You are bloated up like a balloon for months, carrying them around
unformed on your abdomen, but eventually the time comes and you knit a
giant egg sac and in they go. You push and push against your epigynum and it is like a
trickle at first, going ploop ploop ploop but then a landslide is
coming out of your oviducts, a wet avalanche that settles into a
You are smaller now, but you swell with pride. Your offspring.
Then there is the stockpiling of food, and the
waiting. The long interminable waiting.
One day as if by magic they are out all at once, microscopic black specks
crawling around every which way, discovering your world. Every year
you try to get to know them all, to instill a sense of place and self, a moral
compass, a respect for others. But there is barely time to name them,
they are so numerous. It is hard to tell exactly how many, with the
They begin to ask questions:
What is beyond the nest?
How come so many legs?
Do you eat the wings?
Why do we have to rebuild it every night?
You feed them. You try to keep them safe. You tell them stories
about the world, its pleasures and dangers, but there's only so much
you can prepare them for. They will be relying on instinct for most of
Finally the day comes: it is sunny with wisps of clouds, the wind is
blowing gently out of the East. They have arranged themselves around
the web, so many of them, and as you look at them all assembled for
the last time there's an exquisite stillness, a kind of excitement
mixed with melancholy, and they sense it. It is a Moment, it is the
prison yard scene in The Shawshank Redemption, a Mozart aria floating
above you, the camera panning back and up and out over the entire
scene, everyone looking heavenward with an air of anticipation.
Slowly you raise your abdomen, pointing it into the wind, and prepare
your back legs. The others all follow your lead, recognizing the
posture from repeated lessons. The precocious ones see it coming and
have the idea almost immediately, instinct directing their actions
now, spinnerets ballooning silky gray filaments out into the wind until they feel
the tug against their bodies, but they hold on. Others catch on more
slowly, tangling up with their neighbors, having to detach a few attempts and try again.
There is a surge in the breeze, and your sense of sadness at
parting turns into maternal pride as you give them the nod. Goodbye,
my darlings, you think, and one by one they close their eyes and let
go, and are carried slowly away like a million bits of dandelion in the