I’d pointed Munchkin to her classroom door, since she insists now on going by herself, before the service. I’d taken up my spot by the front door, robe and stole on, ready to greet people as they entered. But everyone who crossed the patio seemed to be stalling at a little cluster of people by the big tree who were staring at a spot about eight feet up.

I went over and saw something that I’ve never seen before: a spider actually in the act of creating her web. She had started from the outside and was spiraling in clockwise. At each segment she paused, attached a length of thread to the radial support, and moved on. The web had the sun behind it, and as it shifted in the breeze, different sections glowed iridescent.

We were all speaking of the web-spinner as “she.” It’s a nice change (I notice, eavesdropping in zoos and parks, that we usually refer to all unfamiliar animals as “he”), but I wondered aloud whether it’s true that only the female spider spins. Maybe it is just a figment of our cultural memory: Charlotte, Arachne, women as the community’s spinners and weavers. The crowd wasn’t sure. A little online research suggests that males do spin webs, but mostly when they are very young (pre-mating age). We didn’t ask this spider its age, but it was quite large, and the males are usually much smaller than the females.

The bell rang and we went into the service, but I already felt like I’d been to church.