Autumn is here. The first sign may be a few errant, orange leaves on the giant sugar maple at the end of the drive, but the surest sign for me is that there are fewer spiders.
I have had a bad case of spider horror since before I can remember, a shivery, terrible fear of the eight legged, web-spinning wonders. It was so strong that my first boyfriend used to threaten he’d buy a pet store tarantula and hide it in my bed when he was mad at me. I checked under my covers for years after I dismissed him. The intellectual side of me recognized the goodness of arachnids, how they decimate the insect population, how amazing their spinning abilities are, how rarely one ever causes a human harm, but viscerally I was wrapped in terror at their too-many legs, their venomous fangs, their sneaky, dishonest ways.
And then I moved to this house. This meadow hugged home in Maine, with windows and sun and spiders. Slow moving, long legged, ceiling hugging spiders were in every long-vacant room. Every window had webs both in and out, with a variety of spider types, all seeming to cohabit peacefully. Heaven knows we had bugs for them to eat, black flies and mosquitoes and deer flies and moths and a variety of insects unfamiliar to me, all in vast quantities. I began a spider battle, set off a bomb or two in the basement, which the previous homeowners had stuffed full of good firewood, and spiders. The population in the living areas decreased a bit, daily missions with a vacuum cleaner helped here, too. But outside, outside there were spiders. The porch is windowed all around. Old windows, with wavery glass and peeling black paint framing each pane outside. And spiders. Orb spinners and tunnel spinners, those who make tidy, lacy webs and some that have messy, thick webs. I’ve had to come to an uneasy truce with them, and I am even able to admit an odd fascination for those who stay outside. At dusk they drop from the old eves, where they’ve sheltered on the warm sunny day, and they spin. Up and down, back and forth they move, hopeful, perhaps, that I’ll leave a light on and attract a hundred moths to the traps they weave. Spider riches! Often I do, and from the corner of my eye I’ll see some hapless winged thing struggle, struggle in a web, and then go still. Moments later it is an indistinguishable blob of spider silk, and its life forces are being sipped through the equivalent of a spider straw.
At dawn, which often finds me on the old cottage bed on the porch, the webs are dew covered; free spider art framed by the window. The spinners have gone to where they go when it is not night, and left behind glimmering, glistening, light catching weavings, decorations, free of charge.
And the mornings are chill and the sumacs across the road flame red. The air has begun to take on the smell of autumn, the haunting, familiar smell of falling leaves and cooling dirt, the smell of frost killed gardens. I hear the cry of Canada geese as they pass over our ridge and pond, heading south. The song birds have reduced their calls to mere chirps, mating season has passed, and those who stay are intent on eating and survival, no time to sing.
The cars and trucks that go by the front of this cozy place have trailers behind them. In weeks past the trailers sported canoes and kayaks, bikes and lake floats. Now they are piled high with good oak and hard maple, to be stacked neatly and close to back doors where they will fend off the upcoming cold. The supply of wood seems as limitless as the supply of tourists was all summer, and more functional.
Soon I will plant flower bulbs, seeding the earth with hope for spring, months of cold and dark away. I’ll think of the bulbs hibernating in their dark tunnels in the cold, waiting the day when they burst into riotous bloom in the early sun. I imagine they’ll come forth about the same time as the spiders do, from wherever they have wintered over. I am caught up in the web of the seasons.