Life of the Spider
Late September, Apache Mesa
Ric and I discover a large spider, the size of a first thumb joint, outside the cabin window. Every day just after sunset, she weaves a capacious web. It takes 45 minutes. By the time she is finished, it is dark. She sits in the middle. Within a half hour dinner is snagged—the past two evenings it has been an ethereal white moth with silver eyes. By morning, she has packed up her web. No sign at all. I wonder what time of night she does this but have never been awake to see it. She has been in residence for a week.
My scientist friend Dee comes to visit. By now, watching the spider has become major entertainment. We study her entire weaving, how she opens two small dots in her abdomen like little doors and something emerges. We can’t tell what. Most of her silk comes from the pointy end of her abdomen and she articulates her hind legs to guide the thread while her other legs fasten and twine. Though we watch closely, it is difficult to understand what she is doing. We can’t seem to catch a routine pattern. We do notice that her abdomen gets smaller as she pulls the silk out. I imagine her having it neatly stowed inside like a coil of rope.
An odd thing…It is just after twilight and the crickets are singing, the time the spider usually starts her ambitious weaving. I go to check on her. She is there but hanging from one thread. She is still, lifeless. It looks as if she began as usual but stopped mid-motion, as if overcome by a heart attack or spasm. The wind sways her back and forth. I am sad. I was hoping to have her companionship for a while longer. I love to sit in the night quiet and watch her work…
I check again after a half hour. She is still. Wait!! She starts up all of a sudden. She is alive and weaving. So what was all that stillness?
Thursday into Friday
The spider is aging I think. She made her web this evening and caught her moth, but she looked less energized. By the following dawn, her web was a ragged ruin. She hung, wind-buffeted, still clasping her moth carcass. At length, she cut the moth loose. It dropped away. She gathered a few of the web shreds but didn’t clean it all away, then scuttled slowly into the eaves.
She is not here. She in not coming. A few leftover silk tatters twist in the evening wind.
We are all creatures. We arrive. We weave and eat. We disappear.
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