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A DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Not Much of a Naturalist

© Another Day in the Country

I guess I’m not much of a naturalist, because if I were the photographer out in Africa and I saw a lion about to eat the zebra’s baby, I’d want to interfere. I’d honk my horn, hollar, do something.

Yes, I know that nature has cycles and rhythms and needs, but the strong preying on the weak is something I’ve always had trouble with, whether it is on the Alaskan tundra or my back yard.

This morning I was sitting on the swing drinking my cup of coffee, watching a spider that had strung her web across my front porch from ceiling to railing. She’s been there now several days, her web becoming more and more intricate. So far, I hadn’t seen her catch anything.

No more thought than suddenly there was action in the web, better than reality television. She’d caught something. It was a bee, and she sat and watched her captive struggle. For a few seconds it looked like there would be a struggle between the spider and the bee with the bee fighting to survive. All that flailing around paid off because the bee got away from the immediate scrutiny of the spider, and actually fell down further into the web, still entangled, spinning, flapping its wings, not giving up. From a little higher up, the spider watched, biding her time.

For a brief while I did the same as I sat sipping my coffee, watching. And, then I decided that being a non-neutral person, having already declared that to myself, I would take action. A bee! In my world, bees are more precious than spiders! Bees pollinate the world. Bees make honey. The fact that bees sting was relegated to a back burner as an annoying factoid. What do I know of all the things a spider might be doing for me? Not much, I reasoned, so Bee it was.

I untangled him. I do believe it was a him, a worker him, and I felt great satisfaction in setting him free, saving him for the greater good, because heaven knows we need more of those worker bees in the world on every level.

At first my little worker bee was stunned and just sat on the railing. “Skidaddle!” I said, “You’re free!” and then wondered if she (the spider) had harmed him permanently. I also kept an anxious eye on the spider who’d been deprived of her catch.

The bee seemed to be checking himself out, taking his time, like a pilot going over the instrument panel: “Legs: check. Antenna: check. Wings: check.” And then there was lift off, and he disappeared into the wild blue yonder.

I was pleased! Good way to start a morning: check! Do something positive in the world: check! I could relate to the little bee because I do something similar every morning when I wake up. Open eyes to check out the world and don’t take for granted they’re still working: check. Neck, arms, hands (with all those intricate bones that make them so useful): check. On to the landing gear as I wiggle my toes, stretch my legs, do a few leg lefts: check. And we’re off….

An hour or so later, I walked by that spider and her web. She’d made another catch! This time, it was a grasshopper! Now, I’m sure there must be something important that grasshoppers do in the great web of interconnectedness that thrives in the natural world, but I can’t tell you a single solitary thing. I have a list as long as my arm of bad things that they do, starting with ruining my tomato plants this summer, chewing off the blossoms on my peppers and generally popping up in unexpected places and scaring the living daylights out of me; not to mention what their legs feel like when they clamp onto you in terror! I hate grasshoppers. They are right up there with cockroaches on the Dislikeable and Disgusting Scale.

“Hmmm,” I said to the spider, “You’ve made another catch!” (I really didn’t know if we were actually on speaking terms since I’d foiled her last attempt.) I could tell she was listening; but she was busy wrapping up her grasshopper, binding him tight and tighter. He’d had his last foray into my garden.

“Good job,” I smiled. “And, look at you with a much meatier morsel this time.” Two out of three were much more satisfied with Nature’s way on another day in the country.

Last modified Oct. 2, 2014

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