A Fall Walk- 2019

I’ll just come right out and say it.  Fall was a little blah in Middle Tennessee this year.  I’ve lived here 59 years and I can’t remember such a colorless autumn, especially right in our own neighborhood.  Our maple trees never did get any color.  Their leaves stayed green, then turned brown and crinkly, and then fell to the ground.  The two trees that I usually love to photograph every year in our neighborhood due to their magnificent orange, yellow, and red colors, were just, well, dull this year.  No color at all.  I heard on the news that if you hoped to see any autumnal colors in Tennessee this year that you would need to drive to East Tennessee, near the mountains.

Hubby and I went to our favorite state park a couple of weeks ago.  There was very little color, when compared to previous years, although you might not think that from these photos because when we did come across the handful of trees that did have color, I stopped and took pictures.  We only saw one tree which had red in it (or a few red branches I should say), a few trees with yellow leaves, but mostly just green and browns.

I also heard on the news that we only had three fall-like days here.  It seemed to go from summer to winter temperature-wise.

Still, I love fall and it’s always been my favorite time of the year.

Loved the clouds!

This cluster of trees was the only color in the entire park.

The only red leaves we saw on the two mile hike we did!

Beautiful yellow!

This is mostly what we saw…. browns and green.

How have the fall colors been in your area this year?

Gail

Posted in Autumn, Nature, Seasons | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Lessons Learned From a Garden Spider

I cried today when I found the dead body of a garden spider friend I’ve been watching every single day for the past two months or more.  I called her Autumn.  And after finding Autumn’s little deceased and crumpled body this morning, my husband was ready to have me committed when I told him I wanted to bury her.  I was dead serious.

Middle Tennessee had its first frost on Halloween night.   We had our second frost last night.  Garden spiders usually perish with the first frost.  Autumn perished with the second frost.  Poor moribund Autumn stayed in her web until 3 am yesterday morning throughout temperatures in the low to mid 30s.  Halloween night, I watched her crawl down the brick under the window where her web was, the first time she had left her web in the two months since she took up residence there.  I knew she was going off to die.  I told her goodbye and I told her I would watch her egg sacs for her when she was gone.  After all, she had worked so very hard at making them, and then protecting them.

When I got up yesterday morning, Autumn’s web was empty.  And I felt such a sadness.  But then just a while later while standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye, and looked up, and there was Autumn!  She was ascending ever so slowly towards the center of her web where she had lived happily for the past two months, close to her egg sacs.  She was cold and weak and looked so thin and fragile.  She was no longer her plump, healthy, and vigorous looking self.

She stayed there near her two egg sacs all day and all night yesterday.  When I went to bed last night, it was 36 degrees and SO cold out.  I knew I wouldn’t be seeing my Autumn girl again.  When I awoke this morning, I went to the kitchen window and as I suspected, her web was empty.  I went outside and looked around and found her lifeless little body under our recycling bin, directly underneath her web.  She was gone.  And I wept.  Wept just as I had that 3rd grade day when the teacher read the ending of Charlotte’s Web to the class and I learned that Charlotte the spider had died without ever seeing her babies.  I wept because in some strange way, I felt I had lost a friend.  I wept because 60 year old postmenopausal women can be just plain silly like that sometimes.

You see, I watched this spider spend many, many hours building and rebuilding her web every day.  I watched her catch and inject venom into her prey,  watched her wrap that prey in silk, and later, ingest that prey.  I watched her cut the shells of the remains of bugs she ingested out of her web and then watched her tediously repair her damaged web.  I watched her spend hour upon hour making her eggs sacs which absolutely fascinated this nature loving girl.  I watched her fiercely defend those egg sacs.  I loved waking up and seeing what Autumn had in store for me that day.  I somehow wished I had spent my own life working every bit as hard as that spider did every. single. day.

R.I.P. my Autumn girl.  You taught this 60 year old woman many lessons about hard work, perseverance and the circle of life.  Lessons, that unfortunately, aren’t always easy to learn or learned in a timely manner.

Tomorrow, as silly as it may seem to some, I will bury you under the red maple tree closest to your egg sacs.  I think you deserve that much.

Gail

Posted in Death, Life, Nature | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

The New Egg Sac

This fall, I have enjoyed watching our resident garden spider (I call her Autumn), who decided to make her web right outside our kitchen window.  About a month ago, Autumn, who was nice and plump, made an egg sac.  You can read about it here.   She slimmed down considerably after making that egg sac.

I’ve noticed for the past week that Autumn has quit re-spinning her web every morning.  Her web is no small creation.  In fact, it’s quite large – about two feet across.  She starts it before the sun is up and finishes it just as it’s becoming light.  I stood at the kitchen window early one morning and watched her finish it. It amazed me how her little body could just keep making more and more silk.  I was mesmerized and I couldn’t quit watching.

It’s been cooler here at night (anywhere from the 40s to the 60s).  One night it got down to 36.  I don’t think we’ve had a frost yet and I know garden spiders often succumb to the first frost.  I notice Autumn’s activity decreases significantly when the temperature drops.  Her web is looking very shabby now and I haven’t witnessed her catching any prey or eating in the past two weeks.  I doubt her dilapidated little web could even catch any prey now.  But I noticed a few days ago that she had become nice and plump and round again.

Last night when I was letting the kitties out on the deck, I had the outside lights on which shine on Autumn’s web (which is between the kitchen window and the screen of the deck) and I noticed that I didn’t see her silhouette in the center of the web on the stabilimentum (the silky zigzag pattern they make) where she just about always sits.  My heart sank a little.  I’ve known her time is about up and I feared Autumn had passed on to that great web in the sky.   My eyes glanced up to the egg sac, and there she was!  She was depositing more silk around the sac.  I thought to myself that she must know her time is drawing near and she was just reinforcing the sac to afford it a little more protection for when she’s gone.

I’ve read that garden spider egg sacs are heavily parasitized by wasps and flies.  A blogger friend commented on my last post that mud daubers are big enemies to the egg sacs and that she often finds baby garden spiders inside the mud dauber nests as she’s washing them away.  I thought about how very hard these spiders work in making the sac and what an incredible amount of energy it takes.  It made me sad to think that all of this spider’s hard work might be in vain.  But then I guess it’s helping the mud daubers.  I keep reminding myself that it’s all about the circle of life.

Two hours went by and I checked on Autumn again and she was still busy working and depositing more silk but this time I noticed a bleb and it dawned on me that she was making a new egg sac!  Where is her energy coming from, I wondered?  Another hour went by and I checked on her one last time before going to bed and she was still busy at work.  It was midnight at that point.

This morning, hubby told me to go check on Autumn, that there was a second egg sac.

Autumn, the garden spider, and her two egg sacs. The oldest sac is the top sac and the newer sac that she spun last night is at the bottom.

Autumn and the new egg sac.

I can’t imagine how exhausted that spider is.  Making that egg sac took many, many hours and I’m sure she worked until the sun came up.  Today I watched a time lapsed video of a garden spider making an egg sac.  I had no idea it involved so much work by the spider.  It’s really amazing when you stop to think about it.

Watching this spider has absolutely fascinated me.  I will miss her when she’s gone.

Gail

Posted in Animals, Autumn, Life, Nature | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Breasts, Body Shaming, Bullying, and Body Image- Part Two

As you can tell by the title above, I’m posting about a difficult and very personal topic but an important one.  If you’re interested in reading Part One, you can read it here. 

I discussed in Part One how I was teased and body shamed over my large breast size.  It all started in the seventh grade when I seemed to blossom overnight.  I remember a day when a boyfriend told me in the 10th grade that I was known, not by my name, but as the “majorette with the big boobs.”  He was the first boy I dated, the first boy I kissed, and the first boy I fell in love with.  It was 1974.  One fall evening after a Friday night football game and a Pizza Hut date, we were sitting in his parked car in my parents’ driveway talking and sharing a few innocent kisses, when he decided to, well, putting it bluntly, cop a feel.  I was only 15 years old, very naive and an old fashioned girl at that, and his actions won him a big slap in the face and an admonishment that I was not “that kind of a girl.”  He was surprised.  Much to my surprise, he then told me he had been put up to it.  He told me that one of the football coaches had asked him that morning if he was going to the football game that night.  He told the coach, yes, and then the coach (who I suppose knew he was dating me) asked him if he had a date with me after the game.  When he said yes, his story was that the coach told him he should reach down my shirt and get him a good feel and see if he came back with a big ole handful of cotton.  I never knew if his story was true but he seemed sincere when he relayed it to me and I always suspected it was indeed true.  And it disgusted me. For a coach to tell a young 16 year old boy with raging hormones who is just beginning to date, to do something like that to a fifteen year old girl is just  incomprehensible.  Maybe he was joking and didn’t think the boy would actually take him seriously and really do it.  And furthermore, to imply that I was stuffing my bra with cotton to have a chest of this size just made me downright angry.  If he only knew how I hated my large breasts and the emotional pain they brought me.

This “boyfriend” dumped me not long after this incident which was very hurtful because I had fallen for him hard.  Looking back, I guess he didn’t get what he wanted, so he moved on.  Maybe that’s all he ever wanted from me anyway and never cared about me.  I don’t know.  I thought long and hard about confronting the coach but I never did.  And I really do regret that.  I didn’t want to go through the embarrassment that I had gone through in the 7th grade, but the biggest reason is that I knew he would not admit to ever saying that, even if it was true.  I contemplated getting advice from my mother but I remembered the seventh grade incident and sure didn’t want to relive that.  I also felt I was big enough to handle this myself and Lord only knows what my father would have done to this boy (or the coach) had it ever reached his ears.  I didn’t even want to think about that.  My father never much cared for the boy or the fact that I was beginning to date anyway.  So I never told my parents and I never confronted that coach.  Many years later, I would see that coach’s obituary in the newspaper and I remember feeling such a strange feeling and a deep regret.

The teasing continued on throughout high school.  You may be asking why I just didn’t go ahead and get a breast reduction if I was that miserable.  Well, I had several reasons, not all of which are easy to explain.

I mentioned in Part One that my sister underwent a breast reduction at the age of 16.  A breast reduction is not an easy surgery.  The list of complications from breast reduction is a mile long.  There’s the risk of infection of course as there is with most surgeries, blood clots, fat necrosis, breast asymmetry, inability to breastfeed, nerve damage and changes in breast sensation which may be permanent or temporary, and pain just to mention a few.  There were things about my sister’s surgery which left an indelible impression on me and contributed to my decision to NOT have a reduction (I would ultimately have one but not until my early 50s).  There was the incident that happened immediately after her surgery when she was returned to her room from the recovery ward, where a young inexperienced candy striper thought my sister had gone into shock and called a code.  My mother said suddenly all hell broke loose and there was a flurry of people in white coats running hysterically to my sister’s bedside. There were bells and whistles going off and my mother, scared out of her wits as you can imagine, fainted dead away on the floor and ultimately had to be put in a wheelchair and carted away.   Later she would be chided by a doctor for fainting and getting in the way!  Turns out my sister was just showing normal signs of coming out of anesthesia and was not in shock.  Back when they did my sister’s surgery, they bound the chest tightly and used adhesive tape.  At one post op visit, a nurse hurriedly and forcefully ripped the tape right off of my sister’s chest, stripping skin off right along with the bandage.  My screaming and crying sister was left with raw tissue and oozing blood.  According to my sister, my mother did a little screaming of her own after that…. at the nurse.  With breast reductions there is always some unfavorable scarring (some worse than others).  That scarring does usually fade with time.  Sometimes during a breast reduction, the entire areola and nipple are removed and then sewn back on.  And so there is always a risk of tissue necrosis and nipple/areola loss from a poor blood supply.  The milk ducts are severed during the removal of the areola and my sister was warned that her chances of being able to breastfeed if she did choose to do so  were very slim.  She did try to breastfeed at the birth of her first child but was not able to.

Since I strongly wanted to breastfeed when I had children, I chose not to have a breast reduction until after my childbearing years were over.  I told myself I had carried these heavy mammary glands around my entire life and suffered much teasing and heartache because of them so I wanted to use them for what they were intended to be used for.  I was hellbent on breastfeeding.  After the seventh grade incident when my mother learned how I was being taunted and body shamed, she began constantly urging me to have a breast reduction, despite me saying I didn’t want one and despite me trying to explain to her how important it was for me to breastfeed.  Despite my big breasts, I was not having the physical discomfort to the degree that my sister did.  I grew very tired of my mother’s almost constant nagging and I began to feel body shamed by even my own mother.  I guess in some ways, I became a little rebellious and the more my mother harassed me to get that breast reduction, the more I was determined not to.  And as silly as this sounds, I had somehow developed an attitude that if I gave in and got a breast reduction, then every single one of those people who had body shamed me my entire life had somehow won.  I was trying hard to love the body that God gave me, to appreciate it the way it was and not change it.  To change it meant I had lost this fight.  This is very hard to explain, but it’s how I strongly felt at the time.

I reached a point where I had to start having my bras custom made.  They were not attractive bras at all and were very expensive.  My thirties came and pregnancy and breastfeeding made my breasts get even larger.  When I was pregnant, my husband and I chose not to find out the sex of our child.  We wanted it to be a surprise and back then ultrasounds just to determine the sex of the baby was just becoming a thing.  I honestly used to pray to God that if I had a girl, that she wouldn’t inherit big breasts and have to go through what I did.  I never had to worry about that as I had two sons.

I reached my early 40s and I began going to a new gynecologist.  The first time I saw him for an annual exam, he did my breast exam and then stepped back and said to me, “You know, you have VERY large breasts!”   He said it like it was some big news flash to me and the look on my face must have been priceless.  Before I could respond, he smiled, scratched his head. and sheepishly said,  “I guess you know that though, huh?”  I joked that yes, I had mirrors in my house.  He laughed and then tried to clarify what he had meant.  He went on to explain that I had not only very large breasts but very dense breasts as well.  He said some women can have large breasts but not really dense breasts.  But I had both.  He asked if I had ever considered a breast reduction.   I guess that was the first time I had ever seriously discussed it with a physician.

At one visit to his office, I ended up having to see a nurse practitioner due to him being out on an emergency and she also asked if I had ever considered a reduction.  She told me that even though I wasn’t physically bothered by my breast size now, I would probably soon notice that my breasts would cause me increasing discomfort.  She said it often happened to women with large breasts in their 40s.  In all honesty, I didn’t pay much attention to her.  But you know what?  She knew what she was talking about and she was right!  It was in my mid 40s that I started experiencing backaches, neck aches, and getting red, sore ruts in the tops of my shoulder blades from my bra straps.  The lady who fit me for my custom made bras sold me some silicone shoulder protectors that you put under the straps.  Walking for exercise killed my back (upper and lower).   My physical stamina was decreased.  My posture from trying to hold dense heavy breasts up was taking its toll and I walked even more stooped over.  Finding shirts to fit that looked decent was getting harder and harder.  With menopause came weight gain and the first place I always gain is in my breasts.  Soon I found myself wearing a 42 K sized bra.  Just the physical act of getting a bra on was getting hard.  The day I developed tendonitis from struggling with my bra, I knew it was time to seriously consider getting a reduction but I was still hesitant and scared.  But then some things happened that convinced me to have the surgery.  I guess you could say they were the straws that broke the camel’s back.

To be continued…. 

Gail

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Breasts, Body Shaming, Bullying, and Body Image- Part One

It took me a good long while to decide that I was going to write this post.  I’ll just say upfront that it was difficult.  Why?  Because it’s a very personal topic.  I wasn’t sure what exactly to title this post and in all honesty, I wasn’t sure I would ever push the publish button on it.

I was talking to a female friend the other day and somehow our conversation turned to adolescence, puberty, breast development, and body image.  My friend, who is a little younger than I am, told me she had always been flat chested (until a recent perimenopausal weight gain).  She  mentioned how in junior high, she endured much taunting because in her words, she was “flat as a pancake.”  She told me about the endless teasing, how the boys constantly pointed to her chest and made fun of her.  The boys were always telling her she was a member of the “itty bitty titty committee”  and they constantly asked her how her “mosquito bites” were doing.  She hated that time in her life.

I literally cringed when she described to me how she was harassed and tormented.  I understood completely.  Because you see, I was also teased and made fun of but for the opposite reason.  I was one of the early bloomers and breast development for me seemed to happen overnight.  I developed before most of the other girls did, and to say that I was full-bosomed was an understatement.  I left elementary school and the sixth grade wearing a B cup bra.  Summer came and with the beginning of that summer came my first period at age 11.  I seemed to blossom overnight.  In 1971 I entered the first day of 7th grade (junior high back then) wearing a D cup bra.  By the time the 8th grade rolled around, I was a DD cup.  I was not overweight in the least.  I was petite and only about 5 ft. tall with a small waist which accentuated my large breasts even more.  Big breasts run in my family (on both sides) and my mother often referred to it as our family curse.  One of my older sisters had to have a breast reduction at the age of 16.  My mother was no longer able to purchase bras for her in the store.  She was told by the bra-fitting lady at Castner Knotts that she would need to start having my sister’s bras custom made.  Having to get custom made bras is not only very inconvenient but also very expensive (ask me how I know this).  Physically, my sister was miserable.  She could barely support the weight of her heavy and dense breasts and she walked stooped over due to their weight.  Her bra straps were digging raw furrows into the tops of her shoulders and she had backaches.  The cosmetic surgeon who did her reduction told my parents she was the youngest patient of his to undergo a breast reduction, that he usually didn’t like to do reductions on 16 year old girls who were still developing, but in her case he saw it for what it was – a medical necessity.   She came out of surgery a C cup and still to this day, she will tell you boldly that her decision to have a breast reduction was one of the best decisions she ever made in her life. I would also later undergo a breast reduction.

I’ve always had a poor body image and I think it all started back in the 7th grade from being self conscious of my breast size.  It was a different time in the early 70s than it is now.  Of course there was no social media, no cell phones, no texting, etc.  But believe me, bullying and body shaming were alive and well in the 1970s.  I still vividly remember the teasing I endured that year when I was 12.  I remember the pointing, the laughing, the staring, the lewd comments, and the Dolly Parton jokes, not only from my acquaintances, but from complete strangers.   I honestly think irreparable damage was done to my self esteem and it contributed to a lifelong poor self body image.  I quickly tired of hearing  the other girls say to me, “It must be nice!”  While the boys were teasing me, the girls were expressing their envy and jealousy and telling me they would do anything to have big breasts like I did.  I grew irritated every time they would tell me how “lucky” I was.  They just didn’t get it.  My reply was always, “NO BELIEVE ME, YOU DON’T WANT THEM!”  There was nothing nice about being teased and taunted constantly.

The teasing became relentless and was non-stop.  Hardly a day went by that I didn’t hear lewd comments or wasn’t made fun of.  It hurt and left deep scars.  I was reminded just how hurtful it was not long ago after finding my old 7th grade diary and reading the comments penned by my 12 year old hand.  Being known as “that girl with the big boobs” is hurtful to a 12 year old.  I always felt that people only knew me for the size of my breasts and always focused on that one physical aspect, never on my personality or who I was inside.  I longed for boys to look me in the face instead of always staring at my chest.  I never once dressed provocatively or wore any low cut shirts.  I tried my hardest to dress in a way that wouldn’t draw attention to my breasts.

One day, I got grabbed by a 7th grade male student and pushed into the boy’s bathroom where some vulgar comments were made pertaining to my breasts.  I came shooting out of there like a rocket to the laughter of all his friends and my classmates.  This bathroom incident was a game changer for me.  This particular boy who did this to me was someone who had constantly been taunting me.  I was five feet tall.  He was probably six feet tall.  Physically, I was no match for him.  But what really got to me was that a teacher witnessed this whole ordeal and did nothing.  That teacher had the attitude that boys will be boys.  I remember going home and crying that day and even my 12 year old brain knew that this attitude was wrong.  So wrong.  Some part of me always felt that the teacher/or teachers were perhaps a little afraid of this student.

And that’s when I broke down and told my mother what had been going on.  I told her everything…. about the pointing and the teasing, the lewd gestures, and the jokes.  I told her about being grabbed like a rag doll and tossed into the boy’s restroom.  I remember the anger in my voice when I told her.  I remember yelling and crying and telling her that I was just so sick of it, that I didn’t want to go to school anymore. I angrily told her in between sobs that the next time any boy pointed to my chest and made fun of my breast size, that I was just going to point to their crotch and tell them they had a big penis!  My mother gasped, her eye’s grew wide, and she took me by the shoulders and said, “NO GAIL! YOU DON’T WANT TO SAY THAT!”  I laugh at that now and she did too, later, when she explained to me why that was not the wisest thing to say.  Oh how naive I was.  But one thing I knew for sure…. I hated my budding femininity.

So… what did my mother do at hearing about her youngest daughter’s taunting?  She sprung right into action and called my male band teacher.  He was a giant of a man well over 6 ft. tall with a slim build.  He was a nice man and a calm, no-nonsense type who demanded discipline from his students.  I often wondered why she chose to call him (of all the teachers she could have called).  Probably because she knew he would do something.  She had talked to him on several occasions just prior to this all happening because she was in the process of buying me a new trumpet and wanted his advice.  She had gotten to know him a little bit and she liked him.  Also, several of the boys doing the incessant taunting were acquaintances of mine in the band.  After she called the band director, she then called the principal of the school (who was also male).  But she didn’t tell me about either of those phone calls.  I found out the next day when that band director and the assistant principal came and got me out of my English class.  I had no idea what was going on and thought I was in trouble for some reason.  I stood out in the hall facing both of them and endured being asked some very embarrassing questions (for a 12 year old).  At the top of their questions was if any of the boys had ever touched “my bosom.”  I wanted to die.  You have to understand I was an extremely shy kid.  And I was 12.  They told me that this was going to stop and that I was to come to them if it ever happened again.  I could tell they were taking this matter very seriously.  And then, they had me nonchalantly walk by various classrooms with them until I had pointed out every single boy who had been involved with the taunting.  I had to give names.  And then every single one of those boys were called out of class and taken to the office.  I don’t exactly remember what their punishment was other than they were given a good talking to.  They might have also received in-school suspension but I really don’t remember.  I do remember they were very angry with me.

They were angry and unhappy that I had “told” on them.  Suddenly, this was all my fault and they put the blame on me, told me they couldn’t believe I had given up their names and told on them (or that I had told my mother who told on them).  They also tried to throw out the “boys will be boys” excuse and tried making me believe it was all in good fun, that this was all a “normal” way for boys to behave, and they meant nothing by it.  For a short time, I did feel bad and ashamed and I somehow felt I was to blame, that I had overreacted.  That is until my mother got ahold of me and straightened my thinking out on that.  Looking back, I don’t remember an apology by any of them.

I was asked once if I had ever been bullied in school.  I hesitated before I answered.  I was tempted to say no because I had always falsely looked at bullying as a physical act.  I had to think long and hard at whether what I had endured was body shaming (a term that always makes me squirm  a little for some reason) or bullying.  I came to the conclusion that it was both.  Body shaming is the action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size.  So yes, I was definitely body shamed for my large breasts just as my friend mentioned above was body shamed for her small breasts.  According to the American Psychological Association, bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words or more subtle actions.  So bullying can be physical or emotional.  I was bullied.

I won’t say the teasing/taunting stopped entirely but it sure got a lot better.  And that band director?  He watched out for me until he got a new position and resigned the following year.

To be continued…..

Gail

Posted in Childhood memories, Life, School | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Spider in the Window

Several weeks ago, we awoke to a rather large black and yellow garden spider and her rather ornate web stretched outside across our kitchen window.  The web was anchored to the window and to the adjacent screen of our screened in porch.  So the web is actually in the corner between the window and the porch.  I found myself feeling just a tad bit giddy upon spotting the yellow and black arachnid, because even though I find spiders a tad bit creepy, I also find them incredibly fascinating to watch.  Life outside my tiny kitchen window was about to get a lot more entertaining, at least for a few weeks anyway.

This has happened a few times before at the end of summer and early fall (spiders building large webs in various windows of our house).  My young sons often used to name these spiders.  There was Henry, whose name was suddenly switched to “Henrietta” after the eggs sacs appeared. There was Hilda, the big orange and black spider who was with us for Halloween and who, I might add, was the perfect Halloween spider.  There was Roy (don’t ask me why we named a spider Roy- he just looked like a Roy but I’m sure Roy was actually a female).  My sons used to awaken for school early in the mornings and raise the den window shade just as the spider was beginning the long hard work of reconstructing her web for the day.  We learned a lot over the years watching those spiders.  We checked out books at the library to learn all we could.  We enjoyed watching the spider eating the previous days web, and then spinning a new web.  We were amazed at just how intricate a process it was and how very hard the spider worked.  We watched the spiders sit on those webs motionless it seemed for hours at a time and how they could move at breakneck speed when a bug landed in the web.  We watched the spider inject venom into her prey and then how they spun their newly caught prey in silk to feast on later.  We watched the eventual feast until there was just a shell of the bug left and then watched the spider “cut” the bug out of her web.  Then we watched the web repair.  It was all very educational and quite interesting to watch.

 

This new garden spider, who I’ve been calling Autumn, was very slender when she first appeared.  But over the days, she got fatter and fatter and fatter.  I watched her catch a roach in her web one morning.  I watched as a wasp landed in her web but narrowly escaped.  Yesterday I watched her catch a stink bug and wrap it in silk.  I wondered what stink bugs must taste like to a spider.  Eww.  As Autumn got rounder, I told my husband she would soon lay an egg sac.  And just a day or two later, Autumn was slim again.  I  journeyed outside and there at the top of the window was one very large whitish brown egg sac.  From what I understand, garden spiders lay anywhere from 1-4 egg sacs and there can be 1,000 spiders in one egg sac.  She’s very protective over that sac too so I just let her be.  I don’t know if she’s done or if she will lay more.  Only time will tell.

Autumn is a yellow garden spider, known as Argiope aurantia.  They are orb weavers known for the dense silk zigzag pattern in the center of their web, called a stabilimentum.  The purpose of this stabilimentum is not really known.  Some scientists believe it helps camouflage the garden spider as she sits in the center of the web waiting for unsuspecting prey.  Others think it serves as a warning to birds not to fly into the web (which would cause a whole lot of damage to the web and hence, more work for the spider).

Autumn sitting behind the stabilimentum

Autumn and her egg sac

Have you ever just stopped and taken the time to watch a garden spider?  Have you watched how they weave their web?  Catch their prey?  Wrap their prey in silk?  Repair their web where it’s damaged?  Have you watched them make an egg sac?

I know Autumn will not live too much longer.   More than likely she will die with the first frost.  Soon her web spinning will slow down and she will become more lethargic.  And then one morning I will awaken to an empty web and Autumn will be nowhere in sight.

Gail

Posted in Autumn, Life, Nature, Seasons | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Weekend Getaway to Alabama

My oldest son turned 30 this past Monday.  I can hardly believe it.  I was 30 when I had him.  He and his brother (who is three years younger) both went to the same college in Alabama.  They studied hard, became engineers, and fell in love with their little college town of Huntsville, AL.  They found jobs there and stayed.  I’m glad they’re happy there as I like Huntsville too.  But I guess I thought they would always come back home after college.  Like I did.  Instead, they’re 130 miles away from home and we don’t see them nearly as often as we’d like.  Occasionally, my husband and I will make the almost 2 1/2 hour drive to go visit them.  We went this past weekend bearing birthday cake.  We hadn’t seen them since July 20th, when they both came home for their grandmother’s 90th birthday celebration.  I miss those boys.  You may be thinking that 130 miles is really not all that far, and it’s not really,  but it’s far enough for me.  I went to a college in the same state but a different city.  It was only 40 miles away from home and about a 45 minute drive.  I was a homebody and  I wanted to go NO further away than that.  I didn’t have a car and I felt like I may as well been 1,000 miles away from home instead of 40.  I was homesick the entire four years.  I never adapted well to college life or got over my homesickness.  I wish I had.

We had a nice visit with both sons.  Saturday night we took our two sons and our daughter-in-law out for a birthday celebration dinner (he chose Logan’s).  Then we headed back to our oldest son’s house for birthday cake and ice cream.

When my husband and I go to Huntsville, we always stay at the Marriott which is on the property of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.  We’ve always liked staying there but it’s in the middle of being renovated now.  It’s gone carpetless and has the laminate gray flooring that seems to be ever so popular now and I see everywhere I go.  It looks like wood planks (easier to clean than carpet I’m sure).  All the bedding is white (easier to bleach I guess).  There were no pictures on the walls – just a mural above the bed.  There’s no longer any night stand tables and now there are just floating shelves that come out of the wall.  No table lamps by the beds but lights that are suspended from metal poles on the ceiling.  The sinks were elevated bowls and there are no tubs now, just walk in glass showers.  The rooms were clean but looked a little drab and needed some color in my opinion.  I thought of an old friend I met at church many, many years ago who told me her mother used to say that every room in your house needs a splash of the color red.  She said even if it’s just one single rose, have a little red in every room.  I think there’s something to that.

Anyway, they put us up on the 6th floor and we enjoyed our view of the rockets at the Space and Rocket Center.  There was a time when our boys were really into space and we read tons of books about space.  Both boys attended Space Camp here many years ago and so it brought back happy memories of that.  They were in heaven. That view from our hotel room reminded me of why our kids both ended up in college in Huntsville.

The view from our hotel room balcony

My husband and I joke when we’re in Huntsville, that if you get lost while driving there, that all you have to do is look for the Saturn V replica and it will guide you home.  Ask us how we know.  I call it Huntsville’s guiding beacon.  Just look for the rocket and drive towards it and you’ll find your way.  The rockets are undergoing major cosmetic renovations after 50 years and we noticed that the monstrous Saturn V replica was not lit Saturday night when we were driving from our son’s house to the hotel.  Huntsville’s guiding beacon was not doing its job!  I’m guessing it had something to do with the renovations.  The red flashing lights warning airplanes were functioning but the rocket itself was not bathed in its glorious white light and so our view at night from that hotel balcony that we looked forward to, was not to be.  We enjoyed the view during the day though.

Anyway, our trip was very short but it was good seeing our progeny.  We didn’t really have anything planned to do on this trip since it was such a short visit.  Our goal was just to spend some time with our boys and celebrate our oldest son turning 30.  My husband and oldest son attempted to repair some electrical problems at his house, so there was a trip to Home Depot while we were there ( I don’t think we ever go to Huntsville without making a trip to Home Depot or Lowes).  He had a lightning strike several weeks back that fried his TV, his cable box, his garage door, and X-Box that he watches movies on.  He’s still finding things that are messed up from that lightning strike.

Like I said, I miss those boys.  My mother doesn’t realize how lucky she was that all three of her children came back home after college and all lived close to her.  She always told me that girls tend to stay closer to home than boys.  I know that’s not always the case.  Hubby and I stopped at three different antique stores on the drive home.  I came away with a teal green candy dish, a blue crackle glass bud vase and a beautiful cobalt blue bottle.

This week, we’re enduring a heat wave (though actually this summer has seemed like one long heat wave).  All week long, our temps will be in the upper 90s with heat indexes in the triple digits.  The heat index as I type this is 104 and supposed to get up to 105.  It’s miserably hot out there.  I heard a meteorologist say that we might break some weather records this week and that our July weather is continuing on through September.  No sign of fall here yet!

Stay cool.

Gail

Posted in Family, Travel | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments