I was reading Stephen King’s “On Writing” and one of his anecdotes had to do with the dreaded writing assignment, How I Spent My Summer. Stephen chose to break tradition and not assign the worn-out theme to his class. This started me thinking about how often, or not, I was assigned that theme. To the best of my recollection, only one year in grammar school was that theme assigned.
As a child, my summers were non-eventful. There were no vacations to distant places, no special trips to Chicago’s museums or events. Instead, my younger sister, brother and I rode our bikes through neighborhood alleys, maneuvered our skateboards in the doctor’s parking lot, played basketball in the alley with a couple of neighborhood kids and dodge-ball in our backyard. Sometimes, we’d sit in our neighbor’s pile of rich dirt, out of the sun and shaded by a beautiful oak tree. The dirt pile belonged to Mark’s dad, who owned the florist shop across the alley. We talked about all the things that kids talk about. Oh, how I wish I could time-travel and eavesdrop on one of those simple conversations.
So many summers have passed between then and now. I don’t ride a bicycle, skateboard or sit under an oak tree with friends talking about simple things. As an empty-nester, my life seems void of social engagements. Neighbors are busy with their extended families and I don’t have time to join social clubs. I cook three meals a day for my husband and it seems there is so little time available between cooking and cleaning up the kitchen afterward. I also have ongoing renovation projects which keep me busy when my body isn’t screaming from some sort of you’re-getting-older pain. …And then, I’m always trying to find time to write.
This summer was no different than recent past summers, except, I unexpectedly developed a fascination for spiders. To preface my comments, please know that I do not like spiders. If I see a spider in my home, I will kill it. Yet, this past summer, there was one spider who I observed for several weeks. It lived on our back patio. Every evening, the little guy would busily re-build its web, mesmerizing me in the process. I was so fascinated by the procedure. It was a mathematical creation.
When the little spider was finished building its web, it would go to sleep on the silky knot in the center of the web. In the morning when I would drink my coffee on the patio, Little Spider was still there, but by sometime after lunch, the web would be broken. I often wondered if one of the many nearby birds ate Little Spider for a snack, but, by late afternoon, it would come out of its hiding place in a nearby planter and once again begin fashioning its web. This went on for a few weeks.
As I mentioned, Little Spider was small. Its web was very thin, I didn’t think it was strong enough to capture a fly and began wondering how Little Spider survived without capturing any food. This was during the hottest days of summer. How could Little Spider survive without food, but moreover, without water?
One morning, I went to the patio to have a smoke and noticed Little Spider was working on its web. This seemed odd behavior since web-building was typically performed in the late afternoon. I watched until it stopped walking its web. It hung from the silk strand still attached to its body. It moved no longer. I approached it to see if it might run from me. No. Little Spider died. My heart sank.
I was very sad but grateful to have witnessed the incredible daily life of Little Spider.
As I am growing older, I’m finding that I pay more attention to the little things in life, kind of like a new-found wonder for life/nature that is all around us. When we are so busy raising our family, so much wonder is unnoticed.
I took this photo on our front patio. It is not Little Spider, and I did not witness how this guy made its web, but boy oh boy, I could have sat for hours to see how this was done. Nature is a miracle, and we are all a part of it. Don’t forget to wonder at its amazement.
“There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature.”
-Henry David Thoreau