Tonight was relatively warm and the wind was surprisingly still. My head was too full of thoughts in that way that only physical activity can alleviate, so after a quick supper I ventured outside to rake leaves.
Coco quickly settled into her favorite front yard spot to survey the other goings-on in the neighborhood. There was a surprising amount of activity on the street for after dark: Random comings and goings, dogs being walked, and an impromptu game of keep-away with a football down the street. It briefly occurred to me that I would like to have a digital camera that takes better pictures at night, to better chronicle the easy feeling of such an evening in photograph form.
The fallen leaves of the Japanese maple carpeted the ground below its gnarled branches and spotted the thyme plants with crimson and red. I left them in place as I worked my way around the rest of the plants... meticulously cleaning around things like lavender and sage that hate winter moisture but giving other plants just a quick once-over with the rake.
Between an unnamed heuchera and a golden sage, my rake got stuck momentarily. I heard my voice say, "What the...?" at the same time my brain thought, "Uh oh... that's the butterfly weed!" My arms stopped pulling and I bent over to more gently untangle the tines and make sure I hadn't pulled the plant out.
That's when the light caught it: A seedpod, impaled on a tine, with white silky threads bursting out of its seam. I had stalked all of the butterfly weeds, which I winter sowed this spring, but recently gave up on being able to harvest any seeds from them. I figured that I was just lucky they all had bloomed in their first year. I carefully picked up all the seedstuffs that I could find, and deposited them safely inside before resuming my task.
It was such a lovely night that I went back out after my work was finished and tried to get a few shots with my digital camera anyway. None of them turned out--my hand is simply not steady enough to overcome the camera's shortcoming--but I did find a second pleasant surprise when I went to download the pictures:
Almost a week ago, we caught site of the spider fixing his web in the afternoon sun. It would be the last work he would do on it, as a lack of food and continuing cold temperatures were the end of him before the weekend... but it provided the first and only good picture I was able to get of him. You can see his markings and even make out that he was minus one arm on his right side, if you click to enlarge the shot.
I'm not exactly sad that he is dead--not because I'm cold hearted, but just because that is the natural cycle of life. The optimist in me appreciates fall's endings even as I collect seeds and envision the new beginnings that await in the spring. Luckily, I have a long Cleveland winter's worth of time to make a few decisions about next year's growing season. I will need that long to decide whether it would be completely silly for me to take that storm window off again next summer, just to see if we can attract another spider to observe... and whether even that would stop me from doing it anyway.