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Adventures with Gloria (the spider)

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

October 2008



I found myself near the dumpster bin, garbage can — the new ones the city distributed for trash collection. It's a big plastic container on wheels that the garbage men can easily pick up curbside, using a mechanical arm that empties the trash into the back of the truck. I keep mine on the back patio, and I roll it to the curb every Wednesday evening for Thursday morning collection.

As usual, this morning I had found more trash in the house to add to the dumpster before the trucks came. It was going to be a beautiful fall day, cool and breezy, and the sun was just reaching the streets, shining through the trees onto the pavement. The birds were chirping overhead while dew on the plastic bin evaporated.

Completely unaware of what I might encounter, I headed out the back door with additional trash in hand. As I got down the short driveway, closer to the curb, I was soon entranced by the sight of a large, sparkling creation hanging near the dumpster in the sunshine. Attached to the back of the bin was a very large, full size, storybook — spider web — complete with radial lines and hundreds of rungs, waiting silently for a lumbering bug to veer into the trap. As if caught myself, I sat down on the pavement to study this singular work of art.

I had noticed the spider webs on the back of the dumpster before — by where the handle is... There must be something about the bin design that is pleasing to spiders. The handle is always covered with webs, and I hardly want to touch it — let alone pull it to the curb with an angry spider lurking at close range.

I had brought the bin to the curb last night without any thought. Then this morning, I could hardly believe my eyes, that such a bedazzling marvel had been produced over night — glowing in the sunshine and including eight drops of dew that hung like ornaments..heavy enough that three of the inner rungs had collapsed.

It was hard to imagine the spider that had made this.. How did she do it and especially in such a short time and just hours after I must have completely destroyed her previous universe the night before! Gone - poof by my reckless maneuvering of the bin... It appeared this spider was not angry or depressed, nor was she unable to carry on, or without energy to come to grips with her personal tragedy... No, instead she toiled away all night. She didn't ask, "Why me?" She got right to work.

I went inside to get my camera.

On my return I was again awestruck, standing now in the doorway, maybe fifty feet from the trash bin, marveling at how, even at that distance - I could see the web glimmering on the dumpster. Anyone walking down Washington Street that morning MUST have noticed it. I took a few pictures close up, although I did not see a spider anywhere. This one must have been sleeping soundly after working so long and hard.

One of the many spokes originating from the center went clear to the ground, like a very long long leg that appeared to be holding the whole thing up. And on close observation, it seemed to be attached to a single blade of grass! There was another, shorter leg that went down to another blade of grass, and between these two supports, there were three more spokes that went only to the outer ring. Then a few other spokes clung to the side of the trash bin and up to the handle. Whoever crafted this was quite gifted. Every rung was perfectly — one-hundred percent parallel.

Like a symbol of unrelenting determination, had there been tears over the loss of her previous home, this spider was not phased.

Then I had the worst imaginable thought of all. The garbage trucks were on their way. Once they came — that would be the end! Eventually I would have to move the bin back to the patio. There was nothing I could do. When the mechanical arm lowered and clamped onto the plastic — that would be it. All her intricate spider work would rip with a snap and disappear once again — just as effortlessly as I had done the night before.

I never did see the spider that day. She must have been hiding up in a hole where the lid screws into the bin or under the ledge at the top where all the other matted webs were. I wondered if she had seen me, if she knew I was there, if she knew I was so charmed by her creation. I thought about poking my finger into her web to see if she would come out, but I didn't.

The morning sun lifted and the birds chirped on... I left in my car since the day's work was calling.

When I returned later that afternoon, the garbage bin was sure enough cockeyed in the street. The trucks had been there and gone. In the blink of an eye — the web had vanished. Surely now this spider was angry and depressed and possibly hiding in that hole by the handle. Without seeing her anywhere, I placed my hand near where she might be and returned the bin to its usual spot on the patio.

I learned that day that when tragedy strikes, it is best to pick up and start again and not to wallow in all that is wrong, but instead to find what is right, what you can do, and what will make things better, for that is what spiders do - I thought.

It occurred to me that it happened to be September 11, 2008, seven years to the day after tragedy struck New York City. Do we continue to linger in the aftermath, in the political hijacking of a national disaster? No lives were lost in my spider story..thankfully. But even so, a spider would rebuild — fast.

The night passed and I was up early the next day, off in my car again, thinking the whole time about the miracle I had witnessed the day before, that amazing web, the detail, the order, the perfection, that spider's unwavering strength of character. That afternoon I pulled into the driveway. All day I was worried this spider may not have had any food the last two days due to her constant struggle to rebuild her web... I was worried she might be completely depressed and distraught, maybe sleeping all day, wondering why such things happen only to her... I was concerned enough that I decided to check the garbage bin on the back patio. Might I find her there?

To my complete surprise, she was most certainly there! Unmistakable in the way she weaves a big, round, perfect web so gracefully. This was easily the same creature who had made the web I had seen the morning before. Like Tarzan she now hung on her silk, flying down into the garden in search of an anchor! She was just at that moment finishing up the last of the spokes — the scaffolding — of her newest and next creation, her third web in three days. And wow, I was with her — and with time on my hands to watch! I raced inside not only to get my video camera but the regular camera too.

For about an entire hour and until the tape ran out, I focused steadily on her little spider body, marveling at her DNA which was telling her want to do and allowing her to do it so well, working like magic, dancing from spoke to spoke, making all those perfectly parallel lines — and somehow having created those threads in the first place! Her 8-leg span was about the same diameter as a quarter, carrying her big round body on spiny spider legs. In shades of brown and wearing what looks like eight-legged striped stockings, she has captured my attention for several weeks now!

I named her Gloria and made this YouTube video of her:

September, 13, 2008

Today I checked on Gloria. She seems to be working on a new web - but must have been taking a break since I didn't see her. I saw Gloria earlier tonight, and I think I have found where she sleeps. She was just waking up and hadn't gotten out onto her big web yet. I called her name and knocked on the trash bin so she knew I was there. If her eyesight is bad she might have no idea. Probably she feels vibrations. Do you think she would eat a little piece of cheese? I want to feed her so she doesn't have to work so hard. I hope the rain hasn't been a problem for her.

September 14, 2008

Gloria has just finished her fourth huge and beautiful web in four days and is already snacking on lunch. She caught something like an ant with wings, and I can see another little small fly that is trapped - maybe for dessert.. My guest, Melinda, has identified her as an Orb-weaver spider... [Later that day] The rain totally wrecked - gone, kaput - Gloria's most recent work of art. :( I suppose she knows what she's doing. I almost thought to bring her an umbrella and am sorry I didn't.

October 2, 2008

Last night I watched Gloria for a long time in the rain. It was dark so I couldn't see exactly what she was doing. I think she was eating something, but it also looked like she was collecting up her web...if that's possible.. This morning she is proudly queen of a brand new glittering web, totally big, round and gorgeous.

October 3, 2008

I haven't taken the trash to the curb in three+ weeks now. It's still not full..but maybe by next Thursday it will be time..

October 4, 2008

Gloria's web seems to be fine, however, I have not seen her in a few days.. I hope she's OK. I think it was below freezing last night and might be again tonight... She must know what to do..

October 8, 2008

Gloria is doing fine. I haven't seen her in a few days, however today when I went to say hello, I had to get my camera again. Her web was completely covered with rain drops. It's been a gray day of drizzle. But the web is beautiful! Tomorrow is trash day... It will have been 4 weeks tomorrow since I met Gloria, and it will be time to take out the trash for the first time since then! I'm not sure if I can do it if it means breaking her web...

October 9, 2008

I couldn't take the trash out again today because Gloria has a brand new web... I still haven't seen her, but she must be nearby somewhere.

October 16, 2008

Week 5, I did manage to take the trash to the curb. Since then Gloria has been hiding as if she's angry. I hope I haven't disturbed her too much. Last night I managed to connect part of her web to the other trash can, and it still looked pretty good and wasn't at all destroyed. I wondered if she noticed her anchor was in a different place.. She must have! Either it freaked her out or she knew it was me... She's probably never had anyone/anything move her intentionally without damaging anything. I checked on her this morning and most of the web is gone except one thread that goes into the garden. I will be very curious to see if a new web appears in the same place anytime soon...

October 20, 2008

No sign of Gloria. That single thread is still there but no new web.. I am very much hoping I will see her again...


Heather O'Neal

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