On Perseverance

Lessons from spiders

Bronwen Scott

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The spider in my carport was not having a good time. When I first spotted it — a Garden Orb Weaver (Hortophora sp, Araneidae) tucked away in the eaves — I thought it was a bat. That dark furry body all cwtched up in the corner, with two pairs of legs pointed forward, looking like folded wings… An easy mistake to make because it was a big spider.

I knew there would be a problem. When I went out to the car that evening, the spider had constructed its web across the carport. The threads spanned the entrance, almost four metres across. As I started the engine and put the vehicle into reverse, I hoped the spider would retreat to the ceiling. Otherwise, the surprise and joy of snaring the biggest meal of its life would turn rapidly to dismay as it found itself car surfing all the way into town and back.

The spider did scuttle upwards to safety. By the time I returned from town, it had patched the torn web. The threads looked perfect in the headlights. I even considered parking in the driveway but it was raining heavily by now. The spider scrambled into the ceiling again. As I drove under it, I could feel all eight beady eyes boring through the car roof. Four eyes were resigned, the others unforgiving. If it had been Charlotte the Barn Spider, the remade web would have included a few choice words, none of which I can write here.

By next morning, the spider had shifted away from the car. This time it had constructed its web across the front door.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again.

You might be familiar with the story of King Robert I of Scotland — Robert the Bruce — and a persistent spider. Robert’s history is complex, a mosaic of allegiances and strategies, judgements and misjudgements, forged during the war to free Scotland from English rule. After murdering John Comyn, his rival for the Scottish throne, Robert was crowned king at Scone Abbey on 25 March 1306. (Although not on the Stone of Destiny, which had been stolen by the English King Edward I in 1296 and removed to London.)

Less than three months after the coronation, Robert I faced the English army at Methven, a short distance from Scone. He lost the battle to Aymer de Valence and his soldiers, and retreated. But not for long. A little…

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Bronwen Scott

Zoologist, writer, artist, museum fan, enjoying life in the tropical rainforest of Far North Queensland. She/her. Website: bronwenscott.com