In good repair

I annoyed a very big spider today.

She has become a familiar sight, because she has spun the most gossamer, far-reaching web outside my kitchen window. And when the conditions are right she sits, in the middle of her empire, hunting.

I have developed an affection for this singular little creature, so industrious and yet hard as nails. She has the entrepreneurial spirit of one who runs a market stall somewhere in the East End of London.

I can never predict when she will come out to sit behind her stall. I have found her there late at night, and early in the morning, and then she will be gone again without so much as a by-your-leave. I feel quite bereft when she’s not there, as I wash up the cups at the sink. I like to think of her living her life, and me living mine, in parallel.

Today dawned impossibly warm and balmy. We thought, so long as it was nice, it was a good time to tackle the gardens, back and front.

Darling, I suggested to Phil, you could remove that huge bike from the fronds of ivy which have wrapped their tendrils around it, claiming it absolutely as once thorns claimed the Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

And, I added, you could trim the devilish Pyracantha with its gothic thorns.

As for me, I concluded, I will weed and prune and dispose of refuse until at last our garden will look respectable, and not like the house of a Tower Hamlets problem family of twelve who have long since ceased to care about appearances.

Splendid, we all agreed.

Maddie armed herself with dustbin bags and she and Felix denuded the back garden of its summer flowers. And Phil plugged in the hedge trimmer.

Waves of entrepreneurial disapproval suddenly began to emanate: precisely where from, we knew not, but it was somewhere in the vicinity of the kitchen window.

And then, it dawned on me. The Spider was eyeing the trimmer with all eight eyes, both primary and secondary. Under no circumstances, she glared, are you bringing that thing within ten feet of my stall.

But Phil was oblivious, and with one switch, transformed this Grand Design- the perfect web- from a leafy sanctuary to a roaring hellhole.

Could it get any worse?

Well, yes, actually, it could.

Because I was gallumphing around the kitchen window trying to rationalise the jungle which had instigated proceedings against me. The ground underfoot was slippery. And the garden is curbed by a small brick wall and then a steep drop to a path below. My footing was not all it should be, as I swayed alarmingly, brandishing secateurs and stabbing speculatively at defunct rose bushes and the roots of entrenched mint.

The Spider was so alarmed she came out to watch. Ye Gods, she thought to herself, first that tyrannosaur and now a Diplodocus which has clearly been imbibing gin.

The spider watched as the inebriated herbivore lose its footing. Does this kind of thing happen in slow motion for spiders too?

My hand swept half of that beautiful symmetrical silken masterpiece away forever.

The spider veritably flew back to its lair. Who knew where the hand would go next?

I lamented my clumsiness, but the deed was done. I cleared up, disposed of bags of weeds and debris, and went into the kitchen to wash my hands.

Automatically, I checked the corner of the window where my small friend would normally be stationed. And to my surprise, there she was. At battle stations. Her tiny limbs were  repairing and restructuring for all they were worth, spinning straw into gold.

I had never seen her more frenzied nor more busy, which is about right I suppose, since I had decimated her house.

I stood in reverie and awe, and when I came to I had but one thought: to get my camera, and fast.

I shot upstairs, laying my hand on the bag and lenses and thundering back down like an elephant  which has just heard its first bugler.

Alas: when I returned, she had finished emergency repairs. I expect she was exhausted. She had gone back to her lair to recover from cataclysm.

I have been fretting ever since: and then a few minutes ago at nearly ten pm, I set Phil to read through this post and pottered downstairs to make night drinks.

And there she was, spinning like the clappers in the dark. She was reminiscent of those night road repair jobs you sometimes come across, with floodlights and hard hats and a sense of weary urgency born of the early hours.

Business as usual tomorrow, then.

Image source here


56 thoughts on “In good repair

  1. Delightful – DH is not a fan of spiders at all but has a relationship with a teeny crab spider that lives behind the toaster 😀 Good that the whole clan participates in clean-up, how it should be. You are clearing for winter and we are planting for summer – funny old world! Less than 3 months to christmas :O

    1. I don’t like spiders either generally: one advancing up the duvet is enough to give me the heebie jeebies. But like your DH, this one and I just hit it off. This morning I have gone out to take a look and she had a brand new, extensive web already constructed. Amazing. Long may the little crab spider prosper, there behind the toaster. And Christmas – erk!

  2. I do not have that sort of relationship with spiders. They either spin webs far from me or I eventually get rid of them. Indoors they like to haunt the sensiors on the house alarm, waking me at inappropriate times deep in the night.
    Then we have the BIG ones. no webs for them. They get out there and like any busy predator use any cover as their base. Scaring me silly so I kill to avoid death by scared-heart attack.

    1. The SA spiders are a whole different matter, Sidey. If I lived there I am quite sure I would not wax so sentimental. This small soul catches my eye, day in, day out, behind the safety of glass. We have firm boundaries.

  3. Following this blog through the window of my inbox since I happened to find it and subscribe, I feel like you at the kitchen sink. I’m amazed that you find the energy to keep it up as beautifully as you do, while also living the very full life it chronicles. You’ve transformed the “waste not, want not” mentality, or turned it inside out: writers and other artists are not driven by fear of lack, but rather by love of abundance. Everything matters: the spider at the window, the repeated lattice pattern, the footprints. I recognize and admire your daily efforts to not let it go to waste. It’s the opposite of serving up the blancmange out of duty, or guilt.

    1. Barbara, what an absolutely lovely comment. I was a cub reporter on a local paper and learned long ago to write a lot fast in a noisy environment. Perfect training for this chronicle. You have hit the nail on the head: happiness is not some great grand scheme, but in the smallest of things. My sister and I call them ‘pools of happiness’. Sometimes there aren’t many but most of the time life has the most exquisite of surprises round every corner. Thank you for reading these posts. It takes gumption at 800 words a day.

  4. “so industrious and yet hard as nails. She has the entrepreneurial spirit of one who runs a market stall somewhere in the East End of London”

    Absolutely! The lives of many insects are all about hard labour. I’ve always thought it would be rough being re-born as a dung beetle.

  5. I wasn’t too keen on spiders myself until I rescued that one from the baying crowd at the Co-op the other week, and since then my opinion of them has changed completely. You’re right, Kate, they are constantly on the go. I like to see their webs on a frosty morning…

    1. It’s an autumn treat, to be sure, Tom. I keep a healthy distance – I still scream like a girl every time one gets up close – but I do love to watch my kitchen window friend.

  6. I have posted a picture for you Kate, under my photos page, as I don’t think it will show here. Lovely post,

  7. 😀
    Too funny !!
    Yesterday, I posted spider web’s pictures on my blog !!
    The owner of that “devilish trap” was hiding somewhere else at that moment so I couldn’t capture it in my camera (but I see it from time to time) … Luckily I was no as clumsy as you were … my spider did not have to work at night 🙂

  8. Spider webs, as you may know, fascinate. While I don’t like coming face to face with one, I admire their lacy handiwork from the distance. Watching out a window is perfect, as is you post. I can just about see the frenzy of falling and feel the silk from the web coming apart. Spiders are pretty resourceful, aren’t they, and this one made quick repair.

    Have your read Charlotte’s Web to Felix and Maddie?

    1. I have been banned, Penny, because Felix has got wind of the ending. He is a softie under a well-hard well-cool exterior, and becomes distressed for Charlotte whenever the story is mentioned. He and I share an anguish over death and how it limits life’s opportunities. We adore life so much that we rail against anything which takes it away, and though it is simply Charlotte’s time, yet Felix is not ready to accept that such a very clever spider must leave such a useful and vibrant life.

      However, I have a cunning plan. I shall be downloading the story onto each nighttime story device: let us see whether EB White’s beautiful, clever prose can win him over.

  9. She is singular, this spider. I could just picture her with a hard hat, and nightlights, building away. 🙂

  10. Kate, I loved your recount of the spider web! I agree wholeheartedly with Barbara Sullivan’s comment that “Everything matters: the spider at the window, the repeated lattice pattern, the footprints.”

    My own case in point: my husband had a plethora of snails thriving in his upstairs 10 gallon fish tank. He decided to move them to my studio tank (with Spot, the pleco fish). They have since multiplied like rabbits. Spot’s tank is across from the table where I sit each morning, glued to the computer. I’ve watched little clear blobs of tiny pin-head sized eggs turning into larger white blobs, then they start moving. Eventually they look like tiny specs of dirt until they turn into snails with shells and little antennae, sliming their way to and fro across the glass. I watch this cycle of life on a daily basis.

    Now the tank has become nearly overrun with them and since Spot is a “sucker” fish, they do tend to get in the way of his algae grazing (or so I surmise). So, I implemented the “snail relocation program” and daily I (gently) collect EVERY tiny spec of “dirt” on up to fully-formed and functioning snails. I relocated them to our tiny 3×5 foot pond in the backyard garden. They have a new lease on life alongside two newly-discovered frogs. Everything matters; even the tiniest of snails.

    1. A really lovely snail story, Cindy, thank you 🙂 It really is the little things. I get pleasure from reading about this little piece of routine which gives more pleasure than a tiny snail would usually merit. Glad Spot has his grazing grounds back after all that excitement; and that the snails have a brave new world to explore…

  11. Kate, this story is a jewel. I will recall it every time I see one of MTM’s “pet” spiders inside the house in random windows and corners. I only fought with one, because it kept trying to build part of it’s house on my African violet. I destroyed that bit, and it put it back. Destroyed and back. Destroyed and… gave up and constructed it’s house at a different angle. Who knows what people think when they visit our spidery house, because MTM never explains that they kill cockroaches. 🙂 His organic pesticide. One of many reasons I love that man.

    1. He does sound like an original thinker, Andra 🙂 It could be my Phil talking… is never dull with someone like that around. Well done on your spider-training. I think you and she might have come to some sort of agreement over your African Violet 😀

  12. Diplodocus probably ate at least a ton or two of food a day to support the metabolism of such a huge body. How many jobs do you work? Who pays your grocery bill? Do you wear the special shoes when you gallumph around?

  13. The spider is an tenacious little creature. Look how Robert the Bruce took courage from the spider’s perseverance to throw its web across a wide space the cave where he sought refuge. It took seven attempts before it was successful.
    I love the image you used showing reflections in the dew, and the small rainbow coloured beads of moisture.

  14. I find the workings of spiders quite fascinating, and am most willing to share space with them all; EXCEPT those that may be so foolish as to appear in my boudoir or my bathtub!

    As several of your readers have already commented, I find webs full of frost or dewdrops sparkling in early morning sunshine to be genuine works of art. All of God’s creatures are amazing if we will only take the time to notice; although I have to admit a few (See **) give me the willies.

    ** I note that Andra’s comment identified a cockroach as such. Most South Carolinians of my acquaintance used the euphemism ‘Palmetto Bug’ . . . Good that some folks aren’t embarrassed to call a spade a spade! 🙂 That’s one critter for which I DO NOT have any tolerance. 🙂

    1. Palmetto bug. Got it. It’s quite a percussive name, Karen – it reminds me of tiny feet clattering across the floor….shudder….I share your boundaries: spiders are wonderful at a distance. One has just scuttled across the floor as I work and I’m less comfortable with her presence….

  15. amazing…shall we just call her Charlotte? I’m a big fan of anthropomorphizing despite getting in grave trouble for doing so during in storytelling segment in a field biology course. Regardless, I still love to give voice/thought to our non-human friends, this one is fabulously done…imbibing gin, indeed!

  16. Another wonderful post. Poor spider – but they are rather good examples, aren’t they, of what we must do when our house (real or metaphorical) comes tumbling down. The other day I came across the very ragged remains of a web spun between branches of an oak – I think it must have been the wind (a fierce windstorm we’d had) that tumbled that particular dream home. She was there, the spider, but hunting. I guess she was hungry – the repair job could wait on a time when she had greater energy.

  17. How wonderful it must be to always have the materials and the skill available to repair one’s home when disaster strikes! The spider is to be lauded for her industriousness, her artistry, and her patience.

  18. Beautiful photo — yours? I think I read somewhere once upon a time that having a spider above a window or door is a sign of good luck or prosperity — something like that. If I was more ambitious I’d look it up on Google, but I’ll just hope that I’m not imagining that bit of lore for your sake.

  19. Wow how cool to watch her rebuild her web with so much dedication! Great storytelling, and really well written! It was neat hearing your story from the spider’s perspective.

  20. Hello Kate,

    What an awesome post! Let me just say that while I don’t generally like spiders, I loved reading the thought and description you put in, to make this an observational piece that could be about the day-to-day world of anyone – it just happens to be that of a spider :-).

    Thanks for sharing.

    Take care,

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