Connie meets an eight-legged new neighbor.
One morning on the edge of autumn, I stepped out the back door and was nearly swallowed by an enormous spider web. A black-and-yellow orb weaver had spun a web as big as a truck tire across the top of the door frame. It was a geometrical wonder and shrewdly positioned beside the porch light. I pledged to preserve this beautiful web.
For days, I came in and out of my house in a low crouch, as if I were going through a hobbit’s door. From inside, behind the glass, I could watch Mrs. Spider at her work.
By midnight, the web was ravaged and filled with tiny bugs. Sometimes she ate the insects on the spot, other times she wrapped them carefully in Saran Wrap for later. By morning, she had rewoven the web to perfection. She signed it with the Argiope’s signature zigzag band across the middle for reinforcement.
Day after day, night after night, she went about her job quietly. Nobody stepped forward to praise her, give her a certificate or offer a helpful performance review. I watched in quiet admiration for a while, but I am of the human species and hardwired to meddle. We humans are driven to change and improvement, especially to change and improve others.
Living in Oklahoma, I started with basics. “Mrs. Spider,” I said, “do you have a home church? I’d be happy to take you to church with me this Sunday. I think you’ll like it; we have a new minister.”
Next, I commented on her daily routine. “I can’t help but notice that you work at night, which is admirable, but from everything I hear, the night shift isn’t the best thing for us. Have you considered — and this is just a suggestion — switching your work hours to a regular 9-to-5? From what I read, that’s a more natural circadian rhythm.
“I see you dozing during the day with the sun warming your belly. That must feel nice, but these days we are all afraid of too much sun, aren’t we? I’m just wondering if those yellow stripes on your legs could be sunburnt. Remember to wear lots of sunblock or at least a broad-brimmed hat. Take it from someone who has learned the hard way. I see that you live simply, which is a good example for the whole neighborhood, but if you don’t have a hat, I’ll make you one out of a little leaf.”
As subtly as possible, I broached the subject of her size, for she was a hefty gal. “I’m only asking, not judging in any way — because who am I to talk about weight anyway? — but, Lordy, how many points did that moth have? Lots of fat and protein, but do you think you could manage a very small grape or a bite or two of broccoli?
“You seem to live a very solitary life, Mrs. Spider, and God bless you for being comfortable with your own company — I wish I could say the same for myself — but don’t you get lonely? At least for a pet? I think I know where I could find you a friendly flea if you’re interested.
“I love what you’ve done with your web, just love it, so don’t take this as any sort of criticism. But would you be open to the idea of moving it left just a few feet, across the window instead of the door? Totally up to you.
“Mostly, I just want to welcome you to the neighborhood and say, if there’s anything you need, don’t hesitate to ask. Anything at all.”
One morning she was gone. Packed up her web in the middle of the night and moved. I hope it wasn’t anything I said. I was just trying to be neighborly.