Monday, December 19, 2011

Webs of significance

We cast our nets and catch what comes. What else is there? If we are a planet or moon, we might catch an asteroid. If we are a bush on the shore, perhaps sea shells. Some of us catch more than others. It depends, I suppose, on the shape and location of our webs.

In the corner where I sit each morning a spider built its web. It was small and black, its body smaller than a tear drop, legs like tiny hairs.

Over the course of a week I watched it. One morning I thought it was dead, but when I leaned in close to look, my breath stirred the web and the spider steadied itself and climbed fast to the wall. When I backed off it returned to its central perch.

Another morning it had caught a spider, which by the time I arrived on the scene was already dead, and the little one was sucking its body dry. The next morning nothing remained of its prey, not even legs.

Then one morning a large spider seemed to be caught in the web. It was alive, struggling on one side of the web. The little black spider held still at the center, facing its larger prey.

The new spider was big as a daddy longlegs – its black legs would have wrapped around a robin’s egg – but the body was small and brown, size and color of a dried booger.

As I sat and watched the larger one found its way to the wall and freedom.

I’d thought when I first saw the little spider that the corner was a poor choice for a web, for how many bugs would happen by this corner, at this time of year? But in three days I’d seen the spider capture two much larger spiders, and though the second one got away, that seemed pretty good prospects, at least for catching spiders.

The next morning I found the web occupied by the kind of spider I’d seen escape the day before, perhaps the same one, but the little one was now gone. I presumed it was eaten, but I suppose it might have been driven off.

Watching the spiders, any time I see anything caught in a net, I think of Clifford Geertz’s definition of culture: “webs of significance” that we ourselves have spun.

The spiders in my office corner remind me that the occupants of webs change day by day.

No comments: