16 July, 2013
I was hiking at Pebble Ledge Ranch with a friend years ago, cupping jagged rocks to pull us forward and resting every now and then on protruding boulders which were remnants of glaciers dating back billions of years ago. We trekked up a hill in silence except for the crunch of dry leaves from our footsteps. As we reached the top, short of breath, a spider web wrapped our faces like a veil of lace. We paused, looked at one another and we were neither surprised nor annoyed. Running into that stretch of web broke the monotony of our climb and measured breathing, giving us time to exhale and rest. As we gently removed the gossamer sheath from our perspiring faces, we both commented on how it did not frighten us knowing its homeowner could be nearby, not pleased that intruders have ruined her spun labor and dwelling place.
We took this time to reflect on what this unexpected “running into” could mean, having recently been enthralled by the concept of biomimicry and how nature can be our teacher. My friend was convinced this was not a coincidence so as we made our way back to base camp, our conversation on spiders, in true to form fashion, weaved into a fascinating discussion on spider facts, its natural behavior and insights on their odd behavior. At that time, I was going through a dilemma about a business decision and was daunted about taking further steps forward, naturally afraid of making mistakes and wrong turns. As we spoke about the web’s properties which can stretch without breaking, the topic of resilience emerged. “Was it not healthy to stretch ourselves to a point of discomfort, venturing out from our safety zone knowing we bounced back to center?”
From the little we knew about spiders, we couldn’t resist talking about the Black Widow species that bizarrely eats her mate after intercourse. Horrific as it sounds, we tried to delve into this utilitarian approach that ends up in a murder of her collaborator upon obtaining a goal. “Cutting out what is useless, moving forward with a mission.” If we focused on this aspect alone, wouldn’t you say the Black Widow emulates a strategic, militant commander who is indomitable with a clear purpose? Was it unselfish that she carried a new generation in her and all her efforts were to lay these eggs and protect them? Obviously the absence of compassionate, conjugal parenting were absent from Mrs. Widow’s value system yet her single handed, razor sharp focus on species extension without any help from a male partner was strangely admirable. Dialectically speaking, you can perceive this as: “You are useless to me so get out of my way!” OR “nothing is more important than the preservation of these eggs so begone!” Either way sounds heartless in our human comprehension but in the animal kingdom, this unique, singular leadership with exceptional vigilance, can be good for its offspring and unfortunately, deathly for its spouse.
The spider’s architectural competency to build and design its web intricately and relentlessly is another incredible feature of this bouncy creature. This observation being more relatable to us of course than its sexual behavior. Spiders offer so much untapped wisdom. We called it a day and as I made my way back to my “human” dwelling place with a firm resolve to move forward with my business endeavor, ready to stretch and be braver. I also thought of giving my husband a tight, grateful hug for helping me raise my two children in this world, a gesture spider wisdom has no place in. Yet, I quietly saluted these creepy crawly commanders of their own universe and patted myself on the back for mine.