The Art of Nature and the Nature of Art

The Art of Nature and the Nature of Art

-Note: This post was one of my columns I did for the West Of community paper, written at the end of April, 2010 while still living in Charleston, SC.  It is one of my favorites.  Enjoy.-

Two nights ago I went into my backyard.  It is difficult to spend time indoors during this time of year.  I take some music, I take my sketchbook and utensils, I take a bottle of poetry.  The backyard is my epi-centric zenith of creativity.  I prefer to work by candle light, the ebb and flow creating highlights and shadows,  flitting like so many thoughts through the mind.  The wax flows quicker than, but much in the same manner as, a glacier.

I fire the wicks. 

Unfortunately, it has been quite windy lately and no sooner do I get all four lit than two are already out.  In the dark, in the wind, small things are blown about.  Out of four bottles I keep on the table, I put new candles in two of them when I sat down, both of which sit to the left of me.

Then I see the most amazing thing.  A gust that extinguishes the third candle blows a spider from that same candle to the one that still glows.  She grasps it, climbs towards the top.  Anchoring her strand, she now has a trail through the air between the two of them.  She immediately starts back across, reinforcing the strand.  I relight the candles a number of times before I am forced to surrender to nature and resort to technology.  I turn on my electric lantern, but even though her strand sways back and forth in the wind, it holds.  She performs one of the most daring high wire acts ever accomplished.  I give up my scribbling and simply sit and watch her work.  She has the single mindedness that only instinct can provide.

Surely, her organic materials are much stronger than anything we can produce, but she doesn’t know if it will hold or not.  She doesn’t really care.  Should it break she would simply start again.  There is no thought about it, she is what she does, a spinner.  At only an eighth of an inch long, she reels out feet of the stuff.  She has started to branch out away from her main strand, venturing down the candle securing more then using it to work back up to the main line.  Slowly the strands begin to resemble the structure of an arched bridge.  Finally I go inside, but she continues to toil.

Then tonight I go back outside, Edie Palmieri playing, chicken on the grill, later, more scribbling.  I look at the candles.  The spider’s travails had faded into the background of my mind until I saw the elaborate web strung between not just the two but now three of the four candles.  I don’t know how she made it over to the other one, perhaps an agreeable gust that had propelled her between the first two spans gave her a ride to the third.  Now instead of some simple lines of web, there is a whole network.  It has been working well, too.  I see remnants of bugs caught in it along with bits of windblown flotsam.  I start the fire and let the charcoal get ready as I sit and wait.  Finally I see her scrambling up the candle, wandering between the frozen drippings of dozens of previous candles.  She makes her way back up to her web and then out along it, reinforcing, spinning, repairing any damage that has been done.

Nature still forces her on.  It seems she does not know what rest is.  I see a much larger spider (double her size, but still only a quarter of an inch long) climbing up the candle towards her complex.  She is sitting and I don’t know if they are aware of each other.  Then she climbs over one of the static cascades and simply touches the other one with one of her tiny legs.  Perhaps it was startled.  I don’t know but it leapt off the candle, leaving her to her own devices.

Dinner is done and still I watch her.  The night is beginning to grow dark and her web is hanging on the top edge of two of the three candles.  I have work to do.  Art is waiting and She is to me as the force that drives the spider.  I strike the match.

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