24 September 2009
What are you doing?
Two expatriates in Madagascar employed thousands of cannibalistic female spiders to produce an 11 foot spider-silk cloth, now on view at the Museum of Natural History. After many fits and starts, the two men put together an almost Victorian spider-silk harvesting operation that hired local people to comb the countryside with long bamboo poles, carefully collecting live female spiders — about 3,000 a day — in boxes. The spiders were taken to Mr. Godley, who set up a system in which workers, all women, would handle each spider, gently pulling out the thread that dangled from its spinnerets. (The spiders bite if provoked, but their bites are not dangerous.) The spider would then be placed in a harness, with 23 others, and sit more or less patiently as a spool tugged the rest of its web out in continuous threads that could sometimes stretch as long as 400 yards before the spider had given its all.
Someone must buy the rights to this story right away, and turn it into a small masterpiece.
On the subject of small masterpieces, Charlotte's Web, taught me sacrifice and reverence for animals, along with a taste and respect for the beauty of the bittersweet.