Wednesday, August 16, 2006


OF SPIDERS AND MEN


Coming out into this bright summer morning to jump on my motorcycle and head down to the station, I was stopped in my tracks by a silvery artwork on display in the sunrise. A composition more mysterious than any of the plastic arts we enshrine in museums, it was a Garden Orb spider web, freshly woven from the finest silk thread in the world. Beaded with dew, it shimmered in the blue morning air. The sculptress herself was not in attendance, since she works at night; she would return this evening. In the meanwhile, her web was at work.

I now and then see such mastery in other well-chosen sites around here, that I leave alone for their own endeavors, but also for their incidental function of catching bitebugs. They are woven during the night in the wide spaces, where they are strung from tree to tree, deck, house or bush. The present case was a tough one though, for the hardworking arachnid had strung her bridge threads right about chest level, from some low branches of the weeping cherry to the nanten bush by the road, effectively fencing in my motorcycle with strands of silk.

The spider and I had our own agendas. Hers was aesthetic in its simplicity; mine, in the chronically complex human way, involved catching a train. (Though it's there at our roots, I wonder if things were ever spider-simple for us humans.) We clearly had to come to some arrangement (the spider did have some silken say in this). Since the urgency was all mine, at first I thought that if I flattend myself while on the motorcycle I could maybe just get under the lower bridge thread, but then coming back tonight braindrained I'd forgetfully take the entire web down with my face in the dark, a result less preferable for both parties hereto. I was still pondering the possibility when I saw that one of her anchor threads was attached to the rear of the motorcycle. Sorry, Ma'am; I have my own web to take care of.

Architecturally, the best thing was to break the lower bridge and anchor threads, and let the thus-informed spider recreate her web tonight, higher up, as did a spider of earlier acquaintance. So with tacit apologies I broke the anchor to my bike first, and that part of the web went slack; then I broke the lower bridge thread (how strong it was!) and the entire web shrank toward the upper bridge thread. Amazing architecture, straight out of DNA and so simply arrayed...

Like a good merchant, she'd found a good location. If she can build higher up, I'll try to keep my head down.

I hope I've built my own web in a good high place...

4 comments:

Chancy said...

Robert, You had no choice. The spider will rebuild. It is in their DNA to rebuild without moaning and groaning about their loss.

Anonymous said...

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Maya's Granny said...

I love spiders. I can't bear to kill them; they are so interesting and do such a helpful job. I crack my mother up when I rescue them from her sink and carry them carefully outdoors, but I've noticed that these days when I am at her house, instead of just drowning them she calls me and asks if I would like to help them.

Maya, of course, thinks that saving all small creatures is worthwhile and calls me out to the yard to show me new webs.

Alfred said...

I remember one day exploring a mountain in the village of Kanzaki, in northern Kyoto-fu, and walking face on smack into an absolutely gigantic spiderweb strung across a path up the mountain. Once the eeeew factor quieted down I plucked at the anchor strands and found that they were actually as strong as some of the mulberry silk I've reeled. Not sure what kind of spider it was, but it was quite tenacious.