Spider in its web near the streambed at Longleaf Preserve this morning.

Some days we’re the spider. Some days we’re the fly. And some thrilling days we’re the web itself, drawing all things delicate and delicious, big ideas and small, into our inexorable orbit.

Food Chain

 IMG_2907 This dirt (or mud) dauber has stung the spider and  begun dragging it away. In the lower photo, Buck moved the spider into a clear spot on the ground. I took the picture, then we left the wasp to the work of moving the spider into its pantry. Yum.

The Exquisite and the Ancient

Buck and I almost walked straight into and through this beauty's web late this afternoon when we walked to the gate.

IMG_2842 The out-of-focus brown furriness on the other side of the web is Maggie. Click here for info on the exquisite Nephila clavipes from BugGuide. She is also known as the Golden Silk Orbweaver.

Today was a double treat. Buck was talking on the phone mid-morning as he and I worked at our side-by-side workspace in the Lodge. Suddenly, he stood up, craned his neck toward the front window and pointed at something moving at the edge of the woods.

"Mr. Westmark, did you get what I said?  Mr. Westmark?  Hello?"

"Oh, sorry, Mark. Got to go. I'll call you back. Just saw a gopher tortoise."

I already had my camera and was headed to the front door. Buck came with his binoculars.

IMG_2837 Any time a person is privileged to see one of these ancient, gentle herbivores, it is a good day. Click here to read more about gopherus polyphemous from the folks at gophertortoise.org.

Southern Black Widow On A Bed of Diamonds

Southern Black Widow 

Well, actually, it was a close up of rough concrete. I know a Southern widow who destroyed her mate and wound up with a whole lot of diamonds.  . . but that's a whole 'nother story. This beauty was resting in her web by our swimming pool. I was doing a lazy backstroke and noticed a spider, stopped, raised up and saw the red hourglass, then backed away slowly to swim to the ladder and go for my camera.  

Happy Face Spider

happy face spider
Often they are white, festooned with black spots and red spiny horn-looking protuberances, but this guy must know it’s Fashion Week in New York and just won’t be outdone even if we are so far out in the sitcks the buses don’t even run and shows up in a school bus yellow carapace. It’s a spiny orb weaver spider (gasteracantha cancriformis). Pretty cool.

After the Rain


It rained last night, the kind we call a farmer’s rain, not a frog strangler or a gully washer. It was steady and gentle, a good soaking rain. At 8:30 this morning, when I walked to the gate, a clean mist hung in the woods.


A pleasant smell of rich earth mingled with wild onion and mint. I developed a hunger for a bowl of taboulleh scooped up with crisp Romaine lettuce leaves. White toadstools with purplish splotches had sprung up beside the dirt road. I found the dotted horsemint again and, after a bit of looking around, discovered an entire colony nearby.

Due to a trick of light, a spider’s web was completely invisible, and it seems as though she is magically suspended in mid-air.

I walk this path almost every day, at least once, but the gaudy violet beautyberry clusters which have sprung up seemingly overnight are lovely in the mist. Up close they remind me of the plastic costume jewelry beads worn by a girl I knew in high school named Rhonda.