Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ode to an Arachnid

"She never moved again. Next day, as the Ferris wheel was being taken apart and the race horses were being loaded into vans and the entertainers were packing up their belongings and driving away in their trailers, Charlotte died. The Fair Grounds were soon deserted. The sheds and buildings were empty and forlorn. The infield was littered with bottles and trash. Nobody, of the hundreds of people that had visited the Fair, knew that a grey spider had played the most important role of all. No one was with her when she died."

--Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)

For weeks, the bulk of the spinning around my house has been performed by a very large, particularly scary-looking spider that took up residence on our side porch. Each night at dusk, our Spider would come down from the eave and spin its web -- a large, beautiful web with lots of radii and tight concentric circles. It was absolutely fascinating to watch Spider spin -- and my husband, big boys and I would watch intently as it built a brand new web each night. With rhythmic grace, Spider would drop to the rail and start by anchoring the opus on whatever it could -- railing, flower-basket holder, flowerpot hook -- and then have at the middle. Spider started from the outside, making large, sweeping circles and going swiftly but carefully counter-clockwise into the center, before making its stakeout in the dead center waiting for dinner.

Earlier this week, I asked my husband to go outside and capture this miracle. Video didn't do it justice, particularly because of the darkness of the sky and of the Spider. But this photo pretty much says it all.

Sure, there were lots of jokes about sitting on our porch at night ... if you picked the chair nearest to the Spider, you were Little Miss Muffet ... on some nights we expected to see "Humble" written in the web (I can't tell you how big the web was -- our neighbors could see if from 75 yards in the sunrise) ... but more than anything else there was a sense of reverence ... of pure, unadulterated awe at this creature and what it did. Every single night.

If you took coffee on our porch in the morning, you could watch Spider head up to bed, and revel in the total beauty of a spider's web in the dewy, morning light.

Until yesterday. You see, the mercury dropped and we had our first taste of autumn. It was one of those delicious days when you pull out the blue jeans and handknit socks and revel in the coziness without realizing that outside, in nature, the Circle of Life is taking a devilish turn.

Yesterday, while I was cleaning house, scrubbing floors and tending to L'il I and my boys were racing around outside with friends, we were oblivious to what was happening to our sleeping friend. I should have stopped for a visit.

Last night, I headed to our porch to visit with Spider -- a few quiet moments with a kindred spirit. But Spider wasn't hard at work. Spider was still in its daytime position -- curled up under the eave in a ball. There was no web to greet me -- just a few willowy leftover anchor lines wafting in the night breeze. This morning, Spider is unmoved.

I fear the world has lost a truly remarkable spinner and I am sad.

1 comment:

William said...

Hello - You don't know me but your husband does. Pls. tell Clint the salt and pepper look is very distinguished. Oh, and also that I'm living in MD again and he should e-mail me -

Congrats on # 3 - who'da thunk it?

Bill Olver