by jade crystal harmon
I’m bushwhacking through the lilies and bedstraw with a short garden hook. The rubberized palms of my gloves wrench up handfuls of witchgrass and pinch back the creeping charlie. I’m heartlessly thinning the ambitious, overgrown phlox and lopping back lilac runners, cranky to be devoting precious Saturday hours to taming an ornamental jungle that will not put any food in our freezer.
I’m hunched over and sweating, feeling the bite of burrs stuck to my pants, when the lizard part of my brain freezes my muscles and says Look.
A spider, yellow as butter, is perched on a leaf not an inch from my nose. Her abdomen is the size of an almond. From tiny mandible to claw, she is the perfect shade to hide and hunt in the daylilies that peel open each morning. The yellow spider does not skitter into the understory like the chitinous grasshoppers or iridescent green beetles. She stands firm. I realize I am in the presence of a queen.
How long has her bloodline reigned in this garden? I see it clearly. Each summer a new queen spins her silk, fattens on pollinators, then tucks her egg sac away under a stone, trusting that the camouflage of my silly lilies will give her children a meal next spring. How long have they reigned? Long before I signed a stack of mortgage papers that gave me a false sense of ownership over this flowerbed. Much longer.
I sit back on my heels and work a burr out of my gloves. When I ease back into my garden-taming, I go cautiously, looking at the undersides of leaves before I rip them out, suddenly very aware that I am clear-cutting another’s domain.