The thin, green strip has been mowed again—that narrow band of grass and weeds that runs in the few feet of unplowed land on either side of the lane that I walk along each day.
The danger in letting it grow, I have not quite determined, for nothing woody remains along the field's edge—nothing that, if not cut severely back each month, would soon overtake the road.
Yet the tractor trims it harshly. On rural land, nothing must grow unbound.
Each chicory, each great lobelia, each milkweed succumbs to the blade until all that remains beside the farmer’s field of beans is one towering bull thistle, just out of reach. How it must have irked him to leave it standing, proudly swaggering, a dozen purple heads staring back at him!
There used to be scores of dragonflies here, perching atop each tall stem on a heated afternoon, then coursing high above the bean field, hawking insects. Sulphur butterflies tumbled from one flower head to the next, drinking in the nectar. Scores of spiders built broad, round webs between them, capturing grasshoppers along every few feet of the road’s edge—all now gone. Except one, who by good fortune placed hers quite near the bull thistle—a magnificent black and yellow garden spider.
She’s been transplanted—to a golden field atop my hill, where she’ll rebuild her broad, round web and capture scores of grasshoppers. And not be mowed by the tractor.
Although female black and yellow garden spiders may be quite showy and large (over an inch), they are considered harmless to humans. Argiope aurantia (from the Greek aura for breeze) build large circular webs (up to 2 feet across) which they situate themselves in the center of and are able to undulate in a breeze-like action that may help elude predators and/or ensnare prey.
The male is considerably smaller than the female (less than ½ inch) and is drab brown.