Thursday, October 15, 2015

Not for the Faint of Heart

Warning: if you have an automatic flight reaction when you see a spider, just skip this post. I admit that a spider crawling on the bedroom wall at night must be taken care of or it takes me a long time to get to sleep, but I am also fascinated by these many legged creatures many of which create those endlessly metaphoric webs.

We have been favored with the presence of several large garden spiders around the back of the house this year who have created astounding webs across the back door and the deck door (on the outside of each, by the way!). I had watched one yesterday morning wrap up a yellow jacket for a later meal and I silently thanked it for removing one of those annoying creatures. I checked out its progress after lunch and discovered another much smaller spider approaching it and assumed that somehow their webs had crossed until I really looked and the little spider was thrumming the web with its front feet and setting up some kind of vibration that made the web strands holding the larger one move in a similar rhythm.

This went on for more than ten minutes with the little guy inching forward and then jumping back, all the time playing the web strands. Was this a mating ritual? Finally he moved very close, almost touching her but every time she started moving her legs he would jump back. 

No longer strumming, he kept trying to get up close and personal, but at the same time realizing that there were some real risks involved in this activity.

This approach and retreat went on for about ten minutes more. Like many great novels, however, the outcome of this story is ambiguous. I needed a cup of tea and ran the few feet to the kitchen to turn on the tea kettle and when I returned the little spider was gone. Had she eaten him?  I thought at least a few legs would still be visible if this had happened. Tom, who had also gotten involved, found the little guy on the deck floor, still alive but looking rather dazed. Had she knocked him off the web? Bitten him? We will never know if he successfully passed on his genes or what caused his fall. Subsequent research did verify that I was witnessing a mating ritual and often the male does not survive the experience.

And what does this have to do with fiber art? First of all, these were beautiful creatures with all their striped legs and patterned abdomens. And this does motivate me even more to try to weave a web into my work, since it is such a strong metaphor for interconnectedness, but the problem is that I have to do in such a way that it does not look like a Halloween decoration. I'm still working on that. But it also reminds me how important it is to look around--"You can observe a lot by just watching," said the Yogi.

And just as a final note, here is some spider art created by a spider with a little help from the wind outside my dyeing studio door--under the deck:

The actual spider is in the center a little toward the top.

And, if you're still hanging in there, thanks for the company--and happy early Halloween!

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