Country diary: Caught in the web of a spinning goddess

My tiny garden is a disgrace. Everything planted neatly in spring has grown too big and too wild. Fading plants clamber over each other, collapsing among the weeds, but what could feel shameful to me turns out to be the perfect habitat for my garden spiders.

The giant spoked webs that stretch over the path between the chaos make it clear: this is their kingdom anyway. Acquiescing, I have taken to ducking and weaving between them as I hang the washing out, moving like someone in a Mission: Impossible scene. Perhaps to the neighbours I look like an acolyte, bowing respectfully. The spiders sit goddess-like in the centre of their creations. The older females have grown enormous, their round brown bodies speckled with that distinctive fleur-de-lys. I am in awe of them. I keep wandering outside just to gaze at them, to wonder at their skillfulness, their stillness, their mythic timelessness.

It is with a wince then that I end up clumsily ruining a particularly fine web. I watch as its occupant seems to think for a moment and then placidly eat what remains until all that’s left is the all-important bridging line from which she can more easily respin.

It is a dry morning and so I decide to pull up the patio table to write, hoping I might get to watch. Absorbed, I miss her laying out the spokes, but look up in time to see her begin the spiral. I can’t look away then. It takes about 20 minutes and by the end, I find I’m crying. Perhaps you’ll think me silly, but there is something about the careful persistence of this being’s way of life, her deliberate, assessing pauses when the breeze threatens to throw off her precise angles, that is intensely moving. Here is one of life’s true wonders; right here, in my tatty old garden.

It is only as I get up to leave that I realise – she has anchored one crucial thread to my notebook. I leave the book there, to get wet if it must: an offering from one patient artist to another.

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