Saturday, July 31, 2004

Hesitantly he slides forward on the strand, gently tapping a song onto the thread as he moves. Plucking and vibrating it oh so carefully. She waits patiently, front legs raised in a show of listening. I stop to watch and wait too. I wonder if I had one dance to complete, and when it was done my life was done too, how much time I would spend getting it exactly right. It is hard to sit quietly and watch this moment of tension-this creature’s risky dance. So much to get done and I chaff at my buzzing mind, saying finish this, get up and go do that. Force myself to sit quietly, allow it to unfold, put myself in the place where time is inconsequential and observing is a privilege. He stops just out of touching range and strums the web with four legs for long drawn out minutes.

Finally he makes a quick dash for her and she isn’t ready, they both leap apart and he starts over from the edge of the sill again. Her legs lift and once again she watches and listens, lulled by the vibrations into a dreamlike state where he might mate when his lullaby concludes. So odd this cooperation, he so delicately dances to avoid death so that his potential murderer might bear his fruit. Clearly he knows she can kill him. Does he choose a lady spider worthy of this task, or is it random? Is the moment of ecstasy worth it? Why is this urge stronger than that to live? Does it come from the same place that makes me contemplate quitting my job, fleeing my home, taking my kids some place safer when faced with the remotest possibility of threat to them?

This time, the plucking is too much, or the strand not well made, and suddenly it snaps. He swings dangerously close and then hurls himself upward. She wakens fully and follows quickly, but stops to repair the thread rather than pursuing him as prey. He retreats, maybe permanently, there are plenty of her kind waiting on other webs nearby. She returns to sit in the center of her web, no indication of further interest or disappointment.

I pretend I am relieved to return to my chores, but find myself imagining dancing the last dance of my own life, imagine the concentration and terror, joy and effort, patience and courage. What if I cared that much about one thing I did? Maybe an artist would understand it. Or maybe I am too inhibited to allow myself to care so much. Maybe I pretend there isn’t as much at stake. I suspect I am too lazy. I suspect I don’t know what could possibly be worth that effort, that risk, that patience. I ought to know.

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