“We can’t leave,” I say, staring out the back door. We’ve just finished breakfast.
He does. From his seat. “You can only see it where the sun hits it.”
He gets up. “Oh! Magnificent.”
We go out on the back porch to have a closer look. “Bring your camera,” he says. He means my phone, but really, it’s a camera 85% of the time.
She has woven her design wizardry, her trap and transitory home, above the stairs from the porch down to the garage. We went in and out yesterday afternoon, so this entire installation was constructed overnight—if Google can be believed, in an hour or so. The contented creator sits at the center, her legs pulled in.
The silk round has equally spaced radii, the spokes of a wheel. The spokes are connected by many concentric circular strands, also mostly equally spaced. The orb appears free-standing, just south of the middle of the stairway, a skeletal hovercraft guarding the gate between us and departure.
It takes a moment to see the anchors that hold it in midair; they’re attached to the railings at either side of the stairs. Phil calls them the guy wires. They are set high enough that with his coaching, I can creep beneath them. I take a few shots from the other side, trying to catch the sun. Phil holds up a black jean jacket as backdrop contrast, but the sun bleaches half of it anyway. Then I commando-crawl back under. “Keep your head down,” Phil cautions.
Already we’re apologizing. Such beauty. Such genius. We’re so sorry. But Phil has to go to the dentist and the car, Madam Master Web Builder, is in the garage to which you have blocked the way. So sorry!
Kathleen Cain (my authority on all natural matters) has posted about such spiders before, so I send her a photo and she replies:
“One of the orb weavers—they’re quite active right now. Great for keeping down less helpful insects. There are several varieties. Beautiful webs, which they usually disassemble each day, then spin a new one the next. Tidy campers!”
Kathleen’s remark about reducing undesirable insects reminds me of the large wood spiders in Florida when I was a kid, and the friend I had whose mother kept them. They brought luck to a house, she said, and ate mosquitoes. In some cultures, spiders are symbols of the mother. Because of that, Phil and I catch and release our house spiders.
When he leaves for the dentist, Phil carefully unfastens the northside anchors. “They’re strong,” he exclaims, and carries them slowly to the south, but as soon as he moves a few inches, the central structure collapses, the way a building wired for demolition collapses—all at once, straight down. Our spider is left scrambling up a thick string of sticky remains. Sorry. We’re so sorry. Anywhere else in the yard—it’s yours. But she’s decided not to rebuild here. No new web appears the next day, or the one after that. The master weaver has moved on.