I have a fascination with spiders. Maybe it’s their artistry, an ability to create intricate structures that serve as both homes and practical food-capturing devices. Maybe it’s their solitude– how they live alone, work alone, spending hours waiting…waiting…patiently, high in trees, low in branches, on fences and between houses. Maybe it’s how their webs catch the light. You can only see a spider web from just the right angle. Maybe it’s the indifference to their webs as well, the mystery in wondering what they think of these webs. Do they care that humans, deer, and birds so unceremoniously, obliviously, crash through webs, complaining of the sticky residue left behind? The spider scuttles off, collects herself, and builds another one. Maybe it’s the metaphor that spiders exhibit every day. Throwing themselves into the wind, jumping into thin air, trusting that their strong thread will hold them there until they land on the other side. Maybe it’s their strong, ferocious, female energy that fascinates me. Why is it that I always think of spiders as warrior goddesses?
I haven’t seen many spiders around recently. They have crawled into protected cornices, sought warmth in the backs of our closets amidst discarded swim suits and camping gear. They have surrendered themselves to the cold, frozen forever in the skeleton of their webs. Winter comes, and the spiders retreat. One of my favorite poems is called “Spider Weather” by John Morrison, a local poet. It describes the beauty in the transition of seasons. Those times when we can barely perceive a change in weather, but we know we are in for something new. This is another great fascination of mine. I haven’t seen many spiders around here recently, but I think of them often. Where did they go? When will they come back? We have reached the end of the seasons of life, as the frost moves into the farthest corners of the forest and living things begin a long slumber. I think of the spiders and their beauty in these cold, bitter days and remember when signs of their beautiful talents filled our forests like spring flowers.
The following piece was written in late summer along a trail in Marquam Nature Park when spider webs were everywhere. I also wrote a poem called “Looking Forward” at the same time, which was published in a poetry anthology by the Friends of Marquam Nature Park. The park has always been a place of great peace to me, having grown up in a tree-house like room at the top of my house which looked over the tops of the trees growing in Marquam Gulch. I return to this park often in times of uncertainty, to put foot to familiar trail and to meet new friends like the spiders, ever weaving.
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They show up everywhere at this time of year- between my deck railing and my shed, in the well of a leaf, uniting two ferns in harmony, often hiding from view in the shade of the forest.
They house fearsome creatures- those with eight hairy legs and eight eyes. Hunters, that are patient, complex, and still, meditating in the quiet refuge of their artful homes.
These homes are works of art, intricate pathways made of silk as strong as iron. Each looks different, reflecting the creativity of its maker.
I find one near the ground, as I sit near the ravine. It is resting between two fronds of ivy, but disappears when the sun chooses a different avenue. I can just see the vague outline of its maker, hanging in the air.
Some come together in a network of tiny threads, overlapping each other over and over. It is the most delicate lace, fit for a bride’s veil.
Others look like a parachute, waving in the wind. I see one waiting to hold what falls next and wonder if its resident remains hidden, hoping for lunch.
They are everywhere, these beautiful threads, reflecting each color of the rainbow in their exuberance. Each step reveals more, while others go to rest on my field of view.
Others float on the breeze, a gesture of joy, detached and sent into flight, free from structure and form.
But all created in the spirit of release, the maker launching herself from stability to freefall. She hopes to find another place to land and weave her artful home, but meanwhile, she just flies.