For the last month we’ve had two huge spiders in our yard that attract a lot of attention from people walking by. As I’ve sat in my front yard reading a book, I’ve talked to lots of parents stopping to point the spiders out to their kids. Surprisingly, no one I talked to was grossed out – surprisingly, I was not grossed out.

Pretty sure it is two female silver argiopes. Because I am so original, I named the most gigantic one Charlotte. They spun two super strong webs with zigzag patterns in the middle, and they didn’t move much – just hung out catching flies and bees – looking beautiful and creepy. Yesterday, the hottest day so far this year, Charlotte’s normally impeccable web looked a little beaten up and there were a bazillion teeny tiny spiders all over the web and the succulents around it. This morning the baby spiders are all gone, the two huge spiders remain, and the web is flecked with pieces of ash from the wildfire burning 25 miles from our house.

It’s all pretty cool, although I hope the babies aren’t making their way toward my house and I think Charlotte ate the baby’s daddy.

I like to think about spiders and their weird lives. I like to think about the good books that came out the last few months, and lots more that are coming out in the coming weeks. I’m so damn sick of thinking about Trump and that the US is an absolute shitshow. The next few months are going to be difficult. I need books and nature to get me through. I need something to remind me that there is a before and after to this cruel, cruel, foolish administration.

My friends and family are tired of me saying that I didn’t know the apocalypse would be so stupid. It’s all completely ridiculous. I’m going for a walk. I’m going to my huge book pile.

The three best things I’ve read over the last few months center on nature, per my normal favorite reads…

Greenwood by Michael Christie I sat under the tree in my front yard, cool even though it was a hot day, finishing this book. Looking up thru the branches and leaves…and feeling my heart break over and over. This book begins in a world a few years in the future where trees & forests are exceedingly rare. This fictional book explores family trees and all the ways they break and repair. It’s so good. Quick rant – I’m so tired of people considering buildings/confederate monuments/flags sacred and not the land and climate around them.

Migrations by Charlotte McConagy Another fictional exploration of climate grief – this one in a near-future world where most animals are gone, and bird migration patterns are all a mess. It’s an adventure story, it’s about overwhelming losses, and the guilt of those left behind.

How to Catch A Mole by Marc Hamer A memoir of a vegetarian mole catcher in Wales. Nature-writing at it’s best. Staggeringly beautiful. “Compassion is born at the interaction between joy and sadness” and “All things are impermanent, and everything wears down to dust. Everything has its end and each thing carries the beginning of the next thing.”

Other great books…

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett Twin Black sisters in the South – one lives her life as a white woman, the other as a Black woman. Fantastic book.

the Yellow House by Sarah Broom A beautiful memoir of a large family, New Orleans, Katrina

All Adults Here by Emma Straub Could not stop reading this book about siblings and parenting. Hilarious, true, messing up and trying to do better

A Burning by Megha Majumdar Short chapters that rotate between three characters in India. Power and class.

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell I’ve been waiting for a long time for this book to come out – it’s good, I enjoyed reading it – but the story of a 70’s Rock Band was told better in Daisy Jones and the Six…

Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle A beautiful look at loss early in life and how it effects so much – and, a look at what we leave behind. Clues to trying to understand one another, when we never really can.

Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth An okay Sci Fi book by the author of the Divergent series

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson A quick, fun 2 day read about misfits.

Luster by Raven Leilani This book is uncomfortable but fun to read. A young Black artist and her relationship with a white couple. Dark humor.

Intimations by Zadie Smith Short essays written by one of my favorites at the beginning of the pandemic and the racial justice protests.

I read Memorial Drive By Natasha Trethewey in one evening. And was so disturbed I couldn’t fall asleep.

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner the storyline is so bad and I could not stop reading it…social media, rich people, rom-com.

Also read Daughters of Erietown and Redhead by the Side of the Road – the kind of books it would be nice to pick up and during a weekend visit somewhere.

Recommended articles/essays/short stories:

Ann Patchett on running an Indie Bookstore during the pandemic.

Vanity Fair September Issue – especially this article by the amazing Jesmyn Ward. I sobbed the entire time I read it. Please read it.

This John Lewis op ed published on the day of his funeral should be required reading Together, You can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation

A few years ago I read Eula Biss’s “On Immunity” and was floored – of course, she warned about the coming pandemics…Her new book is about buying a home and the capitalist system we’ve all bought into – I can’t wait to get it after reading this New Yorker piece where she explores all her conflicting feelings about home ownership and the illusion of security it provides. Also, this excerpt about the origins on the board game Monopoly.

Stuff I’ve watched and recommend: The Biggest Little Farm (best documentary I’ve watched in years), Palm Springs (felt so relevant…), Greyhound (WWII), The Old Guard (Charlize Theron is my fave action hero ever), Yellowstone (the last episode of this season – holy crap!), Never Have I Ever, The Last Dance, Cobra Kai (!!)

Looking forward to new books this Fall by Alice Hoffman, Jess Walter, Robert Galbraith, Barbara Kingsolver (poetry), Elena Ferrante – most especially the new Yaa Gyasi that came out this week.

Also, the Super Rooster book tournament starts in October. Man, I love these book “Oscars.” My vote for the ultimate is Cloud Atlas or Station Eleven.

2 thoughts on “Argiope”

  1. I agree with “your biggest fan”, I also miss your info and insight as well as the excellent book recommendations.

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