Monday, September 15, 2008

Ike and Charlotte

We’ve had heavy rain the last several days, which is fallout from Hurricane Ike. I’ve heard that my Texas cousins survived the hurricane with some damage to their home, but there’s no telling when power and water (other than that flooding the streets) will be restored.

Given all of this, I knew I wasn’t justified to complain about doing a 20-mile marathon training run in the rain. Though I did spend a bit of time cursing myself for having already signed up for the Indianapolis Marathon (on November 1) and thus locking myself into a training schedule. I spent most of the day Sunday trying to wait out the rain, and then I finally set off into the misty air around 3pm. I wasn’t thrilled with starting a 20-mile run so late in the day (its generally best to do it first thing in the morning), but luckily, Rob decided to go with me for the first 6 miles. We started out by going through Crystal Lake Park (which is, incidentally, where Rob asked me to marry him almost 9 years ago to the day). I pointed out that there were barricades at the park entrance, to which Rob replied “Those are just for cars,” and we threaded our way through them. It crossed my mind that the barricades might be up because of flooding (Urbana, having been built upon a swamp, floods at the slightest indication of rain). During our first loop through the park, my suspicion of flooding was confirmed when we got to the back stretch, which was completely filled in with water at least up to mid-calf. Wanting to avoid running a remaining 17 miles with soggy, 10-pound-each shoes, I skirted quite a ways into the woods to avoid the swollen lake.

Rob headed back home after the first 6 miles, which left me to do 14 on my own. It wasn’t really that bad: I’ve definitely had worse 20-milers. I spent the whole time listening to back-episodes of Dr. Monte’s “Fitness Rocks” podcast—which is actually really great, and I highly recommend it. I felt pretty much okay for the whole run, despite the alleged 36-mph windgusts from the WNW (it was windy, but I really don’t think it was that windy). During the last couple of miles, my knees hurt a lot—which is I suppose the price you pay for being an old lady and trying to do a 20-miler all on concrete sidewalks (concrete is most unforgiving to the joints). The worst thing that happened was just about 2 blocks from home at the end of the run, I ran face first into a low-hanging tree branch outside of a frat house. It was because one of the frat boys had so considerately parked his giant gas-guzzling F-150 on the driveway, completely blocking the sidewalk. Sometimes in a state of glycogen depletion, one’s brain does not properly recall the laws of physics, so as I skirted the truck and saw an impending tree branch, it seemed that I could avoid it without even ducking… and then 2 seconds later, it hit me in the face. I wasn’t hurt, but I’m sure all the frat boys inside must have found this uproarious.

All summer long there has been this skuzzy little spider living outside our northwest window. I’ve kept my eye on her and her skuzzy little web, all the while wondering how she’s managing to subsist because I never saw any bugs trapped in her web. At some point a few weeks ago, I noticed what at first appeared to be some type of debris in the web, but I later surmised that it was an egg sac. Sure enough, there were eventually several dozen teeny tiny spiders to emerge. And I do mean teeny tiny. At first I thought they were grains of pollen or dust, but after standing at the window for a few minutes, I realized that they were microscopic spider babies. Charlotte (as I began to call her) was a mother. The next day there were much fewer babies and the day after that, there were none. I narrowed my eyes as I scrutinized Charlotte, with her suddenly bulging belly. I know next to nothing about spider life history (primates are my thing), but I suspected that Charlotte may have eaten her babies. Since I couldn’t prove it, I let her continue to live outside the northwest window. Then one day there was another egg sac. Poor Charlotte began to look even more and more skuzzy. By Saturday, she was this pitiful skinny little thing. And on Sunday morning, she was gone. But lo and behold, the second clutch of baby spiders had hatched. This time, I wonder if the babies might have eaten their mom, but again, I don’t really know anything about spiders. I’m a little worried about them though—being the size of a grain of dust, I don’t think that even if an errant insect flew into the dilapidated web that they could even do anything.

This is so different from the mammalian pattern of development (which is pretty much what my dissertation is about), that I am very interested in how it pans out. As I sit here writing about the toughness of leaves that the monkeys ate in January and how baby monkeys need mommas who eat well, I keep running over to the window to see how these motherless spider nymphs are doing.

Speaking of which, I’d better get back to my dissertation. Here are a few pictures before I go (Jodi if you’re reading, don’t worry—there are no pictures of Charlotte).

Flowers I got at the Farmer's Market on Saturday

Now that Charlotte's gone, this ladybug might have to be my new pet.


Anonymous said...

I JUST LOVE reading your blog. It amazes me, how you make a story out of a spider in your window?????
Anyway, keep writing.

Mom's friend, Pat

Ragfield said...

The photos look great. Did you use the macro (i.e. "flower") setting on your camera, or was it in fully-automatic mode?

Melissa said...

Thanks so much for the sweet comments! So much kinder than SL and Pablo's comments on my dissertation chapters :)

RB, I used my camera on macro with no flash. It took a bit of playing around.

Logan's Mama said...

If you are in need of a pet, we would be happy to loan you Dixie and all of her dog hair. I don't think that she would bother Charlotte or her children...

josh said...

david sedaris caught bugs and fed his found pet spider... and one time when he went on vacation he took it with him. you have no commitment to Charlotte

amypfan said...

Really, you knew there was a spider living nearby and you let it just go on happily, having babies at your house? You have really grown since the days when you used to make me ride my bike over to your house to kill spiders because you were too afraid to get near them. :)

Indianapolis Marathon--woohoo!! Email me. You are welcome to stay with us if you want. At the very least, we must work in a visit.