Unexpected visitor was an unexpected delight
Last updated 10/17/2019 at 12:03am | View PDF
We had a special guest take up residence outside our back door for several weeks this summer.
We didn’t notice her at first. We simply woke one July morning to find a large, intricate spider web extending from the side of the house to a post outside our back door.
My husband grabbed a broom and cleared the web away so we wouldn’t accidentally lean into it while tossing recyclables in our bin.
The next day, when the web reappeared, we knocked it down again. On day three, the web returned. We admired the spider’s persistence and decided to give her a break.
What a wonderful decision.
We spent the next several weeks admiring the creature’s handiwork. Occasionally we’d catch a glimpse of the spider, too.
Sometimes, returning home from summer camp or getting ice cream, we’d spot her in the middle of the web. In the beginning, she typically would flee when we approached, moving quickly and gracefully up the web. As she got used to our comings and goings, she was more likely to freeze, right where she was, as we passed quickly by and into the house. Other times, she was no where to be seen — until we found her hiding, tucked into the corner of the door frame.
Before long, we looked forward to seeing our spider friend — or at least her handiwork — when we left the house in the morning and returned home at night.
Although we never named our spider Charlotte, she certainly reminded us of the famous fictional arachnid who saved the life of a young pig by spinning words like “Some Pig” into her web.
I’m sure I read E.B. White’s novel when I was a kid, but my most recent memories of the story are from the 2006 film starring Julia Roberts as Charlotte and Dakota Fanning as Fern.
I worried our spider’s ultimate fate would upset Ainsley, who was very dismayed when Charlotte died in the film. (I also worried she would feel sympathy for the flies she saw caught in the web, but I was wrong!) But she didn’t seem too concerned.
So, we watched for egg sacs and waited for the day we would see the spiderlings carried away on the breeze by their long silks. At one point our spider got very fat, and we were certain an egg sac would appear at any moment.
But none did, and when we saw the spider next, she had returned to her normal size. We surmised she had simply overindulged in flies.
We didn’t document the spider’s weaving or monitor her success in capturing a meal. We didn’t go online to look up what kind of spider she was or learn interesting facts about her. Our observations were of the casual, relaxed sort — better suited for spotting shapes in the clouds than preparing a report for science class.
Then all of the sudden, one day she was gone. She left no evidence of her visit, no words of farewell.
Charlotte’s final message about Wilbur at the county fair earns the young pig a special award and saves his life. In the film version, farmer Homer Zuckerman makes a little speech after, noting everything has happened “at a time when we really don’t see many miraculous things.”
“Maybe we do,” he adds thoughtfully. “Maybe they’re all right there around us every day. We just don’t know where to look.”
Our friend reminded us to pay attention to Mother Nature’s miracles. She was some spider.
— Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected]