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The Simple Wonder of Spiders

Joseph Webb

Posted on December 13, 2017 14:50

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I’ve learned to abide and value and admire the spider. And I owe this entirely to a single essay, written by a far wiser, gentler, more observant local writer.

The banana slug is NOT the Oregon State Bird. In this time when untruths are rampant upon the plain, I rise to refute that groundless calumny. There are an abundance of slugs in Oregon, however, of several varieties.

We also have bumper populations of other creatures. If they’re equipped to thrive in our climate they multiply. Now, we suddenly have brown pelicans staying here year round, in great numbers; and giant sea turtles, which come out onto the freezing beaches and need to be rescued. Both have followed the warming ocean waters north. And they’re not alone. The evidence of climate change is not hard to find, all you have to do is look.

When white settlers first came here they found ducks and beavers in much greater abundance than we have now; but then we killed off most of them and named our football teams after them. Another very plentiful species are the spiders.

There were spiders in North Idaho where I grew up, too. But they differed in kind and number from their Oregon representatives. We abused spiders in Idaho, at least in my family. Stomped them on sight. And I once jumped right through the wall of a pup tent in the middle of the night when one wandered across my face.

 I carried my fear and hatred of spiders with me when I came to Oregon. For years I waged war on any spider who ventured into our abode, and even those who (I apologize) were out in the yard, feeding on insects, exactly as they were supposed to be doing. By the Fall we have billions of outdoor spiders in Oregon. I used to launch them over the fence with a badminton racket. In those days I used a spade to fling slugs into the creek for the ducks to eat, too.

 But I have reformed. In my maturity I’ve learned to abide and value and admire the spider. And I owe this entirely to a single essay, written by a far wiser, gentler, more observant local writer. In a few beautifully written paragraphs he educated me as to the virtue and beauty and utility of the insects I had feared and hated. I would not have believed it possible. He made me want to go and look closely at them.

I have always been uncomfortable with the part of our Declaration of Independence which talks about “self-evident” truths. All men definitely are not created equal. The words are noble, thrilling, and have had tremendous effect. But a moment’s reflection reveals they’re simply not true.

What are self-evident though, are the facts that spiders are wee and wondrous, and that the climate is changing very fast. It just takes a few minutes and go look.

 

Joseph Webb

Posted on December 13, 2017 14:50

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Source: Nature.com

Five priorities for weather and climate research Nature 552, 7684 (2017). doi:10.1038/d41586-017-08463-3 Authors:...

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