I am not a fan of spiders. I admit that if I see one, I will have to yell for Jim to take care of it. When Jenna was a little girl she interrupted Jim while he was watching an Orioles game one night to get a spider in her bathroom. Of course, it was the bottom of the ninth inning, the Orioles were down by three runs, and the count was three balls, two strikes, with two outs. Jim totally downplayed it and told Jenna not to worry about the spider so he could watch the final batter. As luck would have it, Chris Hoiles hit a walk off grand slam for the Orioles win that night, and Jim saw it. When he finally got up to check on the spider, I heard him yell from the kids’ bathroom, “Jenna, get my slipper.” It was a little bigger than he imagined, but that is another story.
Recently, I learned that yellow garden spiders are also called writing spiders – now, that piqued my curiosity. What do they write?
The writing spider can be found throughout the temperate grasslands, prairie and scrublands of North America. This common spider, sometimes called the black and yellow garden spider, is regularly found in backyards. Argiope aurantia prefers sunny areas among flowers, shrubs and tall plants. Open fields and meadows are another typical home for this sun-loving arachnid (Milne and Milne 1980).
The writing part of its name refers to the way it spins its web. The white zigzag in the centre of its web is called the stabilimentum or web decoration and resembles a zipper. Many believe the way the spider moves back and forth zigging and zagging is similar to writing.
While I have never seen this particular spider working, I imagine it is like Charlotte in one of my favorite children’s novels by E. B. White which tells the story of a pig named Wilbur and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte. When Wilbur is in danger of becoming the farmer’s dinner, Charlotte writes messages in her web praising Wilbur in order to save him. Charlotte is the first writing spider I ever knew.
Writing, for me, can also be a zig zagging process. Author Gustave Flaubert wrote: The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. This statement truly captures my personal experience with writing. I often get new ideas for my blog through conversation. But those ideas don’t become mine until I write about them. Clear prose means clear thought and, for me, writing is all about thinking. It solidifies my thoughts and helps me formulate new ones.
Writing is also about re-writing, editing, and reflecting on your message to be sure it represents your thoughts appropriately and authentically – zig zagging as it mirrors my stream-of-consciousness thinking.
The ancient Chinese regarded the written word as a transformative force able to move heaven and earth and unite the reader with the source of all things, the Tao. (The Art of Writing, Chou Ping) If we all took some time to use the written word to formulate our opinions before we said them aloud, we might all get along just a little bit better. At a minimum, we would be more civil towards one another.
Everyone is a writer. Yes, to pursue it as a career takes education, special training, and endless practice. But, for most of us, on a daily basis, all it takes is time with your thoughts and their subtle back and forth, and a basic desire to elevate others with your words, like Charlotte.