Monday, October 27, 2008


As I walked through the house yesterday morning, gazing out the windows, I was once again surprised to find someone new strolling across my lawn, only this time, there were three someones. Three large, beautiful, peaceful cows!

The black and white one looked like she’d stepped out of an advertisement to eat more chicken. She was the leader of the pack striding boldly across the driveway. The all black one was very curious, but a little shy. The brown was a follower, staying close on the tail of the leader as they made their way to the side of the house. My husband drove the truck down to block the road then shooed the group away from the neighbor’s property that leads to the highway. We called the sheriff’s office and after they had a good laugh they sent an officer down to help. We finally determined that they had escaped through a fence on the opposite side of the road, so they chased the cows back and mended the fence since no one could locate the owner.

The cows were not happy to return to their property. In fact, a few hours later they escaped again. This time, on a hunch, I let the dogs out. Sure enough, they kept a respectful distance while successfully herding the cows back through the fence. The cows have continued to roam along the fence line, stumbling through the trees. We must have something very tasty over here.

I’ve always had a particular fondness for cows. They are such gentle creatures. My daughter has a fondness for cows, as well. She collects anything having to do with cows, and now has a remarkable number of cow paintings, figurines, socks, and even a flying cow that hangs from her ceiling. Her first word was “moo.” We were living in New Mexico in an area with free-ranging cattle that used to come up to the porch and sniff at her through the rails, so Micky learned to speak their language.

Cows play an interesting role in our world. Some religions see them as worthy of worship, yet other societies see nothing wrong with the practices of corporate feed lots who abuse, torture and slaughter these noble creatures. Cows contribute to the survival of humans in many ways. They provide a way to make a living, while at the same time saving lives with milk and meat. They are both compassionate and affectionate creatures and deserve to be respected and honored for their sacrifices.

I wish I could welcome these cows to my home. They certainly seem friendly enough. If there was fencing between here and the highway, I would have no problem with their free-roaming ways. Cows are instinctively nurturing, caring creatures and I think I could learn a great deal from their presence about nurturing and caring for myself. I think if I had a cow in my yard I would spend more time grazing and lying in the sun.

Spiders Revisited

This has been the week of the spider. I was walking through the living room the other day and noticed my cat and both dogs were sitting in a circle, staring at the carpet. I thought, at first, that they were staring at a dried leaf (they've done stranger things) but when I looked closer, I realized they were staring at a huge wolf spider. The spider looked odd to me, as if it had some sort of bumpy disease, so I carefully slipped a piece of paper beneath it and carried it outside. I didn't need to put a bowl on top because it didn't try to run away. Once outside, it carefully stepped off the paper and walked a few inches away, then turned to look at me. I was staring at it for quite some time before I realized what was on its back--baby spiders!

Wolf spiders are rather unique in that they carry their egg sacs on their bellies. Once the eggs hatch, the baby spiders climb onto the mama's back for a free ride until they're strong enough to creep about on their own. This gives the mama spider a bumpy appearance, almost like a toad's back. Wolf spiders are strong, smart and sneaky, which probably serves them well as mothers! They generally only bite if provoked and have always struck me as being rather passive toward humans, though protective of their own safety. They are so beneficial, though! They munch all the nasty, little bugs that eat and destroy crops and generally hang out in priaries and fields. We have a little of both on our property and are also surrounded by heavy forests, so the spider in my house wasn't too far from home, but she definately would not have been happy inside!

My husband and I recently returned from a trip through New Mexico. Just before we reached the state, a tropical storm moved through and they had what we now refer to as "hundred year floods" in the areas we passed. What we found astounded us. We didn't see any actual flooding, just puddles. But we did see hundreds of tarantulas walking across the highways and standing on the side of the road. These were some of the largest spiders I have ever seen and even at 65 mph we could see them distinctly as we drove past. We assumed they were driven out because of the rain. We had this happen near us once before when we lived out in the Colorado priaries near Wyoming. These were wolf spiders, too, that were brought up after a rain when flooding was caused in their homes because we had moved the land around while we were building our own home. I felt sorry for all the displaced spiders, but they quickly adjusted--and moved closer to our back door. Oh well. Such is life.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Spun Into A Web

For the first time in my life, yesterday I was spun into a spider’s web. It was a rather odd sensation. I looked up from my computer and suddenly realized I was connected to the bookshelf and the nearby lampshade. And the odd thing is, it happened three times! Early in the morning, while I checked my email, my husband tried to walk past my chair and was quickly covered in web. As he swung his arms wildly I looked up from my computer, and I found myself connected to the furniture. We did a fairly thorough search and couldn’t find a spider, but were surprised by how quickly the web was spun—and it was spun again! About half an hour later, I returned to the chair to check my email. Again, my husband tried to walk past me. He was covered in web, and with no spider in sight.

The third time, I actually sensed that she was near, and that she was large. I had that shivery feeling, as if someone, or something, was watching me. I tried to ignore this feeling as I continued to check my email, but when I glanced up a few minutes later, I was, again, part of a large project involving silvery threads. This time, my husband found my captor, and she was a good-sized female orb weaver. She had long, spindly legs with stripes and a green body. My husband gently picked her up and carried her outside, then carefully shut the door—orb-weavers will return to the same spot and may need to be moved repeatedly.

Why save and move an orb-weaver, particularly this time of year when Texas is literally crawling with the little creatures? Mainly because I would never intentionally harm any of God’s little creatures, because the orb-weaver is magical, like Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web, and because the orb-weaver is beneficial, eating all kinds of destructive garden-munchers! Orb-weavers represent many things to spiritual people, including communication, creativity, and magic, and much of this lore spins off the fact that these creepy-looking creatures create the most stunningly beautiful works of art. Orb-weavers are the creatures that spin those amazingly complex creations stretching from house to tree to bush and back.

The family of orb-weavers includes over 2800 species of harmless, beneficial creatures. Their bite is painful and slightly toxic, like a watered-down version of a widow spider. Many orb-weavers spin their webs early in the morning to catch their breakfast. They will spin on just about anything, including windows, potted plants, computers and lampshades. Their webs remind me of the old, wooden wagon wheels with all the spokes connected. Last fall, in a Texas park on the shores of Lake Tawakoni a gigantic web attracting tourists and scientists from all over the world. At first, it was rumored that the web was created by orb-weavers, but the web was more like a silken sheathe, and the orb-weaver web is more like a wheel or mandala. They are easy to spot around my house because we have so many orb-weavers on the property. As I walk around the house in the morning I wave my arms before me to catch the webs before they cling to my face. Last year, I was gardening beneath a tree when I felt a tickle on my shoulder. I had moved an exceptionally large orb-weaver from the tree twice already because she kept connecting to my garden tools. The last time I moved her, I felt certain she would stay in the bush. Then I felt the tickle. “It’s a coincidence, and you’re imagining things,” I thought, but I looked anyway. Sure enough, the orb-weaver had returned, and she was sitting on my shoulder this time, watching me.

I feel blessed to have been spun into the web of an orb-weaver, as if she was trying to communicate with me somehow, to creatively inspire me. I don’t think my cat feels quite the same way. He snuck out a few minutes ago and when my husband reached down for him, the cat turned and walked right into yet another giant orb-weaver web. He’s still shaking his head and spitting.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Home Again

Finally, we are home. It was a rather traumatic arrival. I couldn't find my window frogs and there is only one toe toad in my garden shoes--I sprinkled water in the shoe to keep him happy. I was feeling a bit panicked about the window frog, then my husband mentioned that he heard something leap into the pond when he walked past. Sure enough, I now see frog eyes peeping from beneath a rock. This is the larger of the two Southern Leopard frogs, Leonora. I am relieved to see her. She's the one my husband rescued from a snake when we were clearing the porches just before Ike hit the coast. The other frog may be in the turtle pond with Crush. Just before we left for Colorado I noticed he was slipping in with Crush once in awhile.

Niblet, the big, black cat, has not left my side since I walked through the doors. I think he's angry. He keeps talking to me. I once read that cats will talk and chatter and do what they can to communicate to their humans if the humans do the same to them, which explains why Niblet is so vocal. Niblet was very tiny when my daughter brought him home, so tiny that he fit in the palm of my hand. I did not intend to name him Niblet. I came home from work each day and called out, "Where is that little nibble of a kitten?" and he came running. My daughter called him "Ducky" after the children's cartoon "Land Before Time." He now has the additional names of Black Fang, Boo Boo Kitty and Meowmo.

Niblet seemed rather frail to me when he first came home. I wanted him to grow stronger so I whispered daily in his ear that he was safe and would always have a home with me. Eight years later, he is a very large and thriving cat. He has fangs that sit on the outside of his bottom lip making him look rather scary, but he's a big baby who loves to cuddle. When the chocolate labs were puppies they were playful and rowdy, and not good listeners. Niblet had an uncanny ability to sense when I was growing frustrated with the dogs. When I was stressed, Niblet would march over to the dogs and smack them on the forehead with his paw until they calmed down. They sat at attention before him, neither puppy daring to move a hair because Niblet was ready, paw raised. He still smacks them around when they are too wiggly for his comfort. He behaves this way toward other dogs, as well, which is why I keep him inside, always, no matter how sneaky he tried to be.

The dogs are sitting on the back porch. It is 80 degrees outside and cool for Texas. The dogs seem so content, but I could tell when I got here that they were upset with us. They have been known to get even when we stay away too long at work and such, so I wasn't surprised that they ate a library book and other items.

The dogs are watching a monarch butterfly--I can see them from my chair in the den. This particular monarch is one of the largest I have ever seen. The monarchs move through Texas in both spring and fall. In August, monarchs in the northern states begin their southward migration, heading for their usual winter vacation resorts in Mexico and southern parts of California. The monarch earned its name by its size--it is one of the largest of the butterflies. I can tell that my dogs are thinking this one looks rather tasty and might possibly be a nice snack for the two of them, but monarchs actually taste rather foul and are toxic! Yummy!