Weaving a Spider’s Tale

Fall Showing: Yellow mums, scarecrows with smiles,
pumpkins positioned at the welcoming corner of my lawn.
Two identical spiders with silken thread, spun protein,
tensile strength greater than my bones and half the
strength of steel, strategically placed for the fall showing,
one hanging by the front steps, the other on the back deck,
identical twins as far  as I can tell. Uninvited guests.

From my memory template of scary spiders, Arachnids that catch
all the attention in the news, there’s the hobo, the wolf and its
oversized variant the tarantula, brown recluse, black widow,
and the orb with yellow stripes – the writing spider. Daddy said
that if this spider wrote a name on its web, the person was
doomed. Daddy also told me that Farmer McGreggor lived
across the railroad tracks near my house and if I ventured
in that direction I would suffer the same fate as Peter Rabbit,
I would be an unsuspecting fly caught in a spider’s web.

These rather ordinary house guests camping on my posts
wove their way into my days in an untidy, cob web fashion;
brown with a bit of a striped effect; in a species of 50,000
these are regarded simply as domestic house spiders.
Despite my love for E. B. White’s Charlotte Web and the itsy
bitsy spider who did not learn his lesson well, repeatedly
climbing the spout despite the warnings about rain,
I do have not a familial relationship with spiders.

 
Cool webs, threatening fangs and creepy legs.
My rocker becomes an observation post as the porch
dweller grows bolder with daytime appearance,
and bigger with the insect feasts. Much of the time
the acrobat curls into a ball, eight legs tucked tight,
swaying in mid-air, all head/mouthpiece, and abdomen,
until the invisible web quivers  and legs spread in every
direction; an unsuspecting prey is nabbed, stuck tight,
wrapped in silken thread. An occasional lucky wasp touches
the steely stickiness and escapes with a forceful thrust.
Then brown spider whispers dag nabit, – missed this time

Nights are growing colder, the food supply source diminishes
with the approach of  all-hallowed- eve. I grow faintly wistful
knowing that soon my house guests will complete their task,
leaving a nest-full of eggs, offspring to take over the world
when spring arrives once again, spiderlings instinctively
knowing how to survive the cold, finding crevices for shelter,
and warmth wrapped in their egg sacs. Not so scary then.

explore more at http://www.explorit.org/science/spider.html

spider guest

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Water Talks

Sitting on the time worn smoothness
of river rock, I listen to the hurried waters,
the slaps, claps, splashes of dancing
white caps with no real cares about
what life drops in their path; running
streams circumvent logs and boulders
making an alphabet of turns; life
racing ahead, meeting challenges
with a fervor of determination.

Movement slows around the bend,
peaceful ambling, no angst about
stirring winds, approaching downpours,
or rivulets running off mountain slopes.
Still waters collect in reflecting pools
gathering shapes of present moments
– trees, clouds, mountain ridges, nodding
heads of  goldenrod and Joe-pye weed,
pauses that sooth, restore, revive.

Lingering on the edge, I am drawn into
back and forth bantering of tales being told,
each water droplet an ancient traveler
journeying to its point of origin, sharing
with passers-by the notions of paths traversed
and landscapes changed across millennia.
who else has stood in this place pondering
the power of origin and transformation?

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Summer Muddle

Days I arise when a night nymph or
disturbing dream muddies the rivers
of waking consciousness. My words become
woven into tangled taunts like green vines
silently spreading on my walking path;
a wet woolen heaviness keeps my spirit
from soaring. Only the dragonfly seems
unfettered by bold rays of the mid-August sun.

Summer knows about muddling moods;
the cicadas insistent wing flicks seem
to slow into a lulling rhythm; only leaves
hanging out on a limb shiver with delight
when an unseen giant releases a single
puff of satisfaction – or frustration.
I’ve learned a lot about silence and
patience in times of oppressive heat.

Rocking and remembering my childhood,
we knew no other kind of summer day.
A short drive from home to the beach
in Aunt Francis’ 1950’s Ford station wagon,
stuck in the single lane of traffic, steam rising
from under the hood, pavement shimmering
with puddles of rays; “hot enough to
fry an egg on”, that’s what we would say

dragonfly

When the Bough is Broken

Awakened by slashing sounds of charging forces
I discover giant claws changing my landscape,
chaos on the horizon, nature being shifted,
foundations shaking, gutted earth gaping,
a new path appears – the price of dream making.

In the shaded afternoon spot under the walnut tree,
where I collected the mail and squirrels gathered nuts,
the lacy limbs bearing first fruits are stripped,
ground to dust and carried away; my heart is bruised.
I feel the yank of the roots being forced from the earth.
Where will the mockingbird perch in the evening?
Where will the towhees sing their morning call?

“Nothing is lost” my friend whispers softly, “Nothing is lost.”
With a slow shake of my head I reply,
“Though much is changed, much is changed.”

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Wasps are What?

When we took up housekeeping on Mountain View, the wasps had already staked out their territory. The workers putting on our new roof noticed a few nests hanging under the eaves. The painter staining our front porch reported the large active ground swell hidden in stacks of pine straw. What concerned viewer doesn’t tell a woman to pour gasoline on the nest at nightfall – and run? We diligently set about eradicating these threats with cans of spray.

On sunny days when spring was not in full swing, I saw wasps flying solo, making unbidden appearances. And in the interest of discretion and good judgment, I began to cover the honey dripped biscuits when breakfasting on the back deck, and kept a cautious eye on the tea and cookies I served in the afternoon on the front porch. We never dined alone, the formidable insects constantly hovered.

I have felt a wasp’s unapologetic sting, and watched in horror as my ten year old daughter stepped on a ground nest while camping in the Smokey Mountains, the swarm of stings instantly producing pain, swelling, redness, and sobs. We washed with alcohol swabs, packed with cooler ice, and served up four-hour potions of Benadryl from the campers’ first aid kit. A wasp struck my toddler son’s forehead with full force when we lived on the farm, and his violent vomiting and headache led to years of carrying an epipen. My mother-in-law’s wasp sting was the serious one – 911 call, ambulance run to the emergency room, and fifty years later (she just turned 96) she continues to have shots. Clearly wasps are pests, with a reputation for striking without apparent cause. I could not see these flying insects in any other light – until I heard the casual comment of a horticulturalist, “But Wasps are Wonderful”!

The perks of these creatures who inherited the earth long before we appeared on the evolutionary horizon are as hidden as the fact that indeed most wasps don’t cluster in nests, but live solitary lives. 135 million years ago these early insects shared the skyways with oversized dragonflies and pterosaurs. But by chance, circumstance, and nature’s drive to propagate they began to feed on pollen in the green forests filled with ferns and conifers, carrying the pollen around on their feed. From the beginning wasps were predators and today are credited with helping to control the pest population, feasting on aphids, spiders, and beetles. Apparently they take care of a super supply of flies as well. Pollinators, pest patrol, and oh my, they only live for one season with or without my intervention.

I still stare with caution when I see this insect approach, rarely making a buzz. I duck when necessary. I cover my sweet drink with my hand and check before sipping, in case a wasp has decided to search the glass for nectar.  And I would eliminate as health precaution, strategically built nests. But in my wide berth I might also acknowledge a bit of thanks for their doing their proper job. Anyway I suspect that they would prefer we just stay out of the way.

And there’s always more to learn…

http://www.buzzaboutbees.net/Are-Wasps-Beneficial.html

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-beguiling-history-of-bees-excerpt/     Excerpted from The Beguiling History of Bees by Dave Goulson

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