She was gorgeous in every way. I could watch her for hours as she danced in the moonlight. Even if she was sitting alone, blissfully unaware of my presence, I’d be transfixed by her quiet, unassuming sense of self-assurance. Each time we greeted each other at dawn and again at dusk, she would fill my days with optimism and bring comfort to my nights. I was in love.
The summer evening’s air was light and inviting, and rather than accept my friend’s offer to drive me home, I decided to take a relaxing walk. The night was quiet, all that could be heard was the gentle rustle of leaves in the gums, the odd creak in their branches and the crunch of fallen leaves and gravel underfoot. As I stared into the evening sky, the moon peered coyly out from behind the clouds like a child playing hide-and-seek. The night was perfect: ‘It can’t get better,’ I remember thinking.
Humming a tune and goofily dancing as I approached my house, I was suddenly startled and tripped over my two left feet. I fell onto my hands and rebounded back up just as quickly as I’d fallen. Dusting myself off, I glanced around to see if anyone had seen me fall to ease my sense of embarrassment. But it was as I turned to the right that she caught my eye. There, dressed in the most magnificent red and brilliant blue, was Patience. I could not mouth a word. I didn’t even realise my jaw had hit the ground… again! Even now, I have no words to describe how dumbfounded I was. What did Patience do? Nothing. She stared right back. Didn’t move an inch. I swear time had stopped for both of us. But then, as if shaking herself back into reality, she started to do the most incredible thing I’d ever seen.
Patience’s long and slender legs, with the utmost grace and precision, began to move swiftly with dexterity and an incredible agility. Her dance was hypnotic to behold. It was like she was performing the tango, her legs shuffling with fervour yet her entire body gliding effortlessly around the dance floor. I couldn’t help but just stare. I even pulled out my phone and took a photo without asking! Rude, I know, but Patience didn’t seem to mind; she just kept weaving her web round and round as any garden orb weaver (Eriophora biapicata) would on a balmy summer’s night.
Yes, I’d fallen in love with a spider. Patience decided to call my front doorstep home. Typical of a garden orb weaver, Patience would meticulously and swiftly set up her web every night, and with just as much effort, take it down at dawn. Her web, anchored by the large shrubs and protruding lanterns either side of my doorstep, spanned my front door ready to catch unsuspecting insects attracted to the lanterns’ light. I suppose in a strange way, me leaving the light on for an hour or two was a gesture similar to preparing a nice meal for a partner or friend.
I’m sure I downright annoyed her sometimes. On a couple of occasions, I’d forget she was there and before I’d be able to open the door, the slight touch of her web in my face would throw me back. Fortunately for both of us, Patience was never on the web, just patiently sitting on the periphery waiting for the odd insect – and not me! – to come along and hit it. I soon realised, though, that Patience often changed the orientation of her web and it wasn’t always spanning the door. So rather than annoy her and play arachnid roulette every night, my housemate and I came up with a solution. We’d simply look out for the web, and whoever was home first would text the other: ‘Patience has her web up at the front. Go around the side.’ Going through the side gate to get inside really wasn’t that much extra effort and Patience was still able to do her thing, unaffected.
Patience and I only knew each other briefly. It was only a matter of a week or two before I realised there was no more web and there was no more Patience. Maybe a bird had taken her? Maybe she’d moved on? I don’t know, but as short as our acquaintance was, it was incredible. I called her Patience for the very fact that she taught me patience. Usually as if on auto-pilot, I would finish work, drive home, open the door, throw my bags down, prepare dinner, eat, wash dishes, and so on. Instead, because of Patience I had to slow down. I’d come home and slowly approach the door so as to not disturb her near-invisible web. I would stop for a little while, taking note of how her web glistened in the moonlight and how she danced tirelessly, weaving her web. Transfixed by her brilliant red and blue colouration, she made me ever so acutely aware of my presence and allowed me to feel completely in the moment.
No matter how any day or night transpires, the simple act of patience, slowing to observe the tiny details of nature’s wonders, helps to put you at ease. It took an accidental encounter with a spider for me to truly appreciate that.
Following a childhood love for sharks, Leo recently completed his PhD at Monash University investigating the effects of fishing on shark and ray populations. He is Director of Community Operations for Wild Melbourne.
You can find him on Twitter at @ElasmoBro.
Banner photo: I, Luc Viatour, CC BY-SA 3.0