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A Book Written by Spiders

In the woods there are webs.

Some we know well, like the orb webs that spiral to the center. Some surprise us on the forest floor, gauzy sheetwebs that taper to a funnel. Some are messy constructs like the cobwebs in the nooks of the trees.

But everywhere, everywhere, strands glint rainbows in the sunlight. Stretching from branch to branch, leaf to leaf, twig to twig, they are the trails of passing spiders.

Here is a spider now. She raises her abdomen and releases a line into the air.

She waits.

The line catches. She pulls the line taut, anchors her end, and climbs across. Once across, she ambles on.

Behind her the line reads, "A spider was here." So reads the line before, and the line before that. So reads every line in the forest.

The forest is a book written by spiders. It reads, "We spiders are everywhere."

(Written on the morning of October 18th, 2009, in the woods of Gus Fruh Park, Austin, Texas)

A Shimmering

Green and shimmering and fluttering through the air.
I follow.
It hovers by a leaf, settles, and stills. A lacewing.
The lacewing disappears. I see only leaf and nearby leafs and branch and bush.
Feathery grasses tickle from below.
Among them, a sensitive plant, which I tickle but does not close.
    It is not a sensitive plant.
Nearby, a scrawny vine of poison ivy, which I do not tickle.
Something tickles me. A tiny spider threads a line across my hand.
I blow it off into yellow flowers.
The flowers nod.
The bushes sway in a light breeze.
Leafs sway.
A fluttering appears in the air, green and shimmering.
The lacewing flies away.

(Written on October 20, 2018 at Zilker Nature Preserve)

A Skitter of Motion

A skitter of motion across the sandstone, and then stillness.  Two lizards clung to the face of the rock, mouths open, panting.  Heat rose from the rock in waves.  One lizard turned an eye back towards the other, readying its legs to run.

From downslope, a crashing of rocks.  Hands gripped a ledge, and soon a child pulled himself into view.

The boy slapped his dusty hands together.   He stood, and his head of blond hair approached the lizards.  The lizards scrambled up the sandstone wall.

The boy looked up, and the lizards froze.  He stared at a lizard, squinting.

The lizard slowed its breathing and hugged the rock.  The boy remained still, watching.  Eventually the boy looked down.  He knelt and probed his hands among rocks at his feet.

When the boy stood again, he again eyed the lizard.  Suddenly his arm blurred with motion.

Crack!  A rock exploded beside the lizard, and the lizard ran.

The lizard halted, its chest heaving.  It looked back.  The boy's eyes were lit with excitemen…

Breath of the Bear

The Great Bear ambled slowly along, enormous muscles rolling in a mountain of fur. Slowing, slowing, she stopped. She stood there, head hanging low, breathing hoarsely, heavily.

Between breaths there was silence.

Breath by breath the silence lengthened, until finally the Great Bear lay down and rested her head softly on her paws. Her chest lifted gently and gently fell and then was still. Still and silent.

A Fall breeze blew. A fly landed on the bear's body, and then so did another. Hundreds of shiny green and shiny blue flies covered the bear, intermittently taking flight all at once in crescendos of buzzing.

Beetles arrived -- carrion beetles, outfitted in purple elytra and sunflower carapaces. They ate fly larvae and laid beetle eggs. Tiny mites crawled off their backs and feasted on egg of fly, even as thousands of new flies emerged from the bear's body and flew away. Rove beetles with massive jaws crawled under the bear's heavy mantle. The mantle sagged and dropped. I…

Mystery of the Misumena fidelis Crab Spider

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Mexico and the United States are missing a crab spider. It's not the most inconspicuous of spiders, either, being one we should see on flowers. Read on to see how biological taxonomy is sometimes detective work about the names and shapes of things...
Summary A fortuitous series of circumstances, along with some sleuthing, reveals that Misumena fidelis Banks 1898 is properly Mecaphesa fidelis (Banks). It is very likely synonymous with Misumenops volutus F.O. Pickard-Cambridge 1900. It may or may not also be synonymous with Misumena decora Banks 1898, which Gertsch 1939 might have mistakenly synonymized with Misumenops volutus. An examination of the Misumena decora type specimens should resolve that. Mecaphesa fidelis ranges along the western half of Mexico, south to Guatemala, and possibly north into southern Arizona.
Last Seen in 1901
There are supposed to be two species of Misumena crab spider (family thomisidae) north of Mexico. Misumena vatia ranges across most of the United St…

Sarcophicada

"Dang roaches, get out of my life!" The old man coughed and coughed. From where he lay on his hospital bed, he pointed his cane at the floor and expertly crunched a cricket.

The machine beside the bed exploded in frantic beeping. "Please, you must rest," the nurse said. "That was only a cricket."

"Hmph! I hate bugs. All of 'em!"

The man's chest heaved, and he gasped a sudden heavy gasp. The machine beeped at the nurse, the nurse called the doctor, and the man passed away.

The man woke. He breathed easily, feeling well rested, as if from seventeen years of sleep. It was dark, the air was stale, and it smelled like dirt.

"Hmph. Figures," he thought to himself.

He began to scratch at the dirt overhead. Progress was slow but steady. Now and then he would pause, look down, and muse, "Yup, shoulda been a hole digger."

Finally he broke through the surface into fresh air. After resting, he ambled over blades of grass and deft…

Weed Rage

I hunkered down in the garden and uprooted a weed. "Unh!" A root nearly two inches thick! An adjacent weed had unbelievable two-foot leaves. I tugged and tugged and up it came, revealing a dozen weeds underneath. I yanked and yanked and yanked.

Still more monstrous weeds! Heaving, heaving, they came up one by one. But now there were baby weeds and sister weeds and even grandfather weeds. I pulled and yanked and tugged. "Hmph! Bluh! Hargh!"

I didn't see the morning go, and I didn't notice the long shadows drawing. Instead I squatted and lifted and grabbed and shovelled and tugged and jumped. Spitting dirt and raining dirt, I watched arms and legs flail. I watched weeds fly. "Ahg! Unh! Grr!"

Unbelievable! This weed had a stalk eight inches thick and it was covered in bark. I whacked at it with the side of my trough. I whacked and whacked and whacked, my grunting now as frenzied as a chainsaw.

Finally the behemoth fell. Thunk. The ground shook.

I loo…