Monday, March 29, 2010

The coyotes woke me again last night. I can't blames the coyotes alone for my wakefulness, of course. My husband is out of work, my middle daughter has a back injury, my car's brakes failed on me recently, we are running through our savings like water through a sieve. I'm not sleeping well. Insomnia is simply a way of life for me right now.

I am not afraid of the coyotes. On bright, chilly nights, the hunting must be very good because you can hear the yips and calls all around. My neighbors all have stories of missing cats, of daytime sightings, of midnight back door raids, and these stories are true. Yet I know the woods that crouch thickly along either side of the creek that runs for miles and miles, provide all the shelter, cover and food they require. They do not need me to survive.

I had been sleeping the sleep of the dead, that deep, deep sleep that clutches you hard and wishes to drag you back down. But my dog was sounding the alarm, so I shook my head and tried to clear the cobwebs from my confused mind as I stepped into the night. The moon, pregnant and full, shone with a frightening intensity, spilling its cold light on the wide outdoors. I gazed up at it, entranced. I imagined a kind of menace in its intent, hovering aggressively above me in the early morning sky. There was something undeniably otherworldly in its brilliance. I shivered as I peered into the illuminated woods. The coyotes, three of them, merely froze and stared at me from across the field that separated us, their yellow eyes narrowed to cautious slits. For what seemed an eternity, we pondered one another in perfect stillness, and I was the first to turn away.

The nighttime air was crisp and chilly. Stars twinkled overhead and the trees rustled and sighed. My dog panted and leaned hard against my leg, drawing courage and calm from my presence. Hundreds of tiny white pear blossoms floated on the surface of his water bowl. Details of my little corner of the world rose up with a startling clarity. Momentarily, I forgot why I was standing out there, cold and in my nightgown. My mind seemed to empty itself and then fill up again with the essence of the night around me. When my eyes darted back to the woods, the coyotes had moved on.

I crawled back to bed and fell into a troubled sleep. I dreamed of spiders. There were two spiders and they were in love. They had taken over our guest bathroom, spinning webs truly awesome to behold. The webs spread from wall to wall, suspended like delicate hammocks. At the bottom of the larger web hung a honeycomb, dripping and glistening, rich and golden. I found myself reaching a tentative finger out to taste the honey, like a child might, fascinated and fearful, yet unable, somehow, to resist all that sweetness.

I awoke and lay there for a moment recounting my dream. It was still quite dark outside. Feeling oddly foolish, I got up to have a look in my guest bathroom. For some time now, I had allowed a little house spider to set up camp in the corner opposite the sink. For weeks, that little spider had been something of a friend, a companion. I had watched her stalking prey, spinning her haphazard webs, preparing her egg sac. I had felt sadness for what I imagined was her effort to distribute her special set of genes before her own candle flickered and burned itself out. (I will admit that most of my information about spiders comes from "Charlotte's Web.") I related to her as a gentle mother, sacrificing herself for the futures of her numerous offspring, bowing to the inevitable, the unavoidable turning wheel of life.

A strange drama was unfolding. My little spider was perched high above the center of her web, inching her way up one of the long anchor threads that attached to the wainscoting. A huge spider sat quietly at the end of this thread, waiting patiently for her. The larger spider was grotesquely bigger, at least 5 times her size. Yet she came to him on what appeared to be her own will, under her own power. I don't know what happens with spiders, the finer points of spider society are closed to me, I can't even identify either of them with any confidence. I returned again and again over the span of an hour, checking the progress of their slow dance. Was I witnessing a death spiral? A courtship? A power struggle? What? I resisted the urge to interfere.

I found them gone in the morning. I had been half expecting them to be sitting on two enormous webs...

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