You know how, when you see a thing you haven’t seen for a long time, suddenly you see it everywhere?
Recently my wife Breja and I came upon a yellow garden spider near the Peace Trail in Afton, Wisc. If you spot a big orb weaver with a gorgeous yellow and black abdomen, that’s a garden spider. Breja and I both grew up on gravel roads, and we often shared childhood stories of feeding grasshoppers to these beauties. But we hadn’t seen one in years. "Why not?" we wondered. Pesticides, probably. King corn growing right up to the road.
But here was this lovely spider, evidence that all was not lost. The web, like the spider itself, is one-of-a-kind. Garden spiders are also called zipper spiders, or even writing spiders. In the center of its web is the “zipper”, a zigzagged signature where the big mother waits. You think of a writing spider, you probably think of Charlotte. But Charlotte was not a writing spider. She was a barn spider who was also a good writer.
Anyway. Not a week after spotting the lone beauty in Afton, I ran into another at Dan Libman’s farm near Oregon, IL. Then another, and another. At one spot near the trout pond, there were dozens. It was a garden spider convention!
Seeing these spiders, on this pretty farm, I felt a deep connection to my youth. It was amazing to think that these fellow creatures were descendants of those same bygone spiders. We were making this journey through life together. As I pondered, a fat grasshopper happened stupidly by. Huh. I plucked him off the switchgrass and flicked him toward his doom.
I’m Chris Fink and that’s my perspective.