“The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad monotonous song. “Summer is over and gone, over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying.” A little maple tree heard the cricket song and turned bright red with anxiety. – E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web
It’s been four months since we moved to Kithnarra. Most of our moving boxes are flattened, unpacked…yet not all. Most inside walls have been painted once or twice…not all. The paths winding between Kithnarra and Gypsy Lore – my sister’s house next door – feel familiar under foot, yet there’s always more to explore. We’ve come to know some of our new neighbors – deer, bunnies, raccoons, alpaca, owls, frogs, goats, woodpeckers, cows, turkeys, chickens – while others remain undisturbed, wild within the woods.
Most mornings, sure as the rooster crows, boot-sized spider webs stretch between our trees like silver-misted fairy gates waiting to creak open with the sun. When daylight rises these white-veined witch eyes shimmer and glow. As I head over to retrieve my nephew from Gypsy Lore I sense them following me here, there, everywhere…peek-a-boo! We see you!
One morning last week I became so enchanted by these swaying, silky wonders that I wandered up close to one to capture it’s elegance and enormity with a picture on my iPhone. Crouched down, arms outstretched towards the web, I leaned awkwardly forward, eager to bring into focus the intricacy of its architecture.
Alas, just as my thumb clicked down, (frightening the poor spider away), I toppled forward down the slick, slanted ground, straight into the web. Sure enough, I’d been caught!
That web failed to keep me immobile however. I barreled on through, somersaulting along the dewy ground, one arm overhead to save the phone, my hat and scarf wrapped round my face. Coming to rest I saw the magnificent web I had just seconds before photographed now thrashed into nothingness. The spider, that poor little miss, darted anxiously up and down the nearby tree. As I stared at her dumbfounded, I imagined a thought-bubble appearing over her head, proclaiming in big, bold letters – WTF???.
I sat in the grass, remarkably heartbroken that I’d unwittingly ruined everything. All that the spider had produced I’d robbed away. Imagine the hours and hours she’d spent twirling and swirling there in the darkness, while I lay inert, cocoon-like in a warm, cozy bed, dreaming away. Then the light of day appeared, along with a big, hulky human who blew her house down, taking her livelihood with it in a mere breath.
Humph…what a sad turn of events! The day felt ruined and hopeless even though it was not yet 8 am. I straightened up and continued my necessary routines even as a sinking spell enveloped me like fog. I kept picturing little miss spider crawling back and forth frantically along the tree, wondering where on earth her web had got to (“Surely I left it right there, didn’t I?).
Back home I drank lots of coffee and painted wild, clashing colors all over my walls. I told myself repeatedly to view the whole episode as an inspirational metaphor – Shit Happens! Life is but an exercise in futility! Sisyphus lives!
Still, day after day I mourned the web (having long-ago deserted the actual little spider), all while my left leg swelled, grew hot to the touch, then turned purple. More specifically, the veins in my left leg rose horribly, hideously, until it became painful to stand or walk. Eventually I took to the couch (Routinely the veins in my leg swell like this, which is inconvenient to live with but also depressing, because for most of my life the part of my body I felt the most happy and confident about were my thin, shapely, unblemished legs).
Some while later, as I lay zombie-like with my now toxic-looking legs thrust skyward atop great mounds of pillows, Damon appeared at the head of the couch and told me to get up, we were going to the doctor.
Actually, his exact words were, “You’re a farm wife now, Kristine, and I can’t afford to have you lying around. There’s a ton of work to be done!” Which I’m sure is exactly the same type of scolding poor little miss spider got when she went crawling back empty-handed to her mate only to explain that the spider web she had painstakingly spun all night had indeed – really! truly! – vanished into thin air. (“It was right there, I swear!”)
I sat up and told Damon that, while noble on his part to schedule a same-day appointment and drive me there, a trip to the doctors would amount to little more than another exercise in futility. My veins had been swelling and giving me problems ever since I’d had twins back in 2003. Over the years I’d consulted many a doctor about it, and they’d all basically told me to have them stripped and stop complaining already.
(*If you know me well, you realize any kind of elective procedure such as vein-stripping is a ‘no-go’ option, because I fall within the ‘Medical 1%’ wherein anything/everything weird or unheard of that might happen from a ‘simple procedure’ does and will in fact happen to me. So I’ve lived for years with my veins swelling and throbbing and I’m fully prepared to keep trudging along with them aching and inflamed, so another doctor seems unnecessary, right?)
But this time my leg was swollen down in my calf, which was a new turn of events, and for some reason my eyes hurt badly (had for weeks) and I was squinting and having headaches. Overall I didn’t feel very well, but obstinately I attributed most of that to too much butter coupled with melancholia over life’s tortured, ceaseless demise of individual vitality and beauty…not so much to painful eyes or swollen thighs.
Damon dragged me to the doctor’s office anyway, where the nurse took my blood pressure and vitals while I showed her my leg. Soon after a brunette, don’t-mess-with-me-Kirstie-Alley type female doctor burst through the door, took one look at me sitting crouched on the chair, then barked, “Pants off! If you’re here to be seen about your leg I need your pants off!”
Stunned, I stood and dropped my pants immediately (we really are a gullible creature, aren’t we) whereupon she took a close look at my leg (formerly a beautiful leg, I might add) then said, “I’m going to walk you straight over to the ER. This is time-sensitive now and we might be dealing with a DVT.”
Still too shocked to utter a word I sank backwards onto the chair with my pants still around my ankles. Feebly I croaked, “So my leg is really that bad, then?” Kirstie Alley looked at me as if I was an imbecile or small child that needed help. “I’m sorry,” she replied, making her voice a bit gentler. “Perhaps I was too sudden. Your blood pressure is very high, your leg is feverish, and I feel it is best if I personally walk you over to the ER right now.”
“But my eyes hurt!” I wailed, throwing my head back like an overwrought child indeed.
The lady-doctor leaned over me very gently then and led me out the door, to a hospital bed in the ER.
There a kindly male Indian doctor with a wondrous, smiley face looked at my leg and visibly winced. “Let’s get you an ultrasound right away,” he said. Which they did. Eventually I learned that I do not in fact have a DVT. I merely have excessively hideous legs. Which pains me to type out, let alone reconcile myself to, because as I’ve mentioned once or twice before, my legs were the most radiant, most flawless, most admirable part of ME in my youth.
After the news was dispersed to one and all that the lady in Bay 2 was not unhealthy merely hideous, I was bundled home like an elderly grandma, where all my kids rushed around me in a moment of sweet concern. Damon drove off directly for the pharmacy. He returned with slick black compression hose which he unrolled gently up my bruised calves as if I was Cinderella herself, and soon all was well again at Kithnarra.
Except now I must walk around in compression hosery, which makes me look very much like a witch. And my eyes, which have stopped throbbing because I’m on blood pressure medication, still crinkle and tear uncontrollably, making me feel elderly and feeble. Each day I try to explain patiently to my four-year-old nephew Lochlan why Auntie must play ball so slowly, why I can’t walk barefoot in the pasture, why the back of my legs look like I have purple spider webs all over them when we go in the jacuzzi.
Lochlan shrugs when I point out that I’m becoming more and more like a witch every day – with my long, black stockings; my purple spider-webbed legs; my squinty, weepy eyes. He splashes about in the jacuzzi completely unconcerned and says, “But TeeTee, you’re a nice, soft witch who gives lots of good kisses!”
And magically, as if a thought-bubble has suddenly appeared over my head, I decide that that spider web I destroyed the other morning need never have vanished into thin air after all. Forest fairies could have carried those bumpy silken threads piece by piece over hill and dale, through the woods, across the creek, clear up to that squishy, kissy witch residing at Kithnarra. Within the darkest hours they might have fluttered over her, stitching and hitching row after row of crookedy spider webs onto the backs of her legs, while the witch-lady dreamt of a warm, colorful fairy-floss quilt, cascading down her legs in bursts of trailing stars.
“After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die,” Charlotte the spider reminded Wilbur gently. And it’s true – life is short – trips to the ER are good reminders of that.
We’re all here for just a little bit, with time enough to craft a story or two. And truthfully, I’m not too interested in a tale starring unblemished, shapely legs. I’d rather immerse myself in fairy floss and witches webs here within the forests of Kithnarra, where day after day I can spin my own little threads of magic alongside the wee spiders. Summer might be forever gone for this squishy, kissy witch, but Fall, Fall – with it’s purpled paths and gossamer gates- lies aglow right outside my window.
“Charlotte had written the word RADIANT, and Wilbur really looked radiant as he stood in the golden sunlight. Ever since the spider had befriended him, he had done his best to live up to his reputation. When Charlotte’s web had said SOME PIG, Wilbur had tried hard to look like some pig. When Charlotte’s web said TERRIFIC, Wilbur had tried to look terrific. And now that the web said RADIANT, he did everything possible to make himself glow.” – Charlotte’s Web.