I wondered how many times I had walked right past her before I noticed the spectacular web and her tiny, but colorful, black and yellow abdomen. She was the smallest female garden orb I had ever laid eyes on. There was no telling how many trips I made in a day, up and down the front steps and out into the yard but, finally one day, I found her, already set up in her autumn digs. If she had egg sacks anywhere nearby, they were cleverly hidden. It was truly a clever spot that she had chosen as her snare for insects, out in the open, yet creatively camouflaged in the flower bed alongside the walkway. The web was strung from the guttering on the house to a sturdy rose bush, and then anchored below in a tuft of Shasta daisies and a blue Salvia plant. Even in the area of the web where she constructed the heavier zig-zag patterned strands, her body was perfectly hidden in line with the thick, woody stems of the old rose plant. Only a conditioned eye might notice her inconspicuous location.
For the last few weeks I have been careful to work around her, and quite protective of her presence. I guarded the spot from Mr. T and Oscar passing by on their way out to do their business, and from snoopy Emma deer who loves to feast on rose leaves and petals. I met all visitors at the walkway, pointing out my little friend and advising them to keep clear. Even FD got regular reminders about respecting her space.
Each morning, I admired and spoke to her on my way outside to go about the morning chores. This morning was no different. There she was, patiently waiting for some unsuspecting insect to fly into her web of woe. As is usual each morning, Oscar tagged along behind me as I set out towards the chicken pen with a few morning vegetable scraps, but then he took off on a run towards the vegetable garden. No amount of yelling commands at him, or coaxing sweetly, or luring him in by saying the word “snack” or “cheese”, could get Oscar to return to the house. Frustrated and ticked-off, I dropped my scrap bowl and marched after Oscar with a grumpy voice – the voice that indicates there is going to be trouble, but that only served to send him running off in yet another direction. Oscar thought this was a game. I, on the other hand, felt my blood beginning to boil. Then, just like the puppy he is, for no reason at all, he ran straight into the tall mess of flowers and plants in the flower bed while I screamed “NO!! Oscar HERE!”, but he proceeded to bust right through the area where my garden orb friend had her web. I arrived just as Oscar stopped in front of the porch steps. The spider web was in a sticky tangle on top of Oscar’s head. Sensing my upset, Oscar stepped away from me, and there on the walkway was my beautiful friend. Yellow fluid lay in a pool next to her, and her abdomen was deflated. Now she looked smaller than ever. I hoped maybe the fluid was not of importance, but it was. In just a few seconds her legs were curled up into her body and she was limp. My friend was dead.
Sadly but carefully, I picked her up and folded her body into a soft leaf of Lambs Ear, gently placing her remains in a cluster of blue Salvia leaves high off the ground. Somehow I hated the thought of pesky ants gobbling her up on the ground. As I sat on the front porch steps feeling a bit low, I thought of an elderly lady I knew long ago. She put her farm up for sale after the death of her husband. She could no longer manage the acres and property by herself. As we walked around her yard, she stopped at the back porch where she had five thick strands of string running from stakes at the ground up to the roof. Lush plants grew askew behind the stakes and trumpet vine had taken over the porch rails and porch posts. All along the strings, huge black and yellow spiders had built webs. Each spider had their own space. “These are my children”, the woman explained. “Every year, the garden orbs come here to build webs using these strings as anchors. I do not know how they know to come here, but every year I have many children. Whoever buys this place must promise to carry on as keeper of the orbs. I hope to find someone who loves them as much as I do”. At that time in my life, I thought this was crazy, and that no one could love a big, scary spider. I was just sure she would never find any person who would make such a promise to her, and if they did promise to keep the spiders, I doubted they actually would.
I have since driven past that farmstead on a few occasions. The house and buildings are falling in and the place looks abandoned. Likely, the land was purchased for cattle grazing only and the buildings left to rot. But I think that lady would be happy to know that our conversation that day did mean something to me later in my life. I hung onto her words for more than twenty-six years. I really cannot remember when it all changed for me – when I began to appreciate spiders, but now I have also become a keeper of the orbs. Each year, I have a few of these beautiful, yellow and black “children” around the house, and I do love them.
Now, if only my little black and white child, Oscar, would grow up and learn to listen…
© 2017 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…