Some of my blogging friends have shared interesting factoids about themselves this week, and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading 50 things or even 100 things about their lives.
I just can’t bring myself to join them, though. I’m not that interesting, and I like to fly under the radar a bit.
But I will share this: I shower outdoors. Every day. It’s summer and I live in the south, so that’s not such a big deal. Lots of houses near the ocean have outdoor showers so you can rinse the sand off after a day at the beach. But I shower outside every day of the year, unless it’s below freezing, snowing, or the middle of a thunderstorm.
My secluded backyard is my sanctuary. Carolina Jasmine tumbles over the shower surround, and the sun rises through the trees right outside the shower. Really, it’s a great way to start a January morning as well as a July one.
Breathe in….breathe out….
Until a couple of days ago. I raise my face to feel the water, I open my eyes – and there, maybe three inches away, is a giant, hairy spider. Three inches from my face.
Golden orb spiders are common around here during the summer, and I appreciate their fine markings and their webs – from a distance. NOT from three inches away, especially when I’m naked, wet, and way too vulnerable.
This is, possibly, the quickest shower I’ve ever taken. I think golden orbs are harmless, but I decide to do a little research just to make sure. Here’s what I learn:
According to Wikipedia, “The venom of the golden silk orb-weaver is potent but not lethal to humans.” Hmm…this is not exactly reassuring to me.
You know how it is with research: You start looking for one thing and find yourself getting sucked deeper into learning more than you ever wanted to know….
Oh, this is kind of cool: Golden orbs are known as “writing spiders” because of their intricate webs. I like that.
Uh oh: Female golden orbs eat their mates. (Sorry, guys.)
Their webs are as strong as Kevlar. And they stretch.
The following story is actually kind of creepy I think: apparently 70 people spent 4 years collecting webs from a million Madagascar golden orb spiders and wove the resulting web into a single piece of golden cloth, on exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History. It was a real pain in the butt to gather all this spider silk because unlike silkworms, who can handle communal living, golden orb spiders tend to eat each other when they’re together and so the webs needed to be collected individually. I have no idea why or how anyone decided to do this project in the first place.
I’m glad I’m in North Carolina, because apparently Australia’s golden orb spiders are even bigger than ours. I’m not going to bother posting the links where you can watch videos of them tangling with sparrows and winning, but you know how to use Google and can find them yourselves if your prurient interest is piqued.
But for more — much more — than you could possibly ever want to know about golden orb spiders, I give you Natasha, the Golden Silk Spider. Really. Some guy named Frank, with an abiding interest in nature and a lot of spare time, followed a golden orb spider and her friends around his yard for months – and took LOTS of pictures, LOTS of videos and gathered them together on his own Natasha site.
How did Frank come to call his muse Natasha? “I went to a wonderful ballet (Zhazel probably in 1987) in Moscow (Bol’shoi) or St. Petersburg (Mali), and there was a Natasha, whose dancing was like fluid motion – and when I saw this spider, weaving with similar fluid motion, then it was clear, her name must be Natasha).”
::dusts off her dancing shoes and continues writing::
By now I know more than I ever wanted to know about golden orb spiders, except how to get the damn thing out of my shower without using force. Natasha-spider has more of a right to the outdoors than Natasha-writer, so I’m reluctant to play the human card. Plus, Buddha is sitting there watching. But not judging.
I’m trying to get one more shot with the tape measure…. Closer, closer, and WHOP! The edge of the tape snags the web. Natasha-spider leaps forward; Natasha-writer leaps back and hits the edge of the shower surround.
I feel for furry legs in my hair and then, grateful, I see Natasha-spider on the ground below me. She must be pissed, though, because she storms off into the tangle of jasmine, leaving the remains of her web and, possibly, Mr. Natasha behind.
It’s been three or four days now, and I haven’t seen her again. Tiny Mr. Natasha is still cowering way up in the corner of the web and he doesn’t scare me. Yet.
Yesterday, a new spider shows up. This one is missing a leg.
Great. Now I have both Buddha and the ADA to contend with as I try to figure out how to get the spiders to move to another web and reclaim my shower.
So there you have it: one fact about Natasha-writer, and a host of factoids about Natasha-spider and her friends.
::dusts off her dancing shoes and flies back under the radar::