Monday, January 5, 2009

She spins, and spins

At the end of the day, when my work is done and I'm settled on the couch, a golden orb weaver begins her work outside, from the branches of the wisteria, in our pergola.

When the foot traffic from the back gate to the back door is finished, and the noise has quieted, and the only other evidence of life is the shrill of the cicadas in the gum tree leaning over the fence, she emerges from the leafy greenness and anchors her night's work to the brick paving below.

She lays the foundations - long, thick strands of silk running four or five feet, one from the wisteria to the ground, another from the launching place to the back of a garden chair, and an anchoring strand between. Here she will begin her web, with the more delicate, sticky strands that will form the net for her victims.

Her golden body bustling, she begins from the outer and works her way in, extruding the architecture from her very body with back legs working like cotton-mill machinery, pulling the thread from her abdomen, ready to catch the unwary moths and beetles that hum and flicker in the yard at this time of year. Around, and around, in even and geometric industriousness, she spins. The nights are short now and she must work quickly to make the most of the undisturbed hunting patch.

When she is done, the web is magnificent, even if her inch long body and glossy red legs are not for the faint hearted. Feigning nonchalance, we all go outside and admire her handiwork, walking as close as we dare, while she continues the finishing touches before settling in the centre of her piecework. We are glad she is distracted, feeling a little threatened by her single mindedness and devotion to the kill. We wonder if there are babies in the green branches above us for whom she is gathering sustenance, and the touch of a leaf on our necks on the way back to the door is quickly brushed off with a nervous titter.

In the morning, when we go out again to begin our daily work, there are only a few shredded remnants of her web, some gauzy strands floating down from a twig, a length stretching still to the garden chair, and we can't see where she has gone to spend the daylight hours. We can only assume that she is sated and that the breeze, the birds and unwary pedestrians have caught the products of her labour.

While I admire her industriousness in the night, it's the destruction that daylight brings that elicits from me the greatest respect. Daily her work is torn down, and her beauty hidden in an environment that helps us forget she is there, waiting for the sun to drop in the sky. And nightly, without complaint, she continues her ritual, oblivious to our wonderment and nervousness. Such determination and dedication.

I consider this, as I hang out yet another load of washing.