Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Original Fiber Artist

Every time we've tried to get the mail for a week, we have met with a spider web. We get caught in it, it sticks to our hair and hands, and we mumble a humble "sorry" to the spider. I didn't give it much thought, except to think that the poor spider was going to have a lot of heartache if she kept building her web in our path.

But last night it all changed for me. When I stepped onto the stoop, I was met with the eighth wonder of the world. A web was forming before my very eyes. The wonder was not the gossamer strands that laced our handrail; it was the spider.


The original fiber artist.

She had anchored the spokes of her net on the awning, the side of the house, the railing, and the porch light. When I showed up she had made about thirty revolutions around the edge of her web. Every revolution produced another sticky circle that linked up with the spokes, and brought her closer to the center. The outside circle might have been thirty inches in diameter. Every time she made a loop, she came about 1/4 of an inch toward the center. And so she looped and looped and looped. From time to time she stopped and reversed directions. Did she lose her place? Get dizzy? Or just decide that the corner she had just left needed some extra strength?

More amazing than the structure was the fact that she was making the materials with her own body. I know the web comes from somewhere within her little exoskeleton, but I really don't know how she does it. I would have assumed it would take longer for her to spin, though. But she raced around the circle, pausing to knit the new strand together with the spokes at the intersections, then racing on to the next spoke. The line just came. I like to think I was this impressive when I was telling jokes and tying knots with a needle in my mouth at my friend Wendy's school. But let's face it: that thread was store-bought.

As I watched her, I agonized that Charlotte and her web would be lost the next time we carelessly came in the door or got our mail. And then I remembered that I'm human, and though I can't make a web, I can do a little to change my environment.

I decided that we would make a place for our artist in residence as long as she would have us. So I put up signs to remind us and alert our visitors to her sometimes-invisible masterpiece.

This morning Charlotte has retreated to take a nap, I think, and let the web do some grocery shopping for her. I hope she knows she has friends here. Maybe later she'll teach me how to spin.


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