It seems crazy to me, that it was nearly mid-October last year that I threw together my little gallery of Walthamstow spiders. I can’t remember the webs around here blowing me away already by September… Maybe I’m just getting more attuned to them, focussed on them, each year.
From my window here, I’ve been marvelling each day at a spectacularly ambitious, wonderfully realised web across the road. It stretched from the lowermost branches of a tree on the other side of the street, at least three or four metres off the ground, and connected to the wing of a parked red sports car. The main supporting thread must have been four or five metres long. And that’s coming out the arse of something no bigger than my thumbnail. It was thrilling to see, tempered slightly by knowing that the spider wouldn’t have an inkling that the big red thing would just go one day.
The fact that these creatures can spin such fantastically beautiful, crafted webs gives them an air of otherness that goes far beyond the fact that their bodies are so little like ours. You can see the genesis of animal gods in there—us generalists who have traded in particular talents for a Swiss Army Knife lump of planning and imagination, our imagination and admiration clubbing together to revere and draw inspiration from these beings that casually do things it would take us years of learning to accomplish.
Today I drew the curtains and was slightly saddened, but unsurprised, to see a silver hatchback in the place of the red sports car. "Ah well," I thought. Then I reeled. The web was still there. Or rather, it had been rebuilt—in exactly the same place, only attached to the wing of the hatchback this time. That’s persistence.
But then, such resilience seems to pale next to some of the things we manage with our capacity for foresight, despite its obvious drawbacks like reflexive loops of fear and doubt. Reading stories from survivors of the school siege in Beslan, Russia, two things struck me, beyond the unutterable horror. One is how the level of unbridled desperation shown by the attackers so totally undermines their motives. The least I usually get from terrorist attacks, in terms of the perspective of the attackers, is an awareness of their desperation. But hundreds of dead and catastrophically traumatised children make even that seem trivial.
The other was this:
Ruslan Pukhayev said his seven-year-old grandson Gennady was slightly wounded in the left shoulder by an explosion.
The boy sat on a stretcher dipping a biscuit into some warm, sweet tea. The grandfather hovered above him.
"It’s incredible. Of course it’s amazing," the old man said.
"The whole thing is horrible for him. The whole thing happened before his very eyes. It will be years before he understands it. My God, who needed this?"
It struck me as amazing that, even in the immediate aftermath, tending his injured grandson, this old guy could conceive of the day the kid would understand the event at all. That’s tenacity.