The Gossamer Castaway

posted in: Nature | 0

One morning, while it was dark and too early to rouse the family with lights, I tiptoed down the stairs thinking only of coffee. When I reached the bottom, my face felt a tickle. I reached to investigate and my arm felt a tickle. Overnight, a spider built a web in a disastrous location for all of us. Everywhere my arms batted, I felt web and with each sensation my shudder grew. The hapless spider caught a flailing, giant, leaping human. I shook my hair and danced around imagining it was riding me like a wee cowgirl.

Like asters and mums and pumpkin spice-everything, I’ve long associated spider invasions with impending autumn. I’ve wondered if science backs up my amateurish observations collected over the years. Beginning every late August, our front porch is inundated with creepies. Webs spring up overnight. Their builders lurk in corners monitoring the situation with eight eyes, each. Nothing gets past them, except us.

I lightly researched if my observation about spiders was true. My theory is they seek warmth and extra food as autumn and winter approach. Their presence is a sign to heed. Eight eyes and eight legs must itch with instinct none of us can begin to understand. Most of the articles I read claim the increase of spiders near or inside homes this time of year is purely coincidental. Spiders hatch earlier in the summer. When they hatch, they release silky balloons to carry them through the air on breezes. They are specks. When a breeze is stopped by a house or porch or barn, the tiny spider stops, too. She shrugs her legs. Where she lands is where she lives, and grows, and grows.


The same silk that she fashioned into a sail becomes her sole mechanism of survival. It’s like a shipwrecked crew turning the broken bits of a decimated ship into huts, or in Gilligan’s case, a pool table. In one form, the castaways were conveyed to a place. Using the wreckage, survivors cobble another form together. It’s admirable.

But I still want to tear down their webs. They are messy and full of gnats and smaller bugs. Some of them are so newly-caught, they thrash. Those who don’t move will be drained by the spider when the spider is ready, picking her way across the strands to eat.

I’m afraid to tear down webs.

I’m afraid they’ll spring at me like fanged ninjas. They’ll scuttle over me. I’m afraid of those dusty corners littered with death. I’m especially afraid of messy, chaotic webs because that’s the kind black widows build. But those are exactly the spiders you need to eliminate. They are such efficient killers, they don’t need elegance to catch their meals. That comes later, when she scurries into light and you spot her perched behind your porch light. She takes your breath away, this black orb with dancing legs.

You stare at her. You calculate your distance. You wonder how close you can get. You wonder how close you must get to the slight nightmares that seemed so small when blown to your door, unnoticed.

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