Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Requiem for Charlotte

There are more things that come out at night than just the stars.
For the past six months, we've been treated to the goings on in an arachnid's world. A small spider had taken up residency in our doorway. She was very methodical; at sunset, she'd come out and setup her web, and before sunrise (usually), she'd have it removed. Her web just occupied a corner but covered a span of perhaps 450mm. She was thorough and neat.
Within a few weeks of her setting up shop in our doorway, she simply kept the heavier threads up and would remove the intricate inner silk, and we let her. She was earning her keep. We named her Charlotte for obvious reasons.
In time, she ceased retreating into her cranny as we came up and simply sat in the center of her web, occasionally shaking it. Even then, it was just a couple of shakes, and then she'd go about her business. It was almost an arachnid wave; "hello, mammalian bipeds!"
In her own way, she was beautiful, with markings rather reminiscent of a grey tabby cat (not unlike my own Lexi, in fact). These were the markings Nature gave her for her role as a predator. Predators in nature are not evil; they serve a very important place. Spiders, no matter how frightening or repugnant they may seem to some, are remarkable. I will admit, they have startled me whenever I've come across a large one in an awkward place, but soon I am simply admiring them.
Orb spinners, like Charlotte, are very common, but she was uncommon. She seemed to have developed a relationship that was mutually beneficial.
Unfortunately, small spiders do not have long lives, and we had no idea how old she was when she made a home in our doorway, though she was clearly an adult, if a young one. As the weather began to cool, she began to slow down. I knew that with the first chills of October she was having a hard time. Her webs were shrinking, her movements slowing. Several nights, she would simply not come out.
This morning, as I was heading out for work, I glimpsed up. She was hanging out of her nook. One of her rear legs was extended. I blew on her once, but she did not move.
She was gone.
I waited until I returned home to remove her. By that time, she had fallen out of her web altogether, and was laying on the doorstep. I carefully picked up her body. I've never cried over an invertebrate, but for her, I got choked up.

One of the things that saddens me is that I never took a photograph of her web when it was in its glory, with her perched in the center. But I at least wanted to remember her, even if in the somewhat macabre death photo above.
She was magnificent, and I will honestly miss her.
Ad astra per somnium, dear Charlotte.

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