This evening my twenty-five-ish-minute walk home from work took closer to forty minutes. The reason for this was simple, small and fascinating: I stopped to watch a small furry spider construct a web.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to see all of it. He’d already started by the time I arrived, and he had the main structure already going. But I watched him walk down the web’s main supportive threads, reeling out a spool of cobweb behind him, stretching out his web from the centre point. Some spokes of the web he doubled up; others he left as single strands, presumably following some inner engineering logic of his own. Then, once he had created the spokes, the structure, he returned to the middle of the web. Carefully, delicately, he travelled in ever-extending circles out from the middle, filling in the triangles between the spokes with roughly parallel threads. He did that about six times, then he moved from the middle right to the outer edge and did the same thing, working his way towards the middle. Again, some threads were double-strength; others he left as single fragile strands. When he had finished he stopped for a well-earned rest right in the centre of his brand sparkly new web.
I stood, transfixed, watching this tiny creature’s mundane act of creation. Spider webs are things of beauty, and to watch one reeled out into being right in front of me was a blessing. Like watching prayer, or poetry, or music. Tomorrow this hard-working little spider might catch a fly with his web. He will be safe there, until wind blows or a thoughtless bird plunges through it or it starts to rain, or until for some reason he decides he needs to move on. But today I got to watch gentle perfection being created in a hedge on an industrial street in an everyday city.
Although in hindsight I would have looked pretty strange to a passer-by, standing and staring with fixed intensity into a hedge. Right now, I’m kind of hope that no one I know drove past…