Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Spider's Eulogy.

(Written 9/11/09)

At the far end of my front porch is a metal garbage can. I put my aluminum cans in it until I get enough to take to the recycling center. It's next to the wall, half-blocking the view from my bedroom window.

Some time this past spring, a large, slender spider built a web attached at one end to a point a couple of feet above the trashcan on the window and at the other end to the trashcan's handle facing the wall.

I say "large." Not Tarantula Large, but large enough to take down a good-sized grasshopper or Junebug. It was mostly black, with a few small spots of yellow on the thorax, with long, spindly legs that were black from the "elbows" to the ends, and a pale, pinkish brown from the "shoulders" to the "elbows."

Now, bugs are a problem on my porch. In the evenings, mosquitos will about carry you away if you try to sit out there, and on humid days especially, you have to swat flies at any hour.

So I decided to let the young spider keep on keeping on there in the hopes it would gorge itself on some of the bugs and eventually, they'd forward a chain email to all their friends warning them to stay off my porch.

(Here's where you think I'm going to put in a pun about the World Wide Web, but nope. Not gonna do it.)

Every few days, I'd take an armload of crushed soda cans out. I'd be careful not to jostle the web too much when I lifted the lid or to drop the cans in too loudly.

In time, the spider grew, not too much in length, but a good deal in girth, so I could then recognize it was one of those ... I think they're called "garden spiders" ... with the pretty yellow- and black-splotched thorax.

It seemed rather peaceful and content there in it's home, except when it would swiftly and gleefully pounce on the latest hapless bug that became ensnared it the web. That part wasn't too peaceful.

Then came the day that I came to view as The Attack. A smaller, evil-looking spider, this one brown, took up residence in one corner of the web.

My spider stayed in the middle and on the opposide side for a few days. Then, on one of my can runs, I noticed the brown one in the center and my spider on the edges. Mine would try to regain the center and the brown one would pounce on it and drive it back to the edges.

That night, my spider disappeared. To be honest, I thought the invader had killed it, or at least driven it away.

A week or so passed, and one dewy morning, I found my spider had moved to the other end of the porch, with a new, bigger, stronger web on the outside of the living room window. This web would prove far more productive, as the living room lights were on several hours a night, as opposed to a couple of minutes for my bedroom window. It drew in all sorts of big, juicy nightbugs.

Over the past couple of monthes, I enjoyed from my chair many occasions of watching my spider catching bugs.

I never named my spider. I should have, but I didn't really know if it was a male or female (my knowledge of Spider Anatomy is very limited), and I find those gender-neutral names like "Pat" and "Kim" obnoxious.

About a week ago, I discovered "it" was a "she," and she had deposited a bulky eggsac (about an inch in diameter) on the underside of the upper windowframe.

Maybe the invader hadn't been an attacker after all, but a mate. (Again, my knowledge of Spider Anatomy, specifically Gender Differentiation in Spider Anatomy, is limited, so I don't know what the males of the species look like.)

Then, as the first hints of fall set in, my spider grew listless and lethargic. The first couple of days, she'd still eat bugs, but without much gusto. I hoped maybe she was resting. But when she stopped repairing holes in her web, I knew what was coming.

Two days ago, she moved up close to the eggsac and stopped moving. I thought she had died yesterday, but a couple of taps on the window glass elicited a feeble wave from one of her front legs.

This morning, six of her legs were curled up. The other two were still grasping the web. I knew she was probably already gone, but decided to wait a couple of hours in case some small remnant of her consciousness was still in there and wanted to die in peace.

After noon, I went out on the porch and plucked at one of the anchor lines of her web. No response. I moved a little closer and tried again. Still nothing. Just in case, I grabbed a stick (I didn't use my finger because I'm allergic to spider and insect venom, one of the reasons I so LOATHE the mosquitos) and gently prodded her body. Nothing. She hung there lifeless.

My spider was gone.

At first, I started looking for a large matchbox to bury her in, but then I thought maybe the babies are supposed to feed on her body. I know less about Spider Life Cycles than I do about their anatomy. So I left her hanging there.

She hangs there still.

In lieu of a burial, I decided to give her what she SHOULD have had all along, a name.

Rest In Peace,
A Very Good Spider,
Mother & Friend
Spring 2009 - September 11, 2009

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