The sun came out yesterday for the first time in 9 days. It was delightful to be outdoors without enduring drizzle. And gray. And umbrellas. And sogginess. And shoes that are neither seasonal nor waterproof.
So, I did what everyone else was anxious to do – I took it outdoors to soak up the beautiful fall morning and went for a walk in the park. I had only been walking a few minutes, when I came across this.
Trust me when I tell you that the iphone camera does not take a picture that does it justice. Not in the least. This spider was one of the largest ones I have ever seen. And by ever, I mean ever. It was huge, bright, and colorful and it was in the middle of furiously weaving a masterpiece of a web that somehow spanned the entire width of the paved walking path. I stopped, stunned. I was not really sure of how to react. I was totally taken aback and decided to take a picture to show the kids later in the day. I took several pictures and sighed in irritation and disappointment after previewing each one. Not one single photo could come close to capturing it. I marveled at what was in front of me, wondering if the spider had been waiting for the sun to come out too, held hostage like the sun and the rest of us the last week and a half. I left the sprawling web and it’s weaver and continued on my walk, making another loop around the park green.
On my next lap around, I came upon two well dressed women sporting nicely appointed workout wear and surprisingly perfect make-up. I tugged on my worn t-shirt as I came up to them, conscious of my not so well appointed workout wear and complete lack of any make-up. They called out to me, “LOOK AT THIS!” But the look on their faces did not match the enthusiasm with which they spoke. “I know! So cool!,” I said, “I just walked by it a few minutes ago. Isn’t it amazing?” They both looked at me and said nothing. One woman cautiously stepped away as she spoke, “I think it’s got to be poisonous. Aren’t colorful spiders poisonous? It is just sooo big. They should not be that BIG! I hate spiders. They scare me half to death! And this one … just hanging there – out of nowhere! Let’s just go!,” she implored her friend. The other woman could not stop staring at the spider and it was hard to tell if she echoed the same fears as her friend. Finally speaking up, all she came up with was “that is soooo gross. Spiders are dis-gus-ting. Gives me the creeps.” I am sure I looked dumbstruck standing there, wondering if we were looking at the same thing. I was unsure of how to respond. Believe me, I am no fan of spiders, but it was impossible to see this spider weaving the web and not be in awe. “Have a nice day” I called to their backs, still gazing at the spider, and tugging again at my shirt. But they had already resumed their own conversation and I am not even sure they heard me.
Again I made my way around the greenway, and as I circled around there was yet another woman stopped in the same spot, staring at the same spider and the web. She was an older woman with gray hair and kind blue eyes. Her cheeks were pink and flushed and she was slightly winded. As I approached and slowed near the web, she quietly said in a near whisper, as if being careful not to disturb the creature hard at work, “Can you believe this? It is absolutely amazing.” I smiled, grateful to not feel a little nutty for being in awe of a spider. “Yes,” I softly said, suddenly aware that I too was talking in a hushed tone, respectful of the astisan before us, “I just saw it a few moments ago. It’s amazing.” The woman wiped her nose with a tissue that she pulled from the cuffed sleeve of her light blue sweatshirt, the way my grandmothers have always done, making me somehow momentarily happy and homesick at the same time. She pointed to the spider. “Watch now,” she implored me, her hidden tissue poking out of the sleeve of her raised arm. “See how quickly the web is spun, how the legs move so adeptly…so graceful,” she observed. “Yes, I see it now,” I whispered back to her, “you are right….I hadn’t noticed the way the legs moved before. Amazing!” She flashed me a wise, knowing smile as she stepped back to admire it from a different angle.
As we were both standing there in the path, gazing up towards the sky, we heard the quickened steps of a runner, rapidly approaching, crimson and amber leaves crushing under his feet. We moved to get out of his way, still staring at the wonder before us. The runner hastily nodded to us standing there looking into the trees, and blew right past us – intent on his mission, not even noticing the spider or the web that he nearly ran right through. The woman and I exchanged smiles again, moving to the center of the path left vacant by the runner. “Funny how some people are in such a hurry these days,” She started. “Mmmmm,” I mumbled in agreement or maybe embarrassment, as that could easily be me on most days. Clearly not the running part, but certainly the hurried part. “They don’t see the tiny miracles God puts in front of their noses,” she continued, “even when they nearly run smack into them. Oh well,” she wisely chuckled. “Yes, indeed,” came my quiet reply. We both turned to go. “Blessings on your day, Dear,” were her parting words. “You too,” I said, thankful yet again to be living in the south where people actually say things like that. And mean it.
As I wrapped up my walk, tangling Miss Muffet’s nursery rhyme with the itsy bitsy spider song in my head, I thought about what I had just seen and how truly amazing it was – the incredible spider, the intricate web, and getting to witness the fervent spinning in action. And I thought about the different reactions that everyone had to it. One was scared, one was less than enthused and turned away in disgust, one was in complete awe with gentle wisdom, and one was oblivious and didn’t even notice. On any given day, I could have had any one of those reactions. I was in a place to be humbled as I watched the spider – to see and admire the “tiny miracle” as the wise lady named it. But heaven knows there are days when I come across gifts and blessings strewn brightly and in color and placed perfectly in my path and I don’t even see them, or am scared to acknowledge them, or turn away from them without interest – precisely as those in my path did yesterday.
So, as the story goes (or is it the song?) out came the sun, and along came the spider. And I was simply grateful to see them both.