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Calamity Web

   I love spiders, the idea of spiders, and their silken threads weaving webs. That their creations are often meant to destroy is what makes it a question of evolution or, indeed, to question nature itself. The immediate impetus for these reflections is a series of photographs of trees covered with web. They look part surreal and part beautiful, like snow flakes on a grey evening.

That this is not a country known for greys is axiomatic of how nature plays its own little games. These are pictures of Lahore in Pakistan soon after the floods. The spiders too had to deal with the rushing waters that not only made the floors impregnable but left the ceilings and walls damp. So, they climbed up trees. Think about those silken threads being spun around branches, one pulled closer to the other, and a mesh forming. Spiders use these as traps for insects; sometimes they get entangled in their own homes. They aren’t immune, and a bigger insect or bird might prey on them as the meshes become cobwebs, discarded memories.

I don’t know what happened to those spiders, but I wonder about the trees that had to breathe through the net, that could not sway because their movements were restricted. Did they feel protected because of this cover as the floods might have forced them to fall? Can a delicate web offer such shelter? Was this then beyond the survival instinct of the spiders?

Natural disasters are seen in different ways – and it includes superstitions, religious beliefs, scientific theories and sometimes no explanation at all except that they happen, lives are destroyed, everything is flattened out. It brings out both the good and the bad instincts in people when they help out or cannibalise the tragedy. The earth shakes to destroy a part of itself. The waters rise and cease to be oceans. Then, sometimes, from a distance it all looks like huge clouds over roots. Nature covers nature: the spider covers the tree, the tree covers the fruit. The fruit the seed. The seed is the new. Renewal is embedded in every death.

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Image: Huffington Post. For the slide show go here

6 Comment count
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I really love this post, Farzana. Such a unique approach to writing about this topic. And such exquisite, economical use of language. The rhythmic phrasing leading up to that wonderful last line is a powerful way to close the piece.

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Cindy, I found the

Cindy, I found the photographs inspiring and just the very idea of how the unrecognised cope with disasters.

Thank you.


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Congratulations on winning this week's Creative Challenge!

As a gardener, I'm a fan of spiders, except for Brown Recluses which hide in your shoes, linens, etc...and have a nasty, necrotizing bite.

I saw the comment in the slide show about the reduction in the mosquito population after the spiders climbed the trees. I can't help but surmise they didn't just climb the trees to escape the water, but also to trap the remaining food; the out-of-balance, growing mosquito population.


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Ah, Jules, I discovered about it first when I read your comment last night my time...it is mainly the idea of sharing varied thoughts on a similar theme.

Yes, the slide show does mention mosquitoes, but why would they need floods to get their food?

Agree with you about out-of-balance mosquito population, which should make the spiders samaritans then.


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Congratulation Farzana.

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Thanks, Jitu. It's the

Thanks, Jitu. It's the spiders, really, who've woven it.