Continuing with our theme of Spider Web, this week Karen Richards describes a very personal encounter with a spider
Autumn, the season of the spider web. Of course, spiders are with us all year round but in autumn they are more visible to us. Most will be found outdoors, stringing their webs across pathways, the cornices of outbuildings, and even across shrubs and vegetable patches. Those spotted indoors may have sought refuge from the cold but more likely, having been born somewhere in the house, in the spring and early summer, have emerged fully grown and looking for a mate.
Early morning, still dark outside, I go to light my gas hob and, looking up, see a web hanging from the ceiling just above the cooker hood and, suspended within it, a small spider. Momentarily, I consider knocking it down with a duster. It is by now hanging directly above my pan of bubbling porridge and I calculate the odds of it falling to a hot, sticky death and me having to ditch my breakfast.
Yet, despite its appearance of fragility, there is something stalwart about this small being and I decide to leave it be, for now. Each time I return to my kitchen to cook, I check on the spider’s progress. It’s still there, holding fast. Each time I consider removing it, a more powerful sense of ‘let it be’ prevents me. I am intrigued by my reluctance to decamp it, which could be done quite quickly and humanely. Over several days, I realise that I have now developed a relationship with the little creature. I look up and greet it before I light the flame and periodically, during my cooking, check to make sure it’s still safe.
One morning, when I reach out to get my breadboard, I see a tiny chrysalis formulation, lying on the worktop. It’s dead, I think but raising my eyes, I see that the previously diminutive black body is still alive but is much bigger, and is now beautifully speckled with gold. I pick up the tiny skin that it shed in the night and hold it to the light. A small amber miracle, which I place on the window-ledge with a gassho.
For several days more, I continue this communion with the arachnid until one morning it is gone and all but a fragment of the web has disappeared with it. I learn later that orb spiders routinely eat their webs when they have finished with them. Spider webs are full of amino acids, apparently.
So, I take a duster to what is left of the web, scoop up the tiny skin from the window ledge and, opening the backdoor wide, release the remnants on the wind, whispering a quiet goodbye and thank you before going back inside.