As I sat sipping my coffee this morning sadly mulling the ghastly pile of logs where the chestnut tree we’d been forced to take down once stood, I saw a very small orb weaver begin building a web just outside the kitchen window between two fiddlehead fern tips. I’ve never seen a spider work a web from scratch and it was riveting to watch her proceed, without hope and without despair, to quote Isak Dinesen.
She began spinning two guy wires, working back and forth again and again, fern tip to center to other fern tip and back to center. With each return to center she wrapped the center point with a couple of extra hitches to strengthen it before returning back to the tips. It took about 20 minutes for the threads to thicken and
the center point to become clearly visible.
Then she created a second set of guy wires and began circling the center point again for a while, expanding the middle section a bit.
That completed, she changed course and began at a fern tip and started swinging along like a tiny trapeze artist, circling the outside perimeter of the web, creating its exterior edge.
She worked slowly and deliberately, without pausing: hunch, hunch, hunch, hitch.
When she reached the halfway point of the perimeter she changed direction again and worked backwards about a quarter of an inch inside the outermost strand, creating a strong, double row, rather like knitting and purling. Hunch, hunch, hunch, hitch. Hunch, hunch, hunch, hitch
It was a mesmerizing, rhythmic dance, very calming to observe. The web shimmered in the morning sunlight, illuminating an area of the garden — I suddenly realized — that had always been in shadow when the chestnut was alive.
I thought of Improvised Life’s recent post featuring Pema Chodrun’s words from When Things Fall Apart; Heart Advice for Difficult Times:
…whatever occurs can be regarded as the path and that all things, not just some things, are workable.
I experienced a momentary flicker of renewed optimism and self-forgiveness for having murdered our ancient tree, trying to reframe it as a very unhappy, but unavoidable — hence accept it or not, that’s what it was — fork in the path
A big black bumblebee crashed through the half-completed web, torpedoing my araña’s perfect handiwork before hitting the window and rumbling off, trailing hairlike tendrils of silver silk.
My Pema moment of acceptance was instantly obliterated; outrage rushed in.
I was crushed. My little weaver had been kicked to the curb, her careful work ruined, and I was helpless to assist her.
I moved closer to the glass.
After taking a minute or two to assess the damage to her guy wires, my araña simply pressed on with her task. Hunch, hunch, hunch, hitch, repairing the holes as best she could, knitting up the once-perfect web, tying up crooked spaces, weaving threads irregularly here and there, securing them at peculiar, criss-crossing angles.
She paused every now and then, tugging at a thread as if to test its strength, before hunch-hitching forward.
As if to say: Imperfect, yes. But consider… I’m already halfway home. This web’s going to do the job just fine.
Top spider web photo: Peter van der Sluijs; GNU Free Documentation License
Second spider photo: Jon Sullivan (PD Photo.org); public domain via Wikimedia
Third spider photo/Featured image: “Orb Weaver Spider Web” by fir0002 | flagstaffotos.com.au; GFDL 1.2 Licence