Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Zippy, The Awkward Spider

Every time we have come to TX for a visit over the last five years it seems a different kind of wildlife has won the race for that year to be the dominant bug here in the country. I think different climate conditions favor different populations. Last year's drought brought millions of grasshoppers. This year there aren't so many, perhaps because this year's ample rainfall has been good for the spiders. Fortunately, the rain has also allowed the scorpions to keep more to themselves, so we have not seen so many of them, either. The spiders are the best and most welcome (except the widow and the recluse) because you know they are keeping the insect population under control. Don't get me wrong I am not ready to let one walk on my arm, but they are a very cool part of living in the country.

There are always some here and there of all kinds of spiders: Green garden spiders the size of a quarter, bold jumping spiders, wolf spiders with furry legs, little ones that look like crabs, leggy ones that are striped like a zebra. I know that may make you shudder, but they are so large and predictable that they get to be familiar, not scary because really, you are thousands of times bigger than they. They will spin their web and park in the middle of it for days at a time, trapping their food until the web gets too torn up and it becomes time to spin a new one. As long as they stay in their place (outside) and out of the way (not where I want to be), they are fascinating to watch.

Among the spiders, the ones that seem to have won the survival race this year are gigantic leggy yellow and black garden orbweavers, some as large as 5” from leg tip to leg tip. I kid you not, they are big enough to be pets, if you are into that sort of thing. They are just everywhere: on the shrubbery around the pool, hanging from the eaves of the house, anyplace they can spread a net to catch unsuspecting bugs.

So this is a story about a yellow garden spider. We'll call him Zippy. I first met Zippy one windy afternoon last week when we were trying to bring in some toys and other items to shelter from the impending storm. One of those items was a large cooler parked about 18” away from Justin's car (recently named “Hey Kool-Aid!” Oh Yeah!). As I reached for the cooler to wheel it under the breezeway between the house and the garage I suddenly realized one of our large arachnid friends (Zippy) had spun himself a web between the cooler and Justin's car. After admiring him for a moment, we wheeled the cooler, Zippy and all, to the protected breezeway and went inside to weather the storm. Later we came out to check on his status. We tried to help him climb up the wall to build a web up high out of the way, but it appeared one of his legs was damaged from knocking around during the windstorm. So we directed him around the corner into the shrubbery.

Later that evening, Justin came outside to find that Zippy had returned and had spun his new web—right across the doorway leading into the garage. Not really a convenient spot, even if you don't mind cohabiting the outdoors with spiders. So he encouraged Zippy off the web and around the corner, again.

The following morning, he had spun an even more beautiful web—across the doorway leading to the music room above the garage. This is right next to the door leading into the garage, and also in the breezeway. Still not so convenient! We chased Zippy around the corner a third time, hoping he might get the message to avoid that part of the house.

Well sure enough, a few days later, Zippy, gimp leg and all, had gotten the message. He moved 20 feet away, over to the pool! On my way out to the pool one morning I happened to look up and behold his newest creation (with him on it) about 7 feet above the ground, as if it were the crossbar connecting the bushes that grow on either side of the gate. I felt a little sheepish being bothered by him but went to get Justin anyway, with the words, “there's an awkward spider...”

By the following morning, when we found him AGAIN, this time completely blocking the pool gate, we just had to laugh at seeing our friend again. It doesn't seem right to call this spider awkward. Perhaps the better way to describe him is, “The Persistent Spider.”

Zippy just keeps doing what God created him to do, and doesn't worry too much about the rightness or wrongness of his placement. When his web gets destroyed, he just gets back up and builds another one. When he gets pestered and chased off, he just gets back up and builds another web. No crying, no sitting in a hole and complaining that life is so hard. He just keeps trying. There is definitely something I can learn here. I want to strive to live my life with as much persistence as this little dude.

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