A Conversation With Martha Mabel

Martha MabelIn my part of the world, Labor Day this year was beautiful. Today, well not so much, but yesterday was warm, sunny and there was a breeze, which made drinking a cold beer in the shade perfect. I sat down, took a long pull and set the frosty bottle down next to me, on the small red table. As I did this, my elbow brushed on a thin sticky but very strong thread. I was not alone, and a dime sized spider rushed out from under the window sill to repair her web that I had nearly destroyed. I didn’t know there would be entertainment.

I watched her for a while. She wasn’t actually that upset. She said it happens constantly, especially with the larger insects like hornets flying straight through her nearly invisible net. When I asked her what her name was, she answered that she didn’t have a name, as she reasoned she had no need for a name. She told me she was a solitary creature. I told her I was going to call her Martha, and I think she liked that as she continued to spin and knit her web together again.

I wasn’t always this cordial to spiders. I remember one time as a boy of perhaps eight or nine years of age. I was mowing our side lawn, and it was tricky in spots as there was a weeping willow tree in the middle. Not only did I have to watch out for errant roots that had poked through the grass and were exposed, but the hanging branches were always in the way. On one such pass, one of those branches I was holding out of the way had slipped from my grasp and had slapped me in the face. I wiped something off that was tickling me, only to find my palm covered in spiders! My whole face was covered in hundreds of spiders. I panicked and ran from the yard madly trying to wipe off these baby critters, the mower still running and now forgotten. I later found out they weren’t spiders after all, but aphids. This new information did nothing to take the creep out of my young bones. Spiders or aphids I was thoroughly freaked out, and now terrified of spiders. I went on a spider-killing rampage and made it my personal mission in life to kill any crawly thing I encountered.

One day, I think it was shortly after I was done frying ants with a magnifying glass, I discovered a cocoon. It was tucked up nice and neat under the siding of my house. I had no idea what kind of butterfly or moth it was going to be, but I was sure going to find out. I got a clean pickle jar from my mom, plucked that little ball of fluff off the house, and threw it along with some grass and leaves into the glass jar. I was pretty sure whatever it was was going to be hungry when it was born. I put the jar on my dresser, out of the sunlight from my window, and I checked that container every day when I woke up. About two weeks later the big day arrived.

I got up and like every day I rushed to the jar to check. That day I discovered I was the proud papa of, you guessed it, what looked like a million little teeny spiders. But this time I wasn’t all freaked out. I picked up the jar, secure in the fact that those little buggers were on the other side of the glass, and I just watched them. I was fascinated. They were just newly hatched and were already spinning webs. I ended the killing spree that day, and I opened the jar and left it on it’s side in the back yard a few days later. That was right after Mom discovered I had a jar full of spiders in my room.

That time seems like so long ago now. I decided this beautiful day demanded another beer, and when I returned my new friend was once again busy, this time with what looked like a very tasty fly.

“You managed to snag one, Mabel.” I said to the dancing silk. Of course she corrected me, and said she rather liked the name Martha. I told her that she was such a nice spider that she deserved two names, and now she would be called Martha Mabel. Our conversation continued off and on all afternoon. I agreed I would try not to move my chair, and she agreed not put another anchor tie on the arm, where I liked to rest my elbow. I think I see a wonderful relationship in our future.

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