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June 28, 2013

Spider webs are part of nature's fine-art collection

There are so many beautiful, unique and wonderful things in nature. It may be magnificent waterfalls cascading down over tall cliffs from an emerald forest. To others, it’s a little, tan fawn with white spots as it suckles from its mother in the tall grass on wobbly legs. But one of the most unique things in nature is a spider's web.

Last Tuesday morning, they were spectacular. As the American poet Carl Sandburg wrote in one of his poems, “The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on.” It was when the fog covered the valleys and held the heavy dew from the rising sun that made them all the more beautiful.

With the sun inching its way through the white morning mist, the spider webs were glistening in the meadows and on tree branches as I made my way up a hill on a morning walk. Dozens of them decorated the landscape like delicate ornaments on nature’s Christmas tree. Each was like a snowflake – no two being alike. They were carefully designed and fastened between branches and tall grass stalks.

I wished I had a camera that morning. But I knew if I went back to the house to get one, it would be too late. The warming sun would push the fog silently away and I’d miss their beauty.

Spider webs that are absent today may be there tomorrow. I often have wondered how these delicate traps could be spun it such a short period of time. How does an insect with a brain no bigger than a grain of salt create such a masterpiece?

I started to pay attention to these works of art as I walked along. Many were only secured by three or four main lines, yet they created multiple circles -- each getting smaller -- until they reached the center of their web. Then there were spokes -- like those on a bicycle wheel -- that went from the outside to a central hub.

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