bench and giggled and giggled. He had such a sweet innocence
and lightness. I didn't know whether to think he was pulling my leg or
that he was just nuts. But one thing was certain, he was quite the