We’re not sure exactly how or when we picked her up, but she rode with us from Seattle to New York and most of the way back. A little bit of a thing, she seemed oblivious to heat, rain, and the almost daily earthquakes of riding in our rig.
The first morning out my husband cleaned the windshield. “Can you believe there’s a spider web up under the wiper?”
“As long as she stays on her side of the screen door,” I said, much more intent on my maps and motorhome navigational duties than on the presence of an itinerant spider.
By day’s end we were sure the spider was long gone, wondering which bump in the road or swipe on the windshield worked her loose.
Next morning, another web. My husband, who is easily entertained, pointed out the delicate design tucked in the corner of the windshield wiper. My thought was yeah, yeah, will we have hook-ups tonight?
Shortly after we reached the Continental Divide, I found myself looking up in the corner of the window, watching the web tatter as we lumbered down the road. Poor little thing, I thought.
Day after day the same ritual played out. Every night, a new web would appear. Every morning my husband cleaned the window before we hit the road, careful not to disturb “Charlotte” as we had come to know our hitchhiker. Every day our travel in wind, sun and tremors ripped her creation. I imagined her shaking her head, rolling her eyes, all eight of them, tap-tap-tapping her eight tiny feet as she prepared for another night’s work. Sometimes I imagined I heard a weary sigh coming from the windshield.
We often took the opportunity to stay a few days in places that fed us spiritually. Places where nature could be nature and spiders could weave webs without constant interruptions. During those days we would retreat to our own corners; my husband with his painting and drawing, our ancient dog with her sleeping, me with my writing. And Charlotte with her web. A lot like the writing life, I thought.
Writers use words to snare ideas the same way our spider used her web to snare insects. No matter how much the work is tattered, we continue. No matter how much we want to give in to despair, we come back each day to pick up our work and go on. When the words do not come, when the sentence stumbles, we continue. The act of writing eventually becomes the art of writing.
We lost her somewhere in Montana. Summer had disappeared and the sun gave way to freezing rain, frosty nights and gnawing winds. She had survived the dregs of Katrina in the Adirondacks. She was with us through the fierce hot breath of the Midwest, and the silent solitude of the Badlands. I like to think that on a frigid night in Whitefish she looked around, considered her options and made a leap of faith onto the motorhome next to us. The one with the Arizona license plate, heading south.