In Defence Of Spiders

In Defence Of Spiders

Hugh – A Little Life Observed

In Defence Of Spiders – I walked out my kitchen door one evening in early September. It was a warm, muggy night – made a little less so by the recent rain shower. I paused in front of a spider’s web – coated with fine, glistening water droplets. It was intricate and lacey and lovely and it made me smile. The web was suspended from one of my hanging summer plants and anchored in a number of places along the top of my garden rocking chair. The creator of this magical web of spun silk was absent. I wondered what twist of fate had led this spider to spin his fragile web in such an open, unprotected space in my garden.

When I got home said spider was hanging upside down in his web. I stopped to watch this little being. I rocked the chair gently and his web moved ever so slightly. The spider’s two front legs moved cautiously but he stayed the course. Perhaps his instincts told him that the gentle stirring in his web wasn’t threatening. Given my propensity for ‘monikers’ – I immediately named him Hugh. The next evening I noticed another web in my garden with a small, black spider attached. Logic being one of my long suits – I named him Little Hugh. The following afternoon, after a particularly strong rain, his web was in tatters. Little Hugh didn’t last long in my garden.

Hugh, on the other hand, was a spider with a whole “nuther” attitude. After every rain fall his beleaguered web would be re-spun by late evening. I realized that I knew almost nothing about spiders – so after a highly unproductive Google search of – ‘Toronto spiders named Hugh’ – I keyed in “spiders”. Dozens of sites came up, extolling the virtues or lack thereof, of the family arachnid. It quickly became evident that Hugh was an air-breathing invertebrate with a segmented body divided into two regions. His anterior segment had four pairs of legs. He had no antennae and was almost certainly filled with blue blood. If his body was accidentally punctured he would quickly perish. Hugh’s close cousins were known to be scorpions, mites and ticks. Was Hugh really a welcome inhabitant in my garden? Not being an avowed fan of “multi-legged creepies and crawlies” – perhaps I should have simply dispatched him with the basement broom!

This Is Hugh In A Rcently Complete Web – He Wasn’t White – (Flash At Night) – But A Deep Taupe Colour

Instead, in a Zen moment, I decided to quietly observe. Hugh and I happily co-existed. Hugh in my garden – I in my home. I knew that he wouldn’t survive the winter. Hugh would enjoy a ‘single season’ of life. He wouldn’t burrow into the ground – or cocoon himself in a wayward autumn leaf – to emerge stretching and yawning when the cold of winter had given way to another green and sparkling spring. Hugh would be gone.

As strange as it may sound, I became quite attached to this quiet, little being during the last week of September and throughout October and November. As the weather got colder, the winds blew stronger and the fall rains became more determined, I developed a contrary admiration for Hugh. One day in mid-October it rained all day – cold, hard water drops accompanied by a biting wind. Hugh’s web was no more and Hugh was missing. I was saddened by this turn of events – but two days later Hugh was back. I watched as he slid down from the overhead plant and secured an anchor on the top of the rocking chair. He then methodically spun his web – strand after fine, beautiful strand. A network of intricate threads appeared and then, once again, Hugh hung upside-down in his gossamer web. There was a certain satisfying order to his life.

On another evening in late October Hugh had just finished yet another new web when a heavy rain decimated it. He was busy when I left the house at eight-thirty. By midnight when I got back home – Hugh was once again ‘with web’.

Hugh became a metaphor for life …

He was endlessly determined.
He was industrious.
He got an early start to the day – gone before 7:00 A.M.
He always arrived home after 7:30 P.M.
When his web had been destroyed during the day he just got busy and built a new one.
Hugh must have had a fully engaged sense of humour and personally I never heard him complain.
Hugh wasn’t afraid of change. Sometimes his web faced one way and the next day he spun it facing in another direction.
Hugh’s anchors – the overhead plant and the rocking chair were constant. He knew what was important in his life and he stayed with it.
When it was time for him to leave my garden he did it simply and without fanfare.

I was up very early the morning of Friday November 17th. I walked my dog Augie, before Hugh left in the morning and I saw him there, suspended in his web. That evening, Hugh didn’t come home. I like to think that he exchanged ‘spider-speak’ with a few of his pals and decided that with the weather turning a tad cold, that the winter months, spent in the south of France would be just the ticket. Having made this decision – Hugh packed up his little, red plaid valise with his important possessions (like extra silk thread and perhaps a small memento from my garden of times past and things remembered) and boarded the spider shuttle for warmer climes.

I always knew that Hugh’s tenure in my garden would be fleeting. There is a
beautiful, yet unknown rhythm to Mother Nature. A certain, but still uncanny ebb and flow. For a short time that autumn – Hugh and the lessons of his short life mattered to me and really touched my heart. May we all be open to learning a thing or two from Nature, the fine balance of life, the importance of observing without judgement and the value of every small life. I know Hugh would approve.

Hugh lived and died in 2006. I still think of that little being sometimes when I walk past the place where he spun his beautiful, intricate webs.