Monday, November 13, 2006

Eulogy for a spider

I have sad news for you today, readers. Octavia, Arachnid Queen of the Greenhouse Realm, is no more.

We got in from Baltimore last night around 10 p.m. and after running a gauntlet of ecstatic house pets I went straight to the orchid room to check on my eight-legged pal. When I saw that her web was empty, I looked for the lines of silk she always spun on her way to a new location, the lines I’d follow in my own personal game of Find the Spider.

When I couldn’t find any I knew. I knew my spider was dead, even though it would take some searching to find her halfway down the wall, suspended upside down by one delicate leg, the others curled in and around her crumpled body.

Is it silly to mourn a spider? Is it silly to cry? Perhaps. But I can’t help myself. For a brief but magical period, I was allowed a glimpse into Octavia’s world - a world that snared and held my interest as firmly as the webs that snared and held her prey. Octavia was a creature with an amazing work ethic, a terrible beauty who reminded me that how one perceives something depends on how one is willing to look at it. Where some saw a brutality in her feeding behavior, others came to see a timeless, exquisite dance of life and death.

I will miss Octavia. I will miss how she blithely ignored me as I stood each morning, coffee cup in hand, to marvel at the web she’d created while I’d slept. I’ll miss the way she allowed me to occasionally brush the bottle-brush tufts of hair on her leg before either scurrying away or warning me with a threat display. I’ll miss standing on a chair with my camera, getting the shots that I’ve used to document her life.

Above is my last photo of Octavia. I had misgivings about posting it, but ultimately decided it was fitting, since her death is part of the story and as much a part of the natural order of things as the death of her victims. And since I wasn’t here when she died, writing this last chapter is how I shall say goodbye.

So goodbye, Octavia. Your egg sac is safe in the corner of the orchid room, which this morning is not quite the same. But it gives me some comfort to see it there. Next year I shall write of your daughters.


Erik said...

I am umm sorry for your loss? You know how much I loved Octavia and as such you know just how much I will miss her too.

Awesome documentary tho.

Morgan said...

Thanks, Erik. I'll miss Octavia for both of us. I gave her a proper funeral this morning, interring her below the celtic cross statue in my flower bed. May she live on in your dreams. ;-)

I am glad you enjoyed the documentary.

CJ said...

I'm not a big fan of spiders but I always enjoyed the stories because you seemed so excited about the things Octavia did and it was nice to be told a spider story by someone who sees them the way you do. I'm sorry you lost her. Cheer up soon, doll.

thimscool said...

Nicole has begun reading Charlotte's Web to Atticus, to prepare him for his first theater experience.

Morgan said...

Oooooh.... I just picked up the movie storybook on Thursday for Lucas. Alex has read the book and Lucas has seen the animated movie. The new one is awesome because it has a real spider! Lucas will be in raptures, and we could all use a lift in spirit after losing Octavia. Of course, Charlotte died at the end of her story, too, but it was still a great classic.

jcw said...

"Next year I shall write of your daughters."

I just read there are several hundred eggs in each egg sac. Hope you're home when they hatch. Could be like the movie 'Arachnaphobia'. ;)

sammyray said...

Sorry Morg. I must admit that I felt a slight tinge of sadness at the news, despite my lack of love for spiders. I imagine that has more to do with your gifts as an enthusiastic storyteller, rather than Octavia's gifts as an eight-legged bird of prey.

I wish we could go like an insect at death, quiet, unknowing, and always at peace. Consciousness is more of a burden than a blessing.

Morgan said...

Oh thank you, Sammyray. And I quite agree. It would be far preferable to just slip away.
I don't know if non-humans are less conscious of death or if they just accept its inevitability with less fuss.

Morgan said...

JCW, I took some photos of a link spider egg sac hatching. I'll have to post them sometime. There were so many babies.
The garden spiders we have here (also orb weavers) hatch out in th spring and the mulch in my flower beds last year was crawling with hatchlings.
My only concern with my golden silk spider egg sacs is that by being in the greenhouse they may go into an early hatch, which would hurt their chances of survival.

Erik said...

My only concern with my golden silk spider egg sacs is that by being in the greenhouse they may go into an early hatch, which would hurt their chances of survival.

This may be considered aiding and abetting but perhaps you could move one sac outside so that it might hatch later?

Morgan said...

Erik, we have one outside that another golden silk spider laid on a roll of wire. We're leaving that one out. Larry thinks I shouldn't worry so about Octavia's, because it's up high on the greenhouse ceiling by a corner where a tiny bit of air gets in. He said that combined with the fact that the orchid room isn't kept as that warm as our tropical plant greenhouse should mean the egg sac will hatch when it's supposed to.
If the worst happens and they don't hatch I can always find juveniles this spring and bring them here, provided we don't have a really cold winter that knocks them back.
The golden silk spiders are just establishing themselves in our area and the biologist I interviewed said it's because we've had such mild winters the last few years. They're actually tropical spiders and are all over the place in Florida.
The genus, Nephila, actually includes some much bigger than Octavia, but they're down in Central America.

mitzibel said...

Dammit, you silly hippie, that's the first time I've ever not been glad to see a spider dead.

Seriously, though, you did a fantastic job documenting Octavia and her life. Your photos may have even helped me overcome a small part of my "ohmyshitkillitkillitkillit" response to spiders in general.

That Cleaning Lady said...

Thanks to Mitzibel for voicing for me what's kinda hard to say. Thanks to you I have a newfound appreciation for spiders, and have worked to help our own Little Octavia survive the winter. I don't scream shitkillitkillitkillit anymore, but I'd be darned if I'd reach out and try to touch some leg hair-- gosh you're brave. I hope you'll consider putting a book or photo history and short story together... Sorry you're sad, but you'll have lots of babies next year to look after, and maybe more than one of them will stay so you can feed them the grasshopper's babies!

Erik said...

I am proud to say that my "killitkillitkillit" response is fully intact. I did so just today (or well, yesterday really but when one cant sleep it is all the same)


Did you notice that Nephila is VERY close to Necrophilia (Serious! all you have to do is add a few letters!) I think this proves that spiders are evil!

Morgan said...

To Mitzibel and That Cleaning Lady:
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your words did so much to lift my spirits. I know so many people kill spiders without a thought and it's heartening to know that Octavia's story as inspired appreciation for spiders.

Erik, have you ever noticed that if you transpose the letters of God you have Dog? Or if you remove two letters from prayer you have rape. You're welcome to come here and make all the points you want. Just try to think them through next time, OK? ;-)

Erik said...


You still didnt disprove my theory (o=

Actually when I first saw "nephila" the firt thought that came to mind was death, but then I realized that wasnt the word so I just stretched it a bit.

As a peace offering I give you this. The pictures arent as good as yours I dont think but some are still quite well done.

Morgan said...

Erik, you have totally redeemed yourself. ;-)
Those pictures are really good. I think it's awesome that they thought to scan the spider. Thanks so much for sending that link!
Last night I found this really definitive Web site on spiders. The guy who did it is European and must have some serious time on his hands, but it's really good.

Don't spend too much time there, Erik. I know how you love those spiders. ;-)

Erik said...

caring for your tarantula? sick and twisted! this guy needs help! (o=

These two pics are much more pleasant!

Erik said...

umm, its belly dancing y'all! dont freak!

Morgan said...

Ha, Erik. Indeed bellydancing pictures are different from spider pictures but the girl in them is very pretty.
At the last Earth Day celebration held at the park near our home a belly-dancing troupe held a demonstration. It is absolutely amazing how those girls used isolated sets of muscles to create the moves they did. It was all very exotic and sensual. And the outfits were neat, too, with all the bangles and bright flowing fabrics.

Anonymous said...

I haven't commented here before even though I've read your blog for sometime now but I did want to say I'm sorry to hear about your spider. I really enjoyed the pictures and stories you told about her. I will miss them now that she's gone and just want to say thanks for posting about Octavia.

Bobbb - Citizen of Earth said...

Welcome home Morgan

Charlotts Web comes to mind

I mourn the least of souls if there is an encounter or connection.

I will have to talk to the river about this
Though she is busy preparing for winter - we do have things to discuss

see you tomorrow

Morgan said...

Thanks, Bobbb. I still feel a bit blue over losing Octavia. She was so shy and pretty. I didn't realize I'd take her passing quite this hard.

Morgan said...

Anon, thanks for your kind words. It was a pleasure to write about Octavia.