Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lessons in death

Sometimes a closer look at death can demystify it. The garden spiders are dying now, in droves. I found this one in the greenhouse this morning, and brought it in for Lucas to examine. He took it to his bed and laid it on his pillow in a beam of light. I helped him move it back and forth as he got his first real close-up look at the object of his months-long fascination. A fragment of webbing could still be seen emerging in her spinarettes, enough to anchor to the web until her dead weight snapped it. Her tiny black eyes, the miniscule fangs that brought a season of death to unwary insects who entered her web, spiky black hairs on her eight jointed legs. The abdomen left flattened and saggy after expelling eggs into a silken sac now anchored to the greenhouse wall. Hundreds of them dot our property now, the eggs inside waiting for some secret signal to develop and emerge.

"Are you sad?" I asked Lucas as we examined the spider.

"No," he said after a moment. "I think she's sad. She died when it got too cold."

She didn't look sad to me, but who knows. A child's eyes see what we miss. If I were to die, I would be sad not so much for my own demise, but because it would take me away from my family. I think about that sometimes, more often since a health scare I had last year.

Suspect commented after my last post that spiders are simple creatures incapable of anticipating or worrying about their own deaths. He says that's why spiders build webs and we, being more complex, build grander things, like the Great Wall of China.

I've studied spiders and would respectfully argue that building something like the Great Wall of China is perhaps easier that building a web. Man has yet to figure out how to make a material so thin but so strong as a strand of spider silk. Or to pass along the skill so dispassionately as they fade away, neither demanding nor expecting accolades for their short life's work.

Would I trade spaces with the spider? No. I admire them, but I don't envy them their existence. My fear of loss and leaving is a byproduct of my love. Detatchment is valuable in some areas, but not when it comes to one's family. Life for humans is like licking honey off a thorn. We have to take the sharp with the sweet, and the pain of parting is the price we pay for the joy we find in the company of others.

The web of life is diferent for us all.


Suspect said...

No comments. You said it all:
Life for humans is like licking honey off a thorn.

Awesome photography. Same Canon lens?

Morgan said...

Thanks, suspect. Actually, these shots were taken with the puny 18-55mm lens that came with the camera. It does yield awesome close-up shots and portraits but is useless for anything beyond arm's length.
Lucas was so into his dead spider that I don't even think he was aware I was snapping his picture until he looked up.

CJ said...

I'll place my bet now that your little boy will grow up to be a biologist? He looks like the curious kind. Nice shots, BTW.

sammyray said...

Beautifully written!

Yeah, I don't agree with what Suspect wrote. Animals such as spiders make intricate, beautiful, and functional things on instinct - imagine what they could do with our brains and their abilities.

Sure, humans can do amazing things. Unfortunately, most of them involve destruction rather than creation.

Morgan said...

He and his older sister are bound to do something nature-related. They are two of the most outdoorsy tykes I've ever seen.

Morgan said...

Oh, thanks, Sammyray. And you're right on about instinct.
Instinct is so undervalued. We've been so conditioned to do as we're taught, told and directed that we've become blind and deaf to our innate inner sight and voice. And that's a shame because it takes a wild abandon of sorts to really *create.* People are so afraid of being wrong or failing or being ridiculed that they too often stop before they even begin. Imagine where the arts would be if were were freed from convention.

Erik said...


What is with the creepy spiders? Dont you know those things are demonic? Dont you know that a spider is what Satan originally tried to use to temp Eve? It didnt work cuz spiders are inherently evil, plus they have really small voices so he moved to a serpent after that.

Anyways, all I have to say is that I cant believe you let him play with evil demonic spiders!

Suspect said...

Spiders may be demonic, but taste real nice crispy fried with BBQ sauce. Yum!

Morgan said...

Erik, I don't know why I'm so fascinated with the spiders. I just am. They're pretty, and get a bad rap which you just added to. It was the snake, after all, who tempted Eve in the garden. The spider just hung out watching, and laughed. :-)

Morgan said...

Deep-fried spiders? Hmm...We have enough hanging out around here and since they're dying anyway it does seem a shame for them to go to waste. But I'm not so sure about the BBQ sauce. Maybe a dash of Old Bay seasoning would be better.

Erik said...

If you are aeating spiders I suggest nothing less than 100 proof! Apply liberally then down the rest of the bottle. When you wake up you should be past the idea of eating (shudder) spiders