Saturday, September 19, 2009

Spider Living in a Small Town

While things heat up in American politics and violence boils over in the world, I worked off some frustrations in my small-town yard last weekend.
We have a spider the size of a Mack truck in our garden. It has provided a lot of entertainment for several people over the many weeks it has spent in our yard.
In truth, the spider is only the diameter of a ping-pong ball when its legs are outstretched. Wearing natty stripes of yellow, ivory and brown, it's an orb spider whose web is an architectural marvel of concentric circles woven on supporting spokes that span five feet.
It lives in our shrubbery, surrounded by sweet alyssum and rose bushes. It moved there five or six weeks ago after first trying out a web in the nearby agapanthus, which was lower to the ground and must have proved ineffectual as a trap.
Now sprawled out on a web the size of a small trampoline, the spider is living proof that the secret to doing good business is location, location, location. It prospers on all the fly-by traffic, and at any given time it usually has a couple of good meals wrapped up like mini white burritos on its web.
It's just one of the fascinating neighbors we've gotten to know since we came here to this small town. After what was for my husband and daughter a lifetime in Los Angeles, I promised them nothing except we would live in a beautiful place.
They had already seen it on visits to my hometown over the years: summer's golden humpbacked hills studded with oaks the color of jade; spring's undulating green expanses slashed with ribbons of orange poppies and purple lupine.
It was no risk to promise them that every day we'd go forth into God's country, where hawks wheel on updrafts and deer come down to feed in the long, low light of evening.
We had no guarantees we'd prosper in the move - and in fact found, like many others, that wages lag behind the cost of living here.
We had no certainty, either, that we would replace the deep friendships left behind, forged through years of barbecues, riots, earthquakes, and backyard croquet games.
And indeed we've found that it does take time, years of it, to put down roots like that.
But we've been well-rewarded for our investment in the small-town way of life, in unexpected ways I never imagined, even though I lived here as a child.
Our daughter struggled through years of self-doubts to claim a spot on a volleyball team in high school. There was pride shining in her eyes as she put on her uniform and put her skills to the test. As a young woman now, she has found her place in a physical-therapy gym, certified in massage and loving her work with the recovering injured.
My husband, Joe, still gets mileage out of the mountain lion he saw one year, loping across the field of his headlights in the pre-down darkness. The great lion ghost gets longer and taller with every telling.
A few years ago he was hurt on the job and had to retire, and we had some rough times. Now he volunteers at a local school and works with a dozen recovering alcoholics, and he loves his new life.
Neither of us will ever forget the night we watched a local jeweler and a city councilman save a retired teacher’s life at a community party. Wally's heart had quit, but Pat and George did not quit—and today Wally is bouncing around town, lending a hand wherever he can, being of service in many different ways.
Working among people in this town has taught me that the real treasure of our area is as much in those who live here as it is in our beautiful landscape. I love bumping into people I know on sidewalks and in shops, taking time to share a few observations about the day's discoveries. My time here has given me glimpses into the lives of hometown heroes, small-town miracles, and wonderful neighbors.
Here is a thought along those lines, expressed far better than I could do, by Holocaust survivor and writer Corrie Ten Boom:
"The tree on the mountain takes whatever the weather brings. If it has any choice at all, it is in putting down roots as deeply as possible."


Tall Kay said...

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You sound very grateful for the move out of lala land :o)

My daughter graduated from Cal Poly and I just love the central coast. Great to hear AA is going strong no matter where we live!

Madison said...

Such a great description of the benefits of small town life and a sense of belonging. If I lived where you live, the spider's life would abruptly end. This is one lucky insect.

joey said...

Spiders are amazing. Small trampoline is a wonderful image, except for ending up as a breakfast burrito is you jump on it.

I swear, if you sit on a patch of grass long enough you can hear it grow and you'll see things that you don't even notice when walking by. The lawn is not inert.

Cheri said...

Nothing like a small town, and I've been blessed to live in one for the past 14 years!


Pam said...

Thank you for visiting my blog darlin'.
When I get a big spider web at my house, I shoo the spider off (they'll build another one in 24 hours) and I spray the web with silver spray paint. I then put a piece of black contruction paper behind it -gently. Let the web cling to the paper then lift it away. It's a cool way to sit and look at the intricate web.

enchantedoak said...

Thank you all for your very different comments on my silly post. The spiders are actually garden friendly, and I feel honored to provide a home for insect carnivores like orb spiders and praying mantids. All part of God's creatures, eh?

Shadow said...

other than the spider (eeeeeeck) this is a beautiful post. work with what you have, appreciate what you've got, make the most of what's around you... yeah, that's the way to live!

the walking man said...

It is a particular fetching way you show the spider and the web then go on to show the town and the way its web captured your family. I named our spider "Bob"

Lou said...

Thanks for coming by my blog. Your place here is lovely.

I grew up an Army brat, and we moved every 2-3 years. I can relate to putting down roots (literally & figuratively), and knowing your neighbors.

I never kill spiders, they don't bother me. I'm too busy worrying about snakes...LOL

big Jenn said...

I'm a fan of spiders myself. This is orb spider season here with all the goldenrod.
I live in a small town too. Actually, the town I grew up in,ten miles away was voted "The Coolest Small Town in America" this year. (it was a contest by Budget Travel),but hey, we'll take it. I blogged about it. I love where I live and it sounds like you do too. jeNN

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

Beautiful... Nature and community....

the mosaic of recovery... God works from the smallest miracles (the orb spider's web) to the web of a community working togethter for the common good.

That's what I read in the space in betweent today. :) Thanks, beautiful thoughts!

enchantedoak said...

Thank you for teaching me something I hadn't even noticed when I wrote the post: the connection between the spider's web and the web of my community. You all make me sound smarter than I am! Thanks for reading between the lines and sharing your wonderful thoughts.
I love this blogging community!

Syd said...

I grew up in a small town. It had its good things that I didn't fully appreciate at the time. Now I live in a very rural area in which beauty surrounds me.