At first glance I thought it was a cricket. Its small, black body had that unmistakable exo-shine like the glossy sheen of a polished boot or Ronald Reagan’s hair. It looked about the right size and I could see two wings protruding from its sides. Then I noticed the antennae, the elongated torso, the thready legs pumping like mad. An ant? Something on the ant spectrum? Thanks for nothing seventh grade biology. Whatever it was, it seemed locked in a death fight with a hairy, scary, gnarly, too-big-for-my-comfort water spider.
The stone steps and sea wall fronting the lakeside are prime real estate for these mangy dudes. Creepy crevices in the stone and dark, unknowable pockets where rock, water, and earth join provide the perfect accommodations for a species of spider that, honestly, is so unnervingly large it does all of us a great service by staying as far out of sight as possible. I make it a habit to perform a quick check of the step faces before getting too comfortable with my book or magazine. On more than one occasion I have just tucked into a summer beach read, my feet dangling in the cool lake water, when I happened to notice one of these beasties hanging out on the stone six inches from me. Hell to the nuh-uh, sir. I know he or she is not going to suddenly leap off the rock in an inexplicable murderous rage (A HUMAN STOMPED MY COUSIN!) and throw themselves at my face, gnawing at my eyeballs, laughing maniacally (believe me, there would be evil laughter involved). I know this in the place where my brain goes. Still…why take the chance? Enjoy your time sunbathing or plotting horrible revenge on the human race, you scary bastard. I’ll be over here—in my car, doors locked, windows up.
Thus the nervous scooching away from the spider and ant-thing. Far be it from me to interfere with the circle of life business going on. As I moved I noticed something odd: the spider wasn’t glomming onto the ant-thing as I assumed it would in a fight to the end. That’s when I saw that the spider wasn’t doing much of anything. The ant-thing was dragging this poor already dead spider across the entire length of the stone step. Undeterred by the spider’s size, weight, or overall gangliness, the ant-thing muscled its capture as if it were hurrying along with a leaf or stick. Now I was invested. Plus, that the spider had been dispatched to the great web in the sky and was not an imminent threat to me (or my face and eyeball area) put me more at ease.
I followed the ant-thing’s journey to the end of the stone step where it met the sea wall. Now what? I assumed it would haul the monster over the edge into a crack or opening. Amateur, ant-thing seemed to scoff at me. He carefully, slowly pulled the spider up the sheer face of the sea wall only to be met by the edge of a large, cement flower pot.
The ant-thing briefly abandoned the spider on the ledge of the wall. He scurried up the side of the pot. Was that it? Was he giving up? Not even close. The ant-thing skittered back down to the spider, grabbed its body with strong mandibles or sheer will or devil sorcery (or maybe all three), and began the grueling slog up the goddamn concrete flower pot–like scaling Yosemite’s El Capitan while lugging a sack of squishy, hairy bricks. Holy. Crow. This was happening. Reaching the lip of the pot, the ant-thing heaved the spider over the side into the dirt and flowers. “Tonight we eat like kings, lads!” I imagined the ant-thing joyfully announcing to the others in his ant-thing tribe as he and the spider disappeared into the nether realm beneath the soil and concrete.
There are the obvious take-aways here about determination and gumption; about not giving up no matter the stakes, no matter how much it takes; about the often underestimated strength and stamina of the little guy; about (literally) overcoming obstacles to achieve a goal. I saw all of those things. I easily applied them to about 385 situations in my life right now except I do not feel like a baller like the ant-thing, I feel more like the spider, giving up a bit, going along for the ride, allowing myself to be dragged. That’s a hard thing to admit. It’s even harder to see mirrored back through the perfect logic of the natural world. Of course, in this case the spider does not have a choice. But I do.