“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

The Edge of a Web

Hunting for Elusive Webs in the Backyard 
 
The hummingbirds seemed to be fighting over spots at the feeder and dive-bombing each other earlier than usual. I sat there on the patio watching them and wondering if their combat was a sign that cooler air would come early.
Then a late-August leaf fell slowly earthward . Suddenly it stopped in mid-air. My mind blinked. Then, a glint caught my eye. In that flash my mind knew, but I couldn’t see it.
I left the bench to walk toward the spark, but something caught me: the sticky silk strand of a web. It caught in my hair and across my shoulders. I pulled at my hands as if sliding soft kid gloves off finger by finger. I brushed and pulled, but ungluing it from myself was futile. I couldn’t see it and could no longer feel it. That’s the way webs are -- coy, alluring, elusive. And mostly invisible, glimpsed only on the slant.
 
Bridge Web-2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The next morning I spotted a spider attached to mid-air, like some sea creature clinging to the glass of an aquarium, wanting to be let out. Yet again, I could not get a fix on the whole web that held her as she waited for the unsuspecting moth or bee or fly. Suddenly she sprang, quicker than my eye could follow, to a far edge of her web to pierce her victim and devour it from the inside out. Then she returned to the web’s center, again to wait.
 
The scene was hypnotizing, even though I couldn’t look into the eyes of it.
 
I walked to the edge of the patio to scan the trees and shrubs in the yard for webs or spiders or leaves hanging in mid-air. I caught flashes as strands of webs captured the light of the early morning sun. Sparks of long, silky threads of hair seemed everywhere, toying and taunting me to look and look and look.
One morning after walking Joanna Leigh to the bus stop I saw a web, in profile at first, a disk, looking like the Milky Way. It drew in the sun’s light just right.  Then I got to the front of the web just as it caught the pinkish rays of dawn. I watched the color change as the sun rose higher.
 
MilkyWayprofile-ed
The Milky Way web
 
Only the sun’s light would reveal the web, as if it were some truth daring you to capture it and make it manifest.
The days grew shorter so that my wake-up time coincided with the sun rising. I sat outside drinking coffee before waking Joanna Leigh to walk to the bus, looking to see if a web would again catch the light just right.
 
IMG_0848IMG_0847
Catching the sun’s early-morning rays
Yes. I got one in my sight and wouldn’t let go until the sun climbed and left it again invisible.
After this success, I looked for glints all over the back yard, when silks caught a piece of light. Then I tried to figure out when the sun would reveal it. Maybe then I could photograph it.
These hunts began to feel like searches or quests for some kind of sign, or maybe for answers, or maybe for how we capture truth if we really want it. Truth taunts, then leaves you standing alone, annoyed. It sticks to you, leaving a trace of itself from its edge. It makes you wait for just the right light to reveal it. It dares you to look further.
Some nights ago and by accident, since flood lights were on that shouldn’t have been, I saw the most magnificent of the backyard webs. It spanned about 15 feet, between two tall crepe myrtles. Breathtaking. Intricate. Huge. I was determined to capture it in a photo. The next night I turned on the flood lights, got up on a patio chair (a very bad idea), and switched the camera’s flash from automatic to on. I had to hold the camera way over my head, risking fuzziness, but that, as I saw in the photos, didn’t matter. There wasn’t enough light.
porchweb-1-edTrapeeze webThe trapeze web
Web revealed by raindrops (above left)
 
The next night I asked my husband to put a flashlight on it while I tried again. That didn’t work. The next day I remembered a small strobe that attaches to my video camera. I got it out, made sure it was working, went to the garage, got a ladder this time (a really bad idea), and propped it up to wait for dark.
As soon as the sun went down, I gathered my camera and strobe, turned on the flood lights, and went to set up the ladder. I couldn’t yet see the web. I got up on the ladder and first shined the flashlight in its direction.
It was not there. It was gone. I could not understand why it was gone; many of the others were still hanging, attached to shrubs, limbs, my car door, everywhere.
But it was gone.
I wonder if remnants of it, stray strands of silk, will remain stuck to branches, limbs, or leaves for returning hummingbirds to salvage for weaving their nests next spring. I hope that is an answer.
 
More photos below from my web hunt in the backyard:
 


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