We have a spider that lives on the front porch. One supposes her to be the great-great-great-great-great grandspider of her tribe, for many of her kin have similarly taken up residence on the porch and eaten their fill of our many flying insects attracted to the bright porch light that illuminates the doorway until dawn.
Like a lot of people I suffer from a mild form of arachnophobia. I used to suffer really badly as a child, but with age I’ve mellowed, and at one period of my life I actively sought to overcome the fear by observing spiders at a friendly distance. Thus I began to get better acquainted with one of the ancestors of the current porch spider and would routinely exit out of doors around 8:30 pm to watch her spin her web.
Orb weavers like the one I watch are a particularly gruesome looking species seen at close range. It’s a wonder they don’t scare the begeebers out of each other — indeed, perhaps they do. One notes they aren’t particularly social. And if you could somehow manage to get a mirror in front of one of them, we might find that humans aren’t the only ones who suffer a little arachnophobia.
They are not social. They are chiefly gastronomical. They will eat anything that crosses their paths that is small enough to eat. Spiders, it would appear, live to eat and are nothing if not dedicated, relentless predators. Even a mate becomes, ultimately, a gastronomical and not a romantic adventure in the last. A spider does nothing but sit at its web’s center (the original website) waiting serenely for the chance to kill. And what an errie spectacle indeed to see the pivotal moment unfold. A formerly immobile, passive looking creature snaps into sudden killing-machine frenzy. At such moments, one is grateful that they are so small.
But the web seems to be a whole universe to a spider and doubtless they have no thoughts about anything that lies beyond its borders. So they make nice symbols of a contemplative life — even of an artistic life –since a spider builds her web and occupies it and gathers her everything into it.
When you watch a spider spin a web, especially if you are an artist yourself, I think you find reassurance that the drawing life has its definite touchstone in nature. The ordinary normal web is a beautiful artifact. And a web glistening with dew is like a priceless, precious, fragile necklace to adorn the small corners of the world.
The impulse to draw is something that connects us to the natural world, not only because of what we observe while drawing but by the very act of drawing. One becomes like a spider — one who builds a web meant to catch not bugs, in our case but to catch ideas.