One of them looked like the Jacob’s Ladder I used to make with a long loop of string laced in and out of the fingers of my two outstretched hands. One of them could have been a hammock tatted for a hummingbird. One, draped over the deck railing and onto the banisters, was a net for flying fish, and all of them, all of the dozens of spiderwebs that dangled and hung and cascaded from every corner and edge of the landscape, were constellations, thousands of clear water stars the size of pinheads drawing archers and hunters, dogs and bears, crowns and serpents across the morning sky.
I am often caught up short as I walk outside first thing in the morning. While I have been encapsulated and cocooned inside my climate-controlled house, the world has been playing. Animals have danced in the darkness and left behind a wild confusion of footprints. Hard buds have softened and swollen and opened into flowers. The sun has silently bleached away the darkness and twisted itself into a tie-dyed scarf, whipped loose and left to float over the clouds.
But I had never been witness to such a display as this one. The entire backyard shimmered as the webs swayed almost imperceptibly. Dew drops, strung like glass beads on filament, trembled in succession, the impish breeze turning them into dominoes. I pulled my camera out of my pocketbook and began snapping photographs, the rhombuses and trapezoids and wildly scalene triangles in the web designs made obvious by the zoom lens.
Each time I lowered the camera from my face, I saw another, more elaborate web beckoning me to come, come see. And it is only because I heeded the beckoning that I walked up on the most exquisite, the most ethereal, the most splendid web of all. It stretched all the way across the double French doors that lead onto the deck. It attached to the overhead door frame and the base of a chair sitting nearby. My arms, curved out and up and over my head, could not contain it. Unlike many of the others, it was round — not a compass-drawn circle, more like a hand-rolled pie crust — and its sections spread from the center like the spokes on a bicycle tire, delicate and shiny. Sheltered by the eaves of the house, it was covered in a lighter coat of dew, making its beading sparkle more like opals than diamonds.
After recording its beauty as best I could with the camera, I stood in the quiet dampness for a few more moments, breathed deeply and wondered what might have become of the creature that had spun such a web. Then I went to work.
That night, I watched the full moon rise from the study window. The sky was less than clear, but I thought I could still get a good picture. I could sit outside and wait for the clouds to drift off.
The night noise was sucked into a cone of sound surrounding my ears as I opened the door. The warm, moist air fell on my arms like a towel, and I stepped out on the deck. Only one step and I remembered the spider web — the exquisite, ethereal, splendid spider web whose delicate strands were now caught in my hair and my eyelashes, stuck to my cheeks and my chest, hanging in sticky strings from my arms and legs.
For a moment, I forgot the moon. I turned to face what was left of the transparent tapestry that had so enthralled me just a few hours earlier. The tender tension was gone; long loops of gossamer hung limp in the darkness. The symmetry was destroyed, the delicate balance gone.
“I’m so sorry,” I said over and over. “I’m just so sorry.”
I can’t be sure whether I was apologizing to the long-gone spider or to myself.
I brushed the silky threads from my face and, in my repentance, felt the truth of the moment settle over my head: That which is beautiful, which took such effort and love to produce, is easy to forget if one becomes preoccupied with searching for the next beautiful thing. And perhaps it is in abandoning the exhausting search that beauty in all its forms finds its way to one’s door.
Patience with each. Each in its own time. Time for all.