Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Winter Is Here. The Spider Is Gone.

When last spring arrived a wolf spider began spinning a web between my front porch light and the brick exterior of my house. I checked the progress of construction daily whenever I arrived home from work. The silk support beams were attached first, followed by an elaborate network of interconnecting sinuous joists.

Imagine periodically checking on the erecting of a skyscraper or sports arena of a simpler, but no less impressive, design.

The finished project was pristine. The web looked like those in the Audubon Field Guide to Spiders that I often borrowed from my elementary school's library. The angles all matched and the octagons got gradually smaller at the same ratio going from the outside of the web into the tiny dot in the center -- inside of which I envisioned an infinite amount of progressively smaller octagons not decipherable to the human eye. The craftsman of the web herself (I imagine the spider as feminine, like when a woman who poisons her husband is nicknamed a "black widow") was already large insofar as North American spiders go. Sometimes she spread her legs out, in four pairs, and rested in the middle of the web. This exaggerated her physical prowess, like a wary puffer fish. Perhaps she was basking in the glow of the porch light, or relaxing in the fruits of her labor. But most times she was curled-up inside the slightly rusted lip about the crown of the porch light. The lip was her home.

Despite its elegance, the web's primary function was to be a death trap. No one lives in their death trap.

Cobwebs sag about the overhead joists in my basement like individual ghost towns begging to be unceremoniously razed by a swipe of my corn cob broom. But the porch light spiderweb inhabited prime real estate and was occupied month-after-month by both its creator and mummified nocturnal insects of a varied sort. I wondered, had the weaver been clever enough to build her masterpiece beside the porch light? Or did the spider think to herself "Ok. Enough climbing. Let's just spin this damn thing here. It's as good a place as any, I suppose?" Either way, she was the sole customer inside a self-restocking 24/7 buffet. Some nights I watched four or five moths struggle hopelessly for freedom, all at once. The unwitting captives eventually went limp either from fatigue or a merciless fang bite into the thorax. The spider couldn't paralyze her bounty fast enough. While lesser spiders -- those relishing a life of solitude underneath my couch or enjoying sky box views of the daily spectacle of this blog's author struggling to force-feed his squirming son yogurt every morning -- were devoured weekly by a Bissell handheld vacuum. But the architect of the porch light web flourished. Be it dumb luck or crafty real estate forecasting, she certainly flourished. And she grew.

By mid-October, the spider was a gargoyle, safeguarding the front entrance. Visitors were aghast. A home inspector visited our home for a drive-by appraisal. While evaluating the front porch, her commentary was as follows, "The brick looks good and the mortar isn't crumbing. That's good. You porch lights appear to be in fine condi…Holy Shit! Look at that spider!" A few weeks earlier two delinquents climbed onto our back deck. Luckily I noticed the disturbance and chased them away. However, I believe the would-be crooks decided to seek entry into our home via the much-less-manageable deck entrance because of the looming monstrosity out front.


December is upon us and the spider is gone now. The web remains, but its creator is likely a victim of this autumn's sequel to last February's polar vortex. (Polar Vortex II: Further Down the Vortex) She's not curled-up in the lip of the porch light's crown. I checked. She's just flat-out gone. Perhaps she crawled into a toasty little hole in the dirt to hibernate. Do spiders hibernate? She likely became frozen, fell to the welcome mat below, and was either trampled or blown off the stoop where she'll decompose and help fertilize the grass. Her web, now a cobweb like those in the basement rafters, is lonely. A few unwrapped half-decayed bugs remain entangled, as do several pieces of dead brown leaves. The web, now, remains as merely a relic of the summer of '14, like the chipped seashells gathered one foggy morning on the beach to be later tossed into the kitchen trash can when the nostalgia is gone (or when the shells are deemed too unclean to keep in the junk drawer with the collection of half-drained AA batteries and the two keys to unknown latches – maybe someday we'll figure out where they go.)

Unchecked nostalgia anchors one to the fantasy of the past. Abandon nostalgia. The spider is gone.

Update: I found something directly below the porch light yesterday, 12/19/14.

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