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.