Earlier today, I was sat outside my back door, enjoying the unseasonally warm weather and sunshine. As ever, I was instantly captivated by the vista, from the snails crawling over the wall in front of me, to the tangle of mint and thyme sprawling at the feet of the huge rosemary bush just beyond the border of the stones, then across my garden to the sight of the giant beech tree atop the gentle hill on whose lower slopes my home lies.
I’m no wildlife photographer, so I suspect you’ll just have to take my word for it that there are three large spiders in the photo at the top of this post; one in the centre, just to the left of the beech tree on the far horizon, with two other faery shapes or wisps, one either side of the evening primrose plant to the right of the picture.
Each of these creatures waited in the centre of the large, intricate web each one had spun; immobile, but always alert to the faintest tremors of the silken threads stretched out all around them. The analogy between the creations of spiders and the world wide web is hardly a new one, but things have moved on since the early days of the internet, when we were all thrilled at being able to send and receive emails, and when this cyberworld was a place of wonder that we occasionally visited for information and for pleasure.
Nowadays, though, so many of us have domains just like those of the spiders in my garden, but instead of filaments of silk, our domains are composed of Twitter feeds, Facebook, G+, Pinterest and God only knows what else, which we monitor more hungrily than any arachnid for likes, comments, links and all the other manifestations of others taking a public interest in who we are and what we do.
I’m not entirely immune to this and I wouldn’t pretend to be, but while I’m pleased to learn of visitors to this site and to see the occasional comment, follow and like, I still rely on email and the telephone to inform me of important developments relating to my work and endeavours. The little orange dot at the top right of my screen that serves to alert me to an active interest in my site has an undeniable allure, perhaps a bit like the light an angler fish dangles in front of its fearsome maw, but I resist the temptation to sit here waiting for it to light up. By way of contrast, I could sit and watch the patient spiders and their intricate silken labyrinths swaying in the gentle breeze for hours.
WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
W. H. Davies, Leisure.