Fragile existence

Charlotte didn’t consume her old web or rebuild a new web last night. This disturbs me because I’m convinced she went to bed hungry. At nightfall, there was not much more than a tiny nat or two trapped on the sticky strands of her dilapetated web. A web which had taken a substantial beating throughout the day and was literally threadbare. A web which should have been consumed for protein and energy, especially considering the day’s unfruitful harvest. A web which without reconstruction would have little success in capturing nourishing food the next day. A web which I’ve grown to depend on as its consistency brings order to the chaos of my Covid existence.

When I awoke this morning and saw she had not been very active the previous evening, I searched her hiding spot in a panic. The sigh of relief that shook my body when I found her slumbering in her normal position could be felt a mile away. I believe it registered as an earthquake on our local seismometers. There she was, in all her glorious spider-ness, with the striking gold lighting bolt emblazoned down her back, resting in the fetal position, with her eight hairy legs hugged tightly to her richly hued reddish-brown body.

Charlotte, the orb-weaver, sleeping

But the feeling of relief was transient. I had done too much research on orb-weavers in recent days and this lack of attention to her web continued to pull at my heart strings – making me ponder if Charlotte could be slowing down. All the textbooks were telling me that orb-weavers reach maturity in summer, mate, possibly cannibalize their mate, lay their eggs, and die in late summer or early autumn. My heart skipped a beat as I struggled to recall the date. I vaguely remembered having my lackluster 50th birthday under Covid quarantine last month. And my birthday is in August. And didn’t we just observe Labor Day? So that would take us easily into September, the beginning of autumn. Oh…my…god! Was Charlotte’s end almost here? Had she already lived her projected lifespan of a year? How could this be? We had only just recently found each other.

I felt the tears welling up in my eyes, remembering how Wilbur the pig lost his own Charlotte in much the same way. But Wilbur had Charlotte’s parachuting babies to console him and whisper positive sentiments in his ears as they drifted down to earth, on their way to being his new family. Would my Charlotte at least do me the honor of leaving her egg sack in a location where I could observe it — where her babies would become part of my life? I wiped away the tears and reminded myself that Charlotte was still here and that I’d have to cross that bridge when the time arrived.

For now, I will continue to watch her with fascination, hoping she has some good days left and that she snags a hearty meal on that decrepit web for dinner tonight. As much as I don’t believe in intervening, perhaps I will find an injured insect for her and leave it as an offering of my love and gratitude.

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