What the Spiders Eat (Arachnophobia Alert!)

This year the ginger lilies have sheltered and fed four enormous garden spiders. Mid-summer, this impressive quartet graduated from eating flies and began to catch moths and beetles. One of them even tried for a June bug. The June bug escaped, but the spider was in no danger of starvation.

Thanks to our mild winter and productive summer, the spiders’ webs are never empty. They eat and grow, eat and grow, molting over and over again as the summer wears on. Now they are giants, far larger than any of the yard’s June bugs.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been fascinated by the variety of prey these spiders have snared. A Cloudless Sulfur butterfly, last week. A sphinx moth and a dragonfly. Yesterday, one of the spiders managed to catch and consume a cicada.

Despite my affection for cicadas, I had to admire the spider’s audacity. And, despite my wretched arachnophobia, I softened into nostalgia over a large egg sac. (The egg sac belongs to a different spider, one of equal size and appetite.)

I remember a dark living room with an old television, where a little girl sat curled in a chair with a cat on her lap and a dog at her feet, watching a favorite movie. The movie featured a pig named Wilbur and a spider named Charlotte. I remember my tears, when Charlotte died, and my delight when her daughters emerged from their silken nursery.

So this year, late in November, I’ll cut back the ginger lilies and weave their stalks into a frost-protective blanket over the bulbs. In the process, I’ll tuck this egg sac into a safe corner of the flower bed, cringing a little as I imagine the multitudes within. Then, thanks to a lovely book and heartwarming movie, I’ll remember that these spiders aren’t quite horrible. In fact, they are almost charming. Especially when they say “Salutations!”

Beautiful Things

Beautiful Things

See all the small
Beautiful things
I’ve crushed under my boots
Or my tires
Or my hurried, strident tongue

The perfection that was a beetle
Splintered because its jeweled shell
Could not bear my weight

And my regret might feel
Like a question
I haven’t the wisdom to ask

The intricate heartwork
That was a rabbit
Dashed under my tire
And left for the vultures

Who might partake of rabbit
Skin and fur and bones
Delicate answers
Ground within the gizzard
And lost

So that should I someday
Remember the question
Or think it first in a dream
Only the vulture could answer

The simplicity of “Why?”
Lost for lack of time
Or patience
Or knowledge enough of children
To know that the answer doesn’t matter

Only the voice
And the moment
And the ritual of exploration

So I offer the only answer
That addresses the question
“Because it must”

Which is also “because
I must”
Which answers all the questions
I have the wisdom to ask

Published in The 2006 Chaffin Journal