Spider Time

There are a couple of definite changes that have come over me in the last few years, not counting menopause. For one thing, I no longer keep a careful eye out for vampires. For another thing, I don’t freak out when I walk into a spider’s web.

It’s August – or it would have been August if I had written this when I first intended to write it before I got distracted by current events. My back garden is a maze of shrubbery, and the passages through them are not only just the right width for garden spider webs but also just the right height to catch a full grown person walking from place to place. I do try to avoid them, but not because I get the whim-whams. These spiders are hard about the business of living, of reproducing, of making hay while the sun shines, and in August they are at it like stockbrokers on the NYSE floor at 3:30 Friday afternoon. When I do find that I’ve walked through a web, I simply brush off my arms, swipe at my hair, and murmur, “So sorry, Lady. I didn’t mean to do that.”

Long ago, when I was into such things, I read in The Old Farmer's Almanac that He who wishes to thrive let spiders go alive. So I don’t destroy webs in the house that aren’t in my way. I’ve had them in the bedroom window above my yoga table, there’s usually one in the living room stained glass windows that never get opened, and a couple on the front porch. The big spiders, the ones who don’t weave webs, the ones you find in the bathtub or on the floor of the shower – those we capture in glass jars and decant out the door. But the orb-weavers, unless they get too up close and personal, we let go alive.

I remember one spider who wove her web in my bathroom window, and when the room was steamy from hot water in the tub, her web filled with water droplets that created a light show in the window. There was a bit of iridescence to her as well.

This summer we had a kitchen spider we named Charlotte (and who doesn’t name their kitchen spiders Charlotte?). She spun her web (about 2 feet wide by 3 feet high) above the peninsula behind the kitchen sink in a spot that few of us ever needed to disturb. As the weeks went by, we realized that whatever she had used of ours to anchor her web, was nothing that we really needed all that much. A fruit bowl stood nearby, and Charlotte grew fat and happy on the dozens of fruit flies that flirted with danger and lost. She also sported an enormous egg sac.

Then one morning last week, Charlotte died. The housebuddy was getting ready for work and witnessed the whole thing. She fell off the web, curled up, and died. It was a little like when the old lady across the street died. Not quite like a pet or a relative, but we felt the loss. It took a couple days before we felt able to whisk the web away. Where she put the egg sac to hatch, we’ll probably never know. I’ve had myriad house spiders over the years and have never yet had to deal with hundreds of wee ones invading like ants. Maybe one of the survivors will come and weave her web over the kitchen peninsula again next year. We’ll probably call her Charlotte.