The road ends, but the journey continues...

Spider Webs, Jacob’s Ladder and 'Losing the Strand'

Golden Orb with stabilimenta, South Carolina

Our front porch Golden Orb, spinning a ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ addition to its web base

The first full summer we lived in the South we encountered massive and prolific webs of this indigenous species of spider, the Golden Orb.
The spiders themselves get to be quite large and are wickedly beautiful…meaning, these are gloriously colored arachnids that come equipped with some seriously sharp and long legs.
What I found most intriguing was the amount of detail in their webs. Many spiders offer intricate designs in their web-construction, but these Golden Orbs use those as a base on which to further weave additional layers of web construction.
I call them the Jacob’s Ladder addition.
In reality, my ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ weave is called ‘stabilimenta’ or ‘bags of zigzag silk’ which are incorporated onto pre-existing and/or skeleton webs made by immature spiders and used as molting platforms.
No matter, they do leave a lot to the imagination. (Perhaps as an arachnid ‘stairway to heaven’?) And serve as a great visual for understanding some of life’s puzzlements.
Shortly after I returned from my first extended visit with Dad in Colorado, I spent an entire morning with a Camden Compadre re-connecting and discussing our respective creative passions. In addition, we are both in different stages of dealing with the decline and eventual loss of a loved one – specifically our dads.  Her father passed away at age 96 a few months ago after a year of hospice. My dad isn’t too far behind that timeline.
Over iced tea (both of us take ours unsweet) we exchanged numerous stories of our respective dads before and during each one’s dementia/Alzheimer’s decline. We shared plenty of laughs. Since we were meeting at a local indie bookstore with a little coffee & tea bar in the back, we managed to keep the tears to a minimum while recounting especially touching tales.
During the course of our discussion, I mentioned that before leaving South Carolina to be with my dad and the extended visit, I was satisfied with how I had organized my projects. The recording sessions were already set aside to continue at a later date and it seemed the well-laid out plan on the edits of my SwS vignettes would be easy to do as snippets of ‘down time’ would allow.
Neatly organized hardcopy versions of SwS vignettes WIPs

Neatly organized hardcopy versions of SwS vignettes WIPs

But upon returning I found it overwhelming to even consider picking up where I left off on those edits. And, I struggled to find the path I was on to proceed in the doing of it.
I drew a complete blank on why I even thought I had a clear path in the first place.  The organized plans I confidently left in place, were in reality just a pile of papers filled with scribbles.
Forget about progressing to the next level of completion – I couldn’t even find a way through the incomprehensible maze before me; couldn’t see the forest for the trees…the stories for the words…something like that.
My friend Kathryn, in response to my frustrations, spoke these words:

“I’m there, too…it’s like a spider web. For some reason we had a hold of the main strand and it was the strand that lead us through the creative web of content and made sense of it all. For now, just this bubble in time – we’ve lost the strand.”


  1. Lulu

    Strand by strand and bird by bird. Those words are full of so much hope and comfort. I am wishing you just that – hope and comfort. Is it strange that it is encouraging to me that your heart is sensitive, intuitive, compassionate, wise, and loving enough to be able to appreciate and reflect on what is happening in your life right now? You aren’t denying it, running away from it, or numbing it. You’re wading through it with as much grace and strength as you possess, and you are still reaching out to touch the lives of others. This writing and these observations are truly beautiful.

    • laura bruno lilly

      LuLu, your comment is encouraging to me as well…thank you.

  2. Janis

    I, too, lost my strand (love that word picture) each time one of my parents died. It takes a while to get it back, but it does come back. Be kind to yourself and understand that it’s a process you must go through before you start weaving beautiful webs again.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Love your comment ‘word picture’. Thank you for helping me to remember to take a ‘breath’ now and again.

  3. Andy

    I love the web analogy of your creativity.
    As for spiders, though they seem to provoke revulsion in most people, you’ve got to admire their ingenuity and creativity in catching their prey. Not just the web-weavers, but the other types, too.

    • laura bruno lilly

      I figured you to be a spider-lover…you corvid-lover, you! 😉

      • Andy


        • laura bruno lilly

          I knew it! I knew it!

  4. Anna Scott Graham

    Oh my goodness this is so correct, So Correct! After my dad died, it took all my mental abilities to just sew patchwork quilts. Noveling came much later, and continues, making me wonder just how we ease ourselves into new normalcies. Slowly, I’m learning, is the progression. But, like those webs, your tunes and words, more beautifully than we could imagine. 😉

    • laura bruno lilly

      Strand-by-strand and bird-by-bird.

  5. Linda W.

    Wow those spiders are huge!
    I’m so sorry you’re feeling like you’re in the midst of a maze (great metaphor by the way). Will pray that you can see your way through to the next level. As Anne Lamott (or at least her dad) would say, take it “bird by bird.”
    Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
    ― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

    • laura bruno lilly

      Yeah, while Texans claim ‘everything’s bigger in Texas’ I gotta say that all buggy-critters are bigger in the South, hands down!
      Thank you for your prayers, Linda, always appreciated.

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