The gift of fermented ginkgo fruit should be enough for one day. I now have responsibility for five pounds of ripe genetic diversity to tend to; I'm doing my part, I think. The afternoon is wearing on and if anybody wants to bring me another present, I would like a tall cup of iced coffee, black. But no; the Law of Unintended Consequences rules the day. Here is a grinning fellow clutching a paper bag.
Hey ! he says, remember how you told me about the spiders? Well, here's some for ya!
I do remember.
This is Big Spider time...when the spiders that have been with us all summer have finally gotten too fat to hide easily anymore. If it has been a good buggy season, their lives are nearly over when we finally stumble through their webs and do the Scary Spider Web in My Hair Dance in the garden. I am forever trying to talk people down from their spider panic even though I've done my share of frantic scrambling after blundering into a web. I look for the spiders all summer, program a cerebral GPS system with their location, use a foggy morning for web watching.
I like carnivorous insects; we're on the same side in the garden. ( I'm a bit disturbed by their lack of discrimination; they're as likely to eat each other as they are a Japanese beetle or a grasshopper, but then every body is meat to some body. The lion may lay down with the lamb someday, but anything laying down with a dragonfly or a spider or a praying mantis had better keep a few eyes swiveling on the lookout.)
As the September days get shorter in northern Illinois, the big black and yellow orb spiders-argiope, the writing spider- is nearly ready to lay her eggs. One morning she's hanging in a web with a stash of silk wrapped lunches, causing you to leave the tomato patch unharvested, and in the afternoon she's gone. She hasn't gone far....usually less than five feet or so away to spin a perfect nursery globe...an act of insect faith, if insects know about faith. I know about faith and feel that faith needs a bit of help, so I look for the egg sacs and move them to safer quarters for the winter. Who am I to move a mother's egg sac? I'm the Human and plenty arrogant enough to think that I know better. Plus, I have seen the baby spiders in the spring, and the first thing that they do is eat each other, so I relocate the sac to good cover where the babies have a slightly better chance of surviving sibling appetites and becoming my frontline troops in the Bug Wars. It's All About Me, of course.
I encourage other people to do this also; mostly they think I'm crazy. But, once in a while, I must make an impression that isn't crazy, or! only other crazy people listen to me; hence the fellow with the paper bag. He's brought me two egg sacs that he found in his own garden, and he won't listen to my advice to take them home directly and put them in his boxwood hedge. They-a couple thousand spider potentials- are a gift to me. Share the harvest! You told me that! he says.
I'm sure I did. It sounds like something I would say.
I bring the ginkgo fruit home to my kitchen to finish fermenting and take the spider sacs to the Heritage Garden, put one in the lavender patch and one in the indigo bush already practicing my lecture to the Volunteers next season when the spiders are noticed. Perhaps I ask too much of these people, I think, recalling how everybody panicked over the mud dauber wasp larvae that I put in the shed last year. (That's another story for later.)
Still. What does it mean, ginkgo nuts and spider eggs on a September afternoon? I have that sort of brain where everything is meant. Meant. Has meaning. Something in the context may need adjusting, of course....the timing, the angle, the distance....but there is a point, right? Right?