After waking to the sound of thunder and the flashes of lightning, yesterday shaped up to be a relatively wet day. Although we did not get the amount of rain we needed, we did get enough to provide a brief respite from this infernal drought.
By nightfall, most of the rain had stopped and the air began to dry and cool as a welcome cold front moved through the area. I stood on the patio just after 10 PM as north winds caressed my skin with the promise of change.
As I stood enjoying the night, a sudden dread befell me as one might become aware of some horrible cataclysm only at the last minute. It’s the kind of feeling you have while driving that makes you look in your mirror just in time to see the car that is careening toward you and the inevitable crash to follow. It’s the sensation of danger that one experiences just before it’s too late, a sixth-sense warning light in the mind that flashes erratically only when a threat is imminent and unavoidable.
Unfortunately, as is often the case, the warning light doesn’t bother indicating what the problem might be, so I stood in the black of night for a few seconds trying to determine what problem I faced. I was on my own patio and couldn’t think of any immediate threats able to beset me there.
The warning changed to a directional. Up.
Of course, I can’t honestly say it told me to look up. I was looking in every other direction, so why would I not also look up? But it was more than that, a sensation declaring that danger would come from above.
And so I leaned my head back and tried to focus through the cloak of night on the ceiling that hung above me in deep shadow.
I couldn’t see anything other than the ceiling, although I likely would not have been able to see much given the darkness and growing dank of the night. To assist my vision, I raised my hand to block the only source of light, a move I hoped would allow my eyes to see better what was otherwise hidden.
As my retinas opened wide and my pupils refocused on the ceiling, I became excruciatingly aware of the danger. But it was too late.
A rapidly descending spider hung a breath away from my face. It was large. Quite large, in fact, with a body about the size of a half dollar from its mandibles to the business end of its spinnerets, and that didn’t include its legs. It was big. Huge. Ginormous even, but only because it was already in my face.
Then it was on my face. It closed the gap between us with one last controlled fall on its tiny web suspended from the ceiling, and in that moment, it landed on my right cheek just below my eye. I felt it hit with a very un-appreciative thud that made clear precisely how large it was.
It is at moments like that when the world seems to stop for a brief time that lasts much longer in our minds than it does in reality. Although the creature had not been on me long enough to move, already I was weighing my options and considering what actions would be most appropriate.
I’m quite fond of spiders. And I’m not frightened of them. But this little giant on my face couldn’t stay there, and I certainly had no idea where it intended to go once it started moving.
So there I stood. In the briefest of moments, I was completely aware of its presence and its landing. I was mindful of its size and the fact I could not be certain what kind it was before it fell on me. Its proximity to my eye did not help.
What did I do? What would you have done?
I leaned my head over and tried to dislodge the spider with a gentle nudge. Ah, but it did not fall to the ground, did it? Of course not! Spiders are not so easily dislodged. Instead, its webbing clung to my face as it fell toward the ground.
I focused on it in the darkness.
What came to my immediate attention was this rather large spider now dangling via its web only a short distance from my face. Then it rapidly turned and began climbing back up. Toward my face. All I could see was this massive body surrounded by eight legs making a quick ascent.
What to do…
Before it closed the gap, I made a wide pinch across my cheek in order to capture the end of its web. Seeing the sudden shaking of the monstrous shadow now too near my eye to focus on, I knew I had it.
It reached my hand and crawled up on my fingers. I’m pretty sure it was more than confused about what was happening.
Holding it carefully (or rather holding my hand still so as not to disturb it, since it was actually holding to me), I walked over to the fence and slowly pushed it off with my other hand. Hesitantly at first, and certainly with no small dash of irritation, it stepped off my hand and down to the top of the fence, and there it stood for several seconds in what I’m sure was an attempt to figure out precisely what happened, where it was, and whether or not the lumbering monkey hanging over it intended to do harm.
Then down the outside of the fence it moved. With a bit of light striking it, I finally recognized it as a female black & yellow argiope (a.k.a. yellow garden spider; Argiope aurantia). I told her I hoped we got to see each other again sometime, but I’m pretty sure she shot the finger at me as she scampered away. Does that mean we won’t see each other again?