Night workers

Living in a beautiful place ironically can make you oblivious to the beauty that embraces you. It becomes familiar, you take it for granted.

Our bedroom’s two large windows are positioned to capture both the southern sun’s warmth during San Miguel’s coldish winters as well as its rise from behind the mountains on the east. If we timed our sleep cycles properly the sun could function as an unforgiving alarm clock, steadily lighting and warming up the bedroom with no snooze button within reach.

All in a night’s work.

Yet any more we tend to bury our heads back under our pillows and miss a daily spectacle that is never quite the same. This morning the sun blasted up determinedly through a cloudless sky, as if impatient to begin the day. But yesterday and the day before it had to punch its way through the fog and clouds for hours, each side taking the upper hand but only for a few minutes at a time. Was it going to be sunny or cloudy? Was the sun having a hard time rousting itself out of bed too?

Yesterday Stew finally got up and pulled up the blinds he had lowered the night before to hide the glare of a fluorescent full moon.

Cobweb world. 

And just ten or fifteen feet outside the window he found a wondrous spectacle: dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of cobwebs spanning between tree branches and spent fall flowers as far as the eye could see. Beads of dew made the webs and the vegetation glisten while the sun, still struggling to poke through the fog, added its own eerily subtle lighting effects.

Some cobwebs, as wide as two feet across, were veritable feats of acrobatics and engineering, held in place by silky guy wires, its owners perilously hanging in the middle waiting to trap some unfortunate. Other webs were much cruder, resembling sloppy spools of white hair laid out by individuals not nearly as skillful or patient.

As I walked around the yard I was in awe, like a three-year-old catching his first sight of a full moon.

What’s going on here? Were all these spiders, or whatever they were, up all night frantically stringing their webs? How do you hang a gooey length of string, probably only a few microns thick, from branches two or three feet apart, and from there weave a fragile yet deadly web?

Impressive as they may be cobwebs outside are nothing if not ephemeral creations: By noon most of them were gone or damaged so their owners would need to start all over again the following night. How can this endless labor be worth it?

I’m sure members of the Entomology Society of America (“The World’s Largest Organization Serving the Needs of Insect Scientists”) have answers to my juvenile wonderings about spiders and their work though they’re only likely to engender more questions.

At the end of the day, Stew—a great spotter he’s turning out to be—called me to witness another natural spectacle at the opposite end of the house: a waning sunset with twin shafts of dark orange rising from behind the mountains like searchlights. It only lasted a few minutes before night fell and it was time for the spiders’ Sysiphean labors to begin.

Time to get to work. 

Gotta start paying more attention—to both Stew and the world outside our bedroom windows.


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