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On summer nights – well, on many nights, really – I end the day out on my front porch, in the dark, relaxing on a wrought iron glider while my dog sniffs around in the yard one more time before we both retire for the night.  I like letting the quiet of the city sink into my bones, allowing the pressures and worries of the day to dissipate into the dark sky above.

For the last five nights I have noticed a bean-sized spider industriously spinning a huge web between the ivy vines that seasonally creep across the porch’s soffit, and the wooden railing down below.  Because the porch light is off – who wants to be bombarded by moths and other flying things while trying to achieve a kind of zen nothingness? – I cannot see the web itself, but back lit against the street light I can see the spider skittering around and around in a herky-jerky circle.  It looks like she’s dancing in thin air, and it’s actually somewhat amusing to watch.  I marvel at her persistence, and with how large the finished web will be – at least a couple of feet from top to bottom, perhaps more depending on her anchor points – and I cheer her on, because the larger the web, the more mosquitoes she is bound to catch and consume.

That first night I found her affectionately amusing.  But the more I watched, the more I became fascinated with her process, and with how amazing it was – here was a creature so distinct and so different from any other, and yet so understatedly a part of my world.  I wondered about what the finished web would look like, and was rewarded the next morning to actually see it in all its orbital splendor, rippling gently in the morning heat.  But when I went out again later in the day, the web was gone, no doubt torn asunder by strong winds that had kicked up in the hot afternoon.

I thought that would be the last I would see of the hard working spider, that she would move on to perhaps a more amenable location, but no – she was back again that night, and I sat in the quiet and calm of a deep summer night and watched her spin her web yet again.  Around and around, in fits and starts, then down and around again.  Patiently, doggedly, persistently.

I’ve watched her do this for five nights now.  Sometimes the web doesn’t even last until morning, or at least I see no evidence of it as I take the Mighty Belle out for our a.m. jaunt to the dog park.  Even when the day has been calm, and the humidity seems to slickly plaster everything into place, there has never been a web by the end of the day, not once.  And yet in the dark of the night, the little spider is back at work, weaving another web, around and around, then down and around again.

At first this struck me as ridiculous.  Why keep building a web when all it does is disintegrate in the course of one day?  But then it occurred to me that this little spider has to know what she’s doing.  Her web must gain her enough sustenance to not only live another day but to keep her settled in one spot.  Nature isn’t stupid, survival doesn’t reward futility.  Perhaps she gorges in the cover of night, when I’m sleeping in air conditioned comfort with the Mighty Belle softly snoring on the floor next to me.  Perhaps she eats her fill of those mosquitoes and the moths that are attracted to the porch light that gets turned back on once I head indoors, and then she retires to the cool riot of green ivy to hide from hungry sparrows or opportunistic ants, to wait out the heat of the day, with the destruction of her web the least of her worries.  Maybe she even releases her web from its anchors once she’s satiated, to make her hiding place less obvious.  Then the next night she starts again, weaves again, gorges again, hides again.  Her entire life could be one persistent cycle, played out from roof to railing, night after night.  I can only hope so; it’s strangely comforting to think of her out there, weaving, around and around, then down and around again.

So what do I take away from this?  A lesson in persistence, in doggedness, in tenacity?  A tutorial in the wonders of nature, in the flabbergasting array of diversity evident in our amazing world?  A cautionary tale regarding poor choices, a sisyphus fable on a minuscule scale?

Naw, I don’t think so.  Sometimes, things just are what they are.  Sometimes, a cigar is nothing but a cigar.  A nightly bout of web-slinging is just what happens to happen.  Persistence is not always something we must deliberately choose to do, sometimes it’s  merely a part and parcel of the marvelous, everyday world we live in.

And for one bean-sized spider – and one not so bean-sized human – that’s good enough for now.

~ Sharon Browning

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