The Garden Spider

by Laura Parker Roerden

Every single evening
in her short life
the garden spider spins

a web of concentric
circles. Each anchored
to five

or so holdfasts,

simple spokes
on a wheel,
against which everything hinges.

Around and around she goes,
adding to her work,

bridging the distance from
one holdfast

to another, length by length,

adding depth
and perspective as she telescopes inward,

moving deftly to a center only
the edges can project, filling
in a spiral with detail.

Her strange and perfect offering
completes itself in zigs and zags like a zipper
on a fine golden purse to safely carry expected coin.

By morning the light and dew
create a hall of mirrors,
drawing her prey down

now lit corridors,
the mirage of open
space an enticement to beyond,

but instead a dead end.

A goldfinch flies over the garden
on his way to a field where evening
primrose offers buttercups of nectar

and darts past the spider,
her work a magnificent lit
lamp tilted just so

he can avoid ruining her elaborate
composition. By evening, the spider
dines on her work, now studded

with the jewels of beatles
and papery moths, lying still
in silky sarcophagi.

The spider unwinds
her entire web, ingesting it within

in a feat of impressive completion,

only to begin
again spinning
come dark.

The Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia or “with a bright face” in Latin) goes by several other common names including the writing spider, corn spider, or McKinley spider. They are found in all 48 contiguous states usually in gardens or at the edges of open fields. We commonly see Garden Spiders on squash or tomato plants in the farm’s vegetable garden that abuts a hayfield.

Laura Parker Roerden is the founding director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She serves on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) and Earth, Ltd. and is a member of the Pleiades Network of Women.

 

Everything is Broken

by Laura Parker Roerden

I.

My mother used to talk about the garden she and I would plant together
in her retirement, with imperfect peonies, roses, lily of the valley, and tall stands
of irises swaying in the breeze facing the western sky of the upper pasture,
where the sunset we watched nightly could mirror the pinks and plums

as if a reflection in a pond. She died of cancer before we could plant one bulb,
her own body piecemeal through surgeries, a fragment of her once gracefully
beautiful and perfect wholeness, now turning into tiny bells of light, bells that

grew closer
and closer together

until she herself turned into a pillar of light
like a stand of tall,
thin wheat rustling with seeds at sunrise

and kissed by a first frost.

II.

For years I would throw away broken pieces of pottery—bowls cupped
once by their creator’s calloused hands, dried in open window sills and
painted in colors that spoke of the sky or sand or night: a suggestion

of a whale’s tail on a handle, glazed with a swirl of sunlight,
like a holy stone in a riverbed that had received spring’s inundation
might reveal different shades of grey at dawn. I’d watch in horror

as a mug about to be filled with morning coffee slipped from my hand
onto a granite countertop and smashed into shards,
a few pieces still large enough to remind of the beauty

now lost.

Everywhere fragments,

reflecting

light now as chaos,

as disconnection, as if prayer
could be destined for a trash heap.

III.
The ground where the garden should stand is empty.
The patch of grass in its place speaks of what’s missing, as

if a tornado has left nothing but the suggestion of a denuded dream.

But I am slowly building a different garden with only white flowers
around the stump of a maple tree, that was felled by lightning
shortly after my mother left.

This garden is where our picnic table once held our entire family like a raft
under the largest of leafy canopies.  I am also placing a path

through the garden with the broken remains of shards of pottery,

pieces that I now

keep when they shatter. I throw the fragments of art on the ground,

as if birdseed,
where they are scattered and rearranged in patterns that ask us

always to make new sense.

Over time the shards—which receive the blessings
of relentless snow and rain—

show us how sharp edges
were never meant to be permanent

and

how

everything

beautiful

breaks.

 

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Laura Parker Roerden is the founding director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She serves on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) and Earth, Ltd. and is a member of the Pleiades Network of Women.