04 October 2008

Another Spider

Down at Amy's yesterday afternoon.

Standing in her kitchen, I chanced to look out the window. Up under her eaves and silhouetted against the sky I saw a big, dark blob.

A spider. A spider! An amazingly big spider!

If I stood at the right angle and looked at it against the neighbor's house, I could also see the spider's incredibly intricate, large circular web. The web was over a foot in diameter and beautifully constructed. I wondered aloud how long it took this creature to make such a web.

I was thinking back to that other spider, the one on Amy's porch. You may remember, in "The Spider on Amy's Porch," how, in blind ignorance and the stupidity of the moment, I obliterated a jumping spider, Phidippus Audax, using Amy's tiny shoe.

Well, as I stood there looking at this spider, maybe the largest spider I had ever seen "in the wild," it felt like a second chance.

That was, of course, simplistic and unfair, since I had killed that other spider. Nothing would bring that spider back. But this was a second chance for me, at least. I was determined not to make the same mistake. I would not kill this spider. I would not let Amy kill this spider.

Amy was standing there talking about how she used to be tall enough to stand on the back steps and brush off cobwebs under the eaves with a broom. She asked if she should go get a broom.

"Spiders are good, Amy," I said. "They kill a lot of flies." I used this utilitarian argument because Amy does hate the flies, moths, and other bugs that congregate around her front porch light. Also, I didn't want to get into the deeper issues. And besides, Amy understood. She remembered that other spider as much as I did.

But backlit against the afternoon sky, this was one amazing, angular chunk of a spider. As I stood there in awe, Amy said, " Too bad you can't get a picture of it."

This, I think, was Amy's sly way of saying, "Why don't you get a picture of it?"

Of course!! Why not?!

Instead of killing it, this time I could photograph it.

I whipped my new cell phone out of my pocket and tried a few shots. I knew that, whatever kind of pictures I did get, they would have to be severely enlarged to see any detail of the spider at all. So I took a couple pictures, with the spider barely visible as a speck against the sky, right at the center of the frame. I went through the manipulations of blowing them up in the camera.

But, backlit as they were, the pictures came out as dramatic but entirely dark forms, with no detail.

I decided to go out on the back steps, to see what I could see from there.

When I looked up at the spider, I was thrilled! I could see all kinds of detail from this angle.

The spider was not dark at all, but rather beige, as if he was constructed out of old parchment. And he had interesting markings, light and dark dots, all over his legs and his body. Wow!

And how big was he, really? This is a tough question, since I spent lots of time taking pictures of him and later enlarging them to get good big images. I'm guessing his body alone was around half an inch long, and with his legs added he filled up most of an inch, maybe.

In all the time, some ten or fifteen minutes or so, that I spent gazing at the creature, he seemed to be posing for me. He didn't move much, just swaying a little as the afternoon gusts moved his web. I tried picture after picture, knowing that most of them would come out blurry when blown up enough to see the beast. Eventually I braced the cell phone camera against the brick of the house to keep it steady.

That's how I got the picture you see above.

Definitely the biggest spider I have ever seen.

I'll go further than that: It was the best spider experience I have ever had.

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