When the giant webs appeared in our yard
(and I mean big, as wide as the length of my arm)
My first thought was concern
But when my bug guy reminded me that these spiders are good, actually
I was more than happy to live and let live, as I’ve always loved bugs (with some exceptions).
When a particularly giant web appeared outside my kitchen window
I was stunned at how big its inhabitant was, its body half the length of my thumb
Its long legs pointy and spindly, the thickness of pine needles
But I watched it curiously, appreciating its creepiness adding to the Halloween vibe, but little else
Then, one day, I stood at my kitchen sink, admiring the web’s gossamer threads
Hit by the sun, it looked like cracked glass suspended in air
Its strands deceptively thin but incredibly strong
When the sun wasn’t hitting it directly, it was essentially invisible to the naked eye
The only evidence of its presence; errant brown leaves blown in by the wind, caught on sticky threads.
And the spider sat in the center, master of its very own primitive smart home
Its exoskeleton semi-translucent, glowing like a cloudy, pale amber bead when the sun shone through it
And whenever I stood there, I’d marvel at how amazing and beautiful creation is, even the work of a simple spider.
It became a ritual of sorts, taking a moment once or twice a day, to appreciate the spider and its web
Wondering if I’d see it wrapping up some hapless prey (I never did).
And then I saw something I’d never seen before
I noticed the spider had moved from its usual post, and it hovered over one of the trapped brown leaves
Its legs fidgeted with purpose, but I couldn’t see its tiny movements clearly
I watched with fascination, and then, suddenly, the leaf fell from the web!
As I watched the spider climb to the next one, I thought, Of course!
The leaves are a dead giveaway to prey, it needs to keep its web clean or it won’t eat!
And I laughed, with joy at nature’s creativity and complexity
And at the relatability, thinking about all the dumb chores I hated
But needed to get done or life couldn’t happen.
My ritual became a play date, noting the leaves in the morning, and seeing them gone later in the day
It delighted me to know, as I puttered around the house
I had an arachnid neighbor, a counterpart puttering around its own little abode.
The days passed into weeks, and it started to get cold
And then, suddenly, one day, I noticed that the web was full of leaves.
Maybe the spider was busy? Sometimes it would take longer for more leaves to disappear
But the next day they were still there.
And my heart sank, feeling very much like Wilbur, losing his Charlotte
Even though I’m a grown woman and know that spiders and insects live a very short time.
I still feel a sad pang when I look out my kitchen window
At the sight of the web, now torn and ragged from disrepair, the leaves still hanging there, mockingly.
They say that things are more beautiful the shorter their time on earth, and I think that’s often true,
It’s what makes the passing seasons even more special for their transience.
But I find myself wondering; when summer turns to autumn, and the giant spiders (hopefully) return to the yard
Will another one build a web outside my kitchen window?
Or will this one forever be in a class by itself? ✍️
Wilbur never forgot Charlotte, although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly. None of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart; she was in a class by herself.Ending narration from the animated Charlotte’s Web movie, 1976
It’s not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.
(and now I’m thinking about that movie: I memorized so much of it, and rewatching clips is making me weepy)
Amazingly enough, on the other side of the house, there’s now a squirrel building a nest in our giant ash tree, which I can watch from my spot on the couch! Nature TV is the best!