Gambles, especially foolish, futile ones, always steal a part of my heart.
Gloriously autumn day, the first really brilliant day of color in glassland today, so I flipped up the garage door and set to work. Or tried to. The first spiders of fall slowed me down quite a bit.
Even among spiders–the natural mathematicians of the invertebrate world–the golden orbs are something special. Not only are the spiders themselves beautiful, all red-orange, gold, brown and black, but their webs are immaculate geometric visualizations. Theirs are the storybook webs of Halloween, spun between posts and trees and walls and rocks…and sometimes cars.
I’m not a huge fan of spiders in the house (as you’ve probably gathered), but outside, I love them. My sister, a confirmed arachnophobe, doesn’t come near my house in fall; it’s festooned with hundreds of golden orb webs and plump little golden spiders hanging from every window. (she says it gives her nightmares just thinking about it)
There are three that live right by the garage door, huge females ripe with eggs, grand old dames weaving the last few webs before the end. They’re capturing those weird stinkbuggy things, wrapping them carefully in silk and storing them away. The webs sway in the breeze, tracking every movement with all the precision of a sci-viz program, and I can follow the eddies and currents of the air simply by watching it ripple across the stairstepped silk.
There’s a perfect web in the corner of the garage door, magnificently crafted, connected at alternating points across the doorframe. It reminds me of the web wireframe scenes in the movie Coraline, right down to the hole in the center where a golden orb usually waits. There’s no spider in this one, though, and the web hangs, beautifully forlorn and unused.
I’m wondering if the owner was picked off by a bird when I notice a small silk tracery spanning the distance from the garage door to the front bumper of my car. I follow it carefully with my eyes and there, barely visible, sits the spider in another perfect web.
She’s an Olympic-class webspinner, alright–the webs stretch at least five feet across to the car. Since I drove in last night at about 10pm, she’s done this in one short night. The webs attach to the corner of the bumper, travel to the rim of the headlight, and back to the garage again.
They’re stunning, precisely sectioned, spun of silk so fine I can only see them at certain angles and can’t photograph them. (I tried) They stretch tautly across the space, moving a bit in the breeze that springs up…and the golden orb tenses and rides the wind.
She’s not as big as her sisters who’ve planted their webs in safer spots, although her webs are about three times bigger. She hasn’t caught anything (that I can see), but maybe that wasn’t the point. Maybe this spider is an overachiever, one of those Guinness Book types who just has to prove it can be done.
I set to work on my molds, keeping an eye on the spider, and she quickly swings from headlight to license plate with another web. In a couple of hours she’s managed to capture half the bumper of a large sedan. I think if I gave her another three or four days I’d come out to find my car wrapped in silk, just like one of those stinkbuggy things.
It’s tempting to see if she’d really do it, and in any case, I hate to break her heart, but I’m out of aluminum hydrate and EPK. I have six more molds to make before I can call it a day; I need to get to Georgie’s, and I’m not about to call a cab just to avoid inconveniencing this spider.
Still, I shower slowly, do a few phone calls, and give her as much time with her prize as I can. Then I can’t wait any longer. I start the car, backing up fast to break the web cleanly and swiftly.
I think about her while they’re ringing up my sacks of powder and goo, and on the drive home I wonder if maybe I should have gently removed her from the webs first and set her back on the house. Or the ground. Or anyplace but a driveway with big, rolling tires ready to crunch really foolish risk-takers.
Then I wonder if maybe I should have my head examined for spending this much time worrying about a bug. (Correction: an arthropod)
Nonetheless, my anthropomorphizing has done its usual headjob guilt-trip, and I park at the end of the driveway, several feet away from the garage door. Just in case the poor spider is still languishing, stunned, on the concrete. I dash out to see if she’s OK.
She’s on the garage door, sulking under the molding, webs unspun.
This, I think to myself, is getting silly. It’s just a spider. She’ll be dead in a couple of weeks anyway.
But…”here you go,” I say gently, and edge the car bumper almost to the door, shut off the ignition. She gives no sign that her inconstant rolling foundation is back, but as I watch, she slowly starts to spin.