buggy, but pleasant

7.2.24 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden
eastern tiger swallowtail

Yesterday was a great weather day! We took advantage of rare low humidity and temperature and scooted over to the botanical garden. There were many bugs out and about, doing their summer thing. I’m suffering from another batch of spider bites on my legs and I have no idea how they’re getting there. (I now know they’re spider bites because my reaction rash is so bad it drove me to a dermatologist. She was mystified and had a biopsy done on the rash to see what was causing it. I hope I won’t need another round of steroids!)

smooth purple coneflower
eastern cicada killer wasp on lamb’s ear leaves
bee on lamb’s ear flowers
ant on cutleaf coneflower
oakleaf hydrangea
pitcher plant in the summer sunlight
zipper spider
New York ironweed
fly on rattlesnake master
pond cypress (?)
bee on lanceleaf arrowhead
some kind of bug under the phlox
more phlox
still more phlox
bugs in the woolly rose mallow
New England aster

I hope you enjoyed the glimpse into the buggy summer botanical garden. Creepy crawlies go hand in hand with pretty flowers. I’m biding my time until autumn arrives!

marbled orb-weaver

10.18.23 ~ Johnston Mill Nature Preserve
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

We enjoyed this woodsy walk along New Hope Creek very much! It reminded us of the land conservancy properties we were so fond of in Connecticut. This trail felt a little wilder and more remote than the other hikes we’ve been taking down here so far.

New Hope Creek

Still not encountering much wildlife, however, or birds. Sometimes I really miss my shore birds. I know there are birders down here who post many pictures online so I’m going to have to figure out where they go to take them.

squirrel having his breakfast

What is the universe trying to tell me? How is it that this arachnophobe winds up moving to a place with an endless supply of spiders? This marbled orb-weaver seemed to be very busy repairing some damage this leaf did to her web. We watched, spellbound, for a very long time.

After this we got a glimpse of an owl flying across our path and then up high, out of sight, into the trees… It always amazes me how soundless their flights are.

stairway down a steep decline
underneath the fall colors
lichen on a fallen and cut tree trunk

All in all, it was a very pleasant autumn morning ramble along the creek and in the woods. 🍂

zipper spider

“Don’t let Mom see,” Larisa advised in an early morning text. She found a zipper spider in their garden and thought her father might like to check it out. If you, dear reader, are an arachnophobe you might want to skip this post. There are pictures. Well, I am afraid of spiders but my curiosity was piqued.

The zipper spider is also known as a garden spider, writing spider, banana spider or golden orb weaver. The female is BIG. Her abdomen can be more than inch long! The zipper, zigzag she weaves into the web is called a stabilimentum. Scientists don’t know its purpose but they have several theories. Katherine’s is that it warns birds not to get caught in the web.

We had picked up Katherine from school and asked her to show us the spider. She loves and is very knowledgeable about bugs. There was some kind of magic at work here because I didn’t feel terrified when I saw her from a safe distance, perched on her magnificent web in the bright sunshine. The giant web was hanging between two tall bushes. After admiring her size and coloring and that amazing zipper pattern I realized that we were looking at her underside.


Well, that wouldn’t do. When I expressed my disappointment to Katherine she said she would show me a way around to the other side of the web. It involved climbing up over a porch bench and jumping down into a narrow space between the house and the bushes, and then making our way between the bushes until we got to the opposite side of the web. Wow! My little Katherine was an excellent nature guide.

If the sun sets you free …
You’ll be free indeed, indeed …
She’s only happy in the sun

~ Ben Harper
♫ (She’s Only Happy in the Sun) ♫

Mind you, if I had seen this spider in the house I would have had a panic attack. But somehow, outside, it was different. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this. Why the difference? Larisa says these spiders never come in the house. Because they love the sun? Maybe because house spiders creep around in dark places is why they are so dreadful. All I know is that the words of Ben Harper’s song came to mind when I saw this one!


9.19.21 ~ Merritt Family Forest, Groton, Connecticut

There’s a web like a spider’s web
Made of silver light and shadows
Spun by the moon in my room at night
It’s a web made to catch a dream
Hold it tight ‘til I awaken
As if to tell me, my dream is all right

♫ (American Folk Song) ♫

We used to sing that song around the campfire when I was a girl. It’s such a comforting tune but my spider dreams were never all right. The following pictures are of the pappi of American burnweed seeds caught in another cobweb. I don’t think this spider could have been pleased with what his net trapped!

From the first opening of our eyes, it is the light that attracts us. We clutch aimlessly with our baby fingers at the gossamer-motes in the sunbeam.
~ Lucy Larcom
(The Unseen Friend)

I am an incurable arachnophobe so I was happy to not see any spiders out and about. But I couldn’t help appreciating the handiwork they left behind.

knowing trees
5.14.13 ~ Stonington Cemetery

Finally, some leaves have appeared on my tree! I think it is an elm tree.

My grandparents had an elm tree on the northwest corner of their house lot. Its branches and leaves could almost be touched when looking out the window of the green bedroom, feeling like the leaf canopy of this elm in the above picture.

Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience.
~ Hal Borland
(Countryman: A Summary of Belief)
Zoë ~ 5.13.13
flag flying outside our fish market today ~ 5.14.13

Toby went into the hospital for cancer surgery five days ago, and will probably be staying there for another week or so. The day he went into the hospital I had to go up to my father’s house for a few days to help out with the ancient ones. Chelsea had some time off so my aunt Em from Maryland came up and she and I tried our best to fill Chelsea’s shoes! It’s good to be back home now and slip into a more “normal” routine again, at least for a little while.

Up at my dad’s it was so quiet without Bernie around, but I was able to get outside for a short walk and take a few pictures. Later, while sitting on the porch watching birds with Dad, I experimented with the telescopic lens and got a fairly decent picture of a nuthatch (below), if a little blurry! But next time I think I will use the sports setting with the auto-shoot feature. It worked so well today with the flag picture this morning (above), which was whipping in the wind.  Enjoy!
a nuthatch
pansies for Bernie
branch shadows playing with the roots of my hemlock tree
garden steps
life and death on a maple leaf, spider eating a lady bug
garden whimsy

along came a spider

"Little Miss Muffet" by John Everett Millais
“Little Miss Muffet” by John Everett Millais

This morning started off with a blood-curdling scream – mine. I was minding my own business, loading the dishwasher, when I turned to glance at the clock – and there, dangling right in front of my nose, a spider hanging from the ceiling on his thread. Now I won’t tell you how big he was because I have no objectivity when it comes to spiders, and anyway, as far as spiders are concerned, size makes not one iota of difference. They all loom large in my consciousness!

Well, it didn’t take long for the knight-in-shining-armor, well, the knight-still-in-his-pajamas, who had been minding his own business working from home today – thank goodness! – to scramble down the stairs ready for battle. What he found was a woman cornered by the sink, wielding a dirty spatula most ineffectively. He performed the required deed swiftly and promised the poor spider an honorable burial at sea. After giving a warm hug and some soothing words to the lady-in-distress, he went back upstairs and a moment later I heard the toilet flush.

As I returned to cleaning up after breakfast and waiting for my adrenaline to stop pumping, I decided that perhaps it was time to share my spider saga with my readers – one never knows from where inspiration for a blog will come!

It all began when I was about three years old, although my parents are a bit hazy about the time frame. We had moved into the house they built in the woods when I was three, and I was still young enough to be playing outside in the summer with no shirt on… I was sitting on the front porch when a spider let itself down on a thread from the gutter, landed on my bare back, and started to bite me. I started screaming and running away and around the house, my parents chasing after me and trying to figure out what was wrong with me. When they finally caught me and discovered the problem, one of them said, “Oh – it’s only a spider.” I’m not sure I ever saw the culprit on my back, but as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always been highly sensitive, and from that moment on developed a profound fear of spiders. In my childish brain I couldn’t understand how “only a spider” could inflict so much pain and terror.

Unfortunately for me, spiders are strangely attracted to me and they actually do seek me out. Must be my pheromones or something, but as anybody who has ever spent any time with me will affirm, they do manage to come to me while ignoring all other humans in the vicinity. They usually drop down from the ceiling, but once I was lying on my bed reading when one popped up at the foot of the bed and started charging straight for me. Once I was on a treadmill at the gym, where the ceiling was at least two stories high, and one dropped down from it, right in front of my nose, causing me to panic and stumble and make Tim, on the treadmill next to me, wonder why on earth I was suddenly flailing around.

Now I know spider encounters are supposed to be messages from the universe that I need to pay more attention to my creativity. Believe me, I have the best of intentions to stay calm and appreciate the message the next time I see a spider, but they always startle me and the outcome is always irrational panic.

The spider nightmares began in 1972, when I was 15. I suppose they were an expression of the anxiety I felt about moving to a foreign country with my family. I had never moved before, and had never been overseas, not even for a trip. We were to take an ocean liner from New York City bound for Athens, Greece the next day. We were spending our last night stateside in an aunt’s one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, and we were packed in like sardines sleeping on cots – all the women in the bedroom, all the men in the living room. Many relations had come to see us off.

Well, in the middle of the night I “woke up” to see a spider coming down from the ceiling toward me. Naturally I screamed! The light came on and I pointed to it. A bunch of groggy aunts, my mom and my sister were asking, “what? where?” I pointed and pointed but no one could see it and they finally concluded that I was having a nightmare. Eventually I didn’t see it any more and realized it had to have been a dream. These spider nightmares have been with me off and on ever since.

It’s amazing sometimes that no matter how well you think you may know another person there is always something new to learn. Tim & I were married in 1975 and that is when I met my sister-in-law, Fran, and we have been as close as sisters ever since. Somehow one evening in 2007, 32 years after we met, Fran and I got to talking about dreams and made the startling discovery that we both have had the same recurring spider dreams! While having this dream we are both convinced that we are awake and keep pointing (sleep-pointing?) to the spider as it moves across the wall or ceiling, trying to convince whoever is in the room with us that it is actually there and being frustrated that the other person can’t see it. If alone in the room, a blood-curdling scream brings someone in soon enough. Only half-jokingly I theorized that in past lives we must have both been eaten by a spider and were somehow destined to be linked in this life, too, by marrying two brothers. Fran decided that we had been flies…

So those are the highlights of my spider tale. There have been too many real encounters and dream encounters to ever possibly tell them all, but that’s enough of this subject for one day!

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.


The past few days have been stressed with still another false medical alarm, although this time it was Tim’s… To deal with the stress I’ve been distracting myself by adding and adding to my quote site and family history site, and have not felt much like writing anything new here. Today after receiving good news about Tim I came home to find that a third cousin I’ve never met before had found the family history and wrote me a lovely comment. Our grandmothers were cousins, but because they were both an “only child” they felt they were more like sisters. What a wonderful surprise to have at the end of a difficult day!

3.27.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie ~ 3.27.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Above is a new picture I took of Bernie a couple of weeks ago, on one of our walks. I decided to dig out my story about him from last year and post it now that it is spring again.

The following blog was originally posted on Gaia Community on 19 April 2009:

4.13.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie ~ 4.13.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

This cat is named Bernie, a delightfully domestic old fellow who is still in touch with his inner bobcat. He was born in New Mexico and is at least 17 years old. My sister and her husband adopted him from a shelter while they were living there. They also adopted an iguana named Lizzie and a spider named Olivia – all of them had the run of their hovel, which is what my sister affectionately called their very modest duplex. When it came time to move back to Connecticut Lizzie and Olivia were left behind to other good homes, but Bernie was brought to the land of trees and snow…

It was quite an adjustment for him. He is a very athletic outdoorsy sort of cat who used to love running just for the sheer joy of it. When my daughter’s cat was living there with him for a while he would try and get her to play tag, but she just looked at him like he had to be kidding… He enjoyed exploring the woods, but his main objection to Connecticut was the long snowy winters here. Whenever it snowed he would go from window to window yowling, hoping to somehow spot a landscape without snow. My brother-in-law took pity on him, and to this day shovels a few paths through the snow so Bernie can get his exercise without too much contact with the white stuff.

A few years ago he was taken to a veterinary ophthalmologist for a problem with his eyes. They think he may have Lyme Disease, but whatever it is it has gradually robbed him of his vision. They give him eye drops every day to slow down the progression, but he is now blind. He does very well, though. He still catches mice – we can’t figure out how. He gets around the house pretty well because most things stay where they are, but he bumps into people, my dad’s wheelchair and stray laundry baskets or shopping bags inadvertently left in his path. He seems to take it all in stride, though.

Since he had a run in with a fisher they aren’t letting Bernie outside by himself any longer. They’ve also had two coyotes near the house. He gets several walks a day with whoever is on hand to escort him. Last week Bernie and I took a walk and had a good time exploring the bushes, flowers and trees. And I got this picture of him coming toward me, only possible because he doesn’t run anymore. He walks very carefully, but doesn’t seem to feel sorry for himself. I admire his spirit of acceptance and adaptation, making the best of things.