Thursday, September 17, 2009

Grandmother Spider

One of the first animals you will encounter while at O.A.C. is the spider. In the morning the yard outside the studio is covered with dew-jeweled funnel spider webs nestled in the grass, and great spans of beautiful webs hanging between trees. It is impossible to walk through the woods without walking into the invisible sticky strands over and over.

Webs of all sizes, spiders tiny and large, dull and colorful can be found all over the land of O.A.C. I took the time one day to sketch a beautiful specimen of the species argiope aurantia also called the Black and Yellow Garden Spider, or The Corn Spider, or the Golden Orb Weaver (though the latter name is officially reserved for another spider in the same family). This is a large spider, its abdomen alone easily 3/4 inches long! I was lucky to witness this spider hurry over to an insect that became trapped in its web, wrapping it in silk, then injecting it with its poison before carrying the mummified insect back to the center of the web where it waits patiently for the next victim. It is a spider harmless to people, but deadly to any flying insect that is unlucky enough to get stuck in the sticky strands of its web.

The Osage Arts Community is named after the Native People who once lived on this land before they were forced to move to northeastern Oklahoma in 1870. I have learned that the symbol of the Osage people was the spider, as this story, found on the website: First People -- The Legends illustrates:
One day, the chief of the Isolated Earth [Osage] people was hunting in the forest. He was also hunting for a symbol to give life to his people. He came upon the tracks of a huge deer.The chief became very excited.
"Grandfather Deer," he said,"surely you will show yourself to me."You are going to become the symbol of my people."
He began to follow the tracks. His eyes were on nothing else as he followed those tracks, and he ran faster and faster through the forest. Suddenly, he ran right into a huge spider's web that had been strung between the trees, across the trail. When he got up, he was very angry. He struck at the spider who was sitting at the edge of the web. But the spider jumped out of reach. Then the spider spoke to the man.
"Grandson," the spider said, "why do you run through the woods looking at nothing but the ground?"
The chief felt foolish, but he had to answer the spider. "I was following the tracks of a great deer," the chief said. "I am seeking a symbol of strength for my people."
"I can be such a symbol,"said the spider.
"How can you be a symbol of strength?" said the chief. "You are small and weak, and I didn't even see you as I followed the great Deer."
"Grandson," said the spider, "look upon me. I am patient. I watch and I wait. Then all things come to me. If your people learn this, they will be strong indeed."
The chief saw that this was so. Thus the Spider became one of the symbols of the people.
The Osage people may have been forced to walk the trail of tears away from the land they called home, but their symbol, the spider, remains patient, proud, and silently waiting...

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Unknown said...

Wow--loved this post and I loved your art (as usual). :)

Take care,


Antony Galbraith said...

Thanks Ivan! I am a bit enamored by the spider now. I had always admired them, but admittedly from afar. Now, I am forced to meet them up close and in THEIR territory. I am really appreciating this interaction very much!

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