charlotte’s web

She’s been there, keeping watch on the window, for at least five days now, maybe longer.  I don’t remember who first noticed her, or exactly when, but she has become our spider, the tiniest member of our family now.  She has made our bathroom window her home, her long legs tucked under her inch long body in repose at the center of her web.  She spins an intricate and geometrically precise web every night on the outside pane, stretched evenly to span the width of the window.

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We call her Charlotte, of course, and don’t doubt that she must be just a miraculous as the one in the story.

Each night, just as the kids are brushing their teeth, she is beginning to get to work.  I’m not yet sure if she takes her web down every day, or if it just needs rebuilding that often due to the damage of rain, wind or the insects that she’s trapped in it, but every evening she sets about weaving.   With her belly facing in towards us, we’ve had a rare look as we press our faces up against the glass only an inch away from her fast moving legs.  The silk of her web comes from somewhere in her abdomen, and her legs dance quickly to grab the string and stick it in place.  Her choreography is fast, and spot on, her perfectly spaced web indicative of her intuitive sense of space.  She is dedicated, and hardworking.  When she is finished, she centers herself up in the tidy middle of her web, and is still.

It has been real-life National Geographic here, folks.  We’ve watched Charlotte wrap up her insects, and we’ve watched her eat her dinner.  She’s piqued our curiosity, and together we’ve been learning about the life and death, and everything in between, of spiders.

As if it isn’t somehow hallowed enough to have this spider stay with us, night after night, spinning her web, hemming in our bathroom window, there’s more.  We now have this whole corner of our house guarded by these spiders.  Ten feet further down that outside wall is the first of my two bedroom windows; both this one and the one just ’round the corner to the front of the house have almost the exact same web, with similar spiders on post.  Our house has been woven in, touched by the spiders’ very existence.  I’m beginning to feel as though I’m in an Alice Hoffman novel.

I can’t help but think that there is something more at work here.  As part of our family now, I thought that I should get to know Charlotte a little bit more.  She is so diligent in her work, showing no signs of slowing down or getting frustrated when she has to continue the daily chore of weaving, of building.  She can’t quit; she has no choice.  I imagine that there is meditation in the rhythms of her weaving, her body swaying as she casts her line out, swings her way back in towards center.  There is much that I can learn from Charlotte.  Isn’t that my very challenge, to find the meditative rhythm in the daily work, the building and rebuilding?  To see that very work itself as art, as miracle, as offering?  She spins her web to catch her sustenance, and not unlike the tapestry I’m weaving here, too.

Turns out I’m not the only one looking to spiders.  Celtic wisdom is that spiders offer the lesson of patience and persistence, who rebuild their webs daily when they are torn down.  Native Americans often see the spider as both the keeper of the past and a connection to the future.   Others say that spiders are a figure of feminine energy and creativity.  Regardless of how I want to look at these spiders, or what meanings I want to draw from them being with us, it has at the very least drawn my eye to the every day miracles that are quite literally happening outside my window.  It has been a calling to each of us to slow down for a minute, to observe.

She’s there, quiet and centered, late at night, when I’m brushing my own teeth as ritual to end the day.  It’s quiet, and I turn off the lights to see her clearly without the harsh glare of lights reflecting back at me. And she’s there again in the morning, offering out her web, glinting in the sunlight, a promise to hold all that the day will be.

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