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Life of the Spider

Late September, Apache Mesa

First Siting
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.

Field Study
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.

Wednesday
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.

Friday Evening
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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    6 Comments
    1. Dee #

      Sad to think of our “girl” not weaving her beautiful web for all eternity, but happy she was there to completely absorb us in her doings! I think she was at the end of her mission here, because according to Ian Dawson, Secretary of the British Arachnological Society, “Garden Spiders (Araneus diadematus) mostly pass the winter as eggs or as young still in the egg sac. They undergo most of their development from the following spring and die in late autumn when they are one year old or slightly less.” Our lady wasn’t a common garden spider (no, she was very special indeed!), but I suspect it was time for her to make way for the next generation. To have been there to watch her put on such a spectacular show for us on her way out of this life will always be one of the most memorable moments of mine.

      November 16, 2012
    2. love this, love this, love this…..

      November 16, 2012
    3. Hi Dunya,
      Loved the Spider Story. There was one in the kitchen window in Maine that entertained all the teenagers for days. It was quite entertaining.
      Love,
      Carly

      November 16, 2012
    4. Exquisite.. Thank you.

      November 16, 2012
    5. Dee, thanks so much for the spider information. It was a privilege to be with her. I must say I love all you spider women!

      November 17, 2012
    6. Wow, 1 year of life. Never knew that. Seems like a lot relative to other insects. Gorgeous.

      November 21, 2012

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