It’s after dark on a hot August night. The stars are a network of diamonds on a blanket of black velvet. It almost seems that if I climb up to the top of my water tank and reach out, I could grasp one right out of the clear Northern Arizona sky.
Instead, the beam of my flashlight illuminates a perfect, symmetrical web of sticky, delicate silk. It spans the hand-breadth distance between the edge of the water tank and an input hose. It seems as though a touch, a sharply expelled breath could destroy it, yet in reality it is quite strong. In the center, its maker freezes momentarily as my light captures her amber colored abdomen, the size of a hummingbird egg, and her fuzzy orange striped legs. Then she scurries to the edge of the web to continue her work and resume her night’s hunting.
Spiderwoman has been in residence at the top of my water tank for at least 2 months. When I first discovered her, I was so intrigued that I allowed her to remain. Not so, her kin spider in my tack shed. Unfortunately, my camera and photographic skills do not do justice to the delicate beauty of her nightly weaving ritual or the intricate patterns on her abdomen and legs.
Fast forward to September. The web is dusty and ragged. A gaping hole in the center raises red flags. My lady has been lax in her housekeeping. Spiderwoman is in her usual spot at the top of my tank. But is she still alive? A few days later and she is gone. A life cycle completed?