The darkness begins to settle down upon the deep woods. The frogs on nearby ponds begin their evening chorus.

A few small birds sound their contented evening mutterings before settling in for the night. A distant crow lets go a  more pronounced call.

A light breeze offers only a small sighing among the branches of the upper terrace of the deep woods. It gently dances the top leaves of the poplars, while all other leaves nearby remain quite still.

I notice when I pick a leaf of the poplar I discover a flat leaf-stem. It twists easily almost 180 degrees without breaking. Hence, the easy wind dance.

Suddenly a jay scolds briefly, and a small dark bird darts across my line of vision at my shoulder height. The small bird disappears into some brush before I can identify him.

What has happened? Does the jay nest nearby? Has the small bird accidentally disturbed the nest area, requiring only a brief scold to be chased away?

Now there is a spectacle! I have only a small two square-foot area of open sky I can see above me, and I suddenly see a dark figure dart across it.

Then I see the figure dart back and fourth across it several more times. It disappears briefly each time.

While I am pondering what  manner of bird must be flying back forth on that skyscape, it suddenly strikes me that I am looking at an aerial performance performed not hundreds of feet up in the sky, but one that is happening six feet above me by a web-weaving spider, as if he were gliding across that space on a piece of glass. I can watch him walk back and forth across that space from one white oak leaf to another. It is a delightful spectacle to watch. The fellow stops from time to time in mid-air, suspended as if by magic. The web is, of course, invisible to me. He is simply doing his evening work, which he and his father and grandfather for generations past have done in these woods, and will likely go on doing for generations to come long after I am gone. And if he should happen to reach an untimely end before spawning progeny, his fellow spiders will gamely take up his work and advance it without interruption.

The open space is just above and slightly ahead of where I sit. A short while ago I had just walked through that space and destroyed the evening spider work that had already been accomplished. My spider friend was simply patiently weaving whatever work he had already done. And when a creature such as I might walked down this path tomorrow morning and gather these webs upon his face and chest, these webs will only be missing until the spider re-does his work tomorrow evening.

James Alger, who lives in Fargo, N.D., has been a summer resident of the Leech Lake area with his family for over 45 years. Over that time he has grown to love and appreciate the people and the woodlands of this area.


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