Photo credit: C. Bertelsen

I stood by the wooden fence, peering over the barbed wire fringing it like a lace collar. For some reason, I couldn’t focus the camera lens clearly on the Holstein standing a few yards away. The cow gazed back at me, her jaws moving with the steady precision of a slow motor. When I stooped just a bit, I saw it clearly.

But it wasn’t the cow in the viewfinder. No, the camera had zoomed in on an exquisite spider web, sparkling with sunlit dew, its intricate lines meeting with a precision that the fussiest engineer might envy.

I thought immediately of E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, a story featuring a spider who wove webs filled with messages that tightened her relationships with the lives around her, including Wilbur the pig, destined for slaughter. White made the spider’s web a metaphor for the ties that bind, ending his poem “The Spider’s Web”* with the following passage:

Thus I, gone forth as spiders do
In spider’s web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken thread to you
For my returning.

The stanza hummed in my mind. As a cook, I identified with the spider’s truth: With each dish I cook, with each bite taken of my food, I return to a place of belonging. And that’s never truer than when I eat with others.

By preparing food and sharing it, cooks cement ties of kinship and friendship. Strong as the filaments of spider’s web, the ties that bind – links created by devouring – can often be impossible to break without violent words. Or worse.

I peered at the center of the web. It was empty. I knew, however, that the spider would return, tied to the web by those gossamer threads.

The cow moved closer to the fence. I clicked the shutter, my mind miles away, thinking of the feta cheese and Swiss chard torta I’d planned for dinner.

And of the person returning home after a long journey to share it with me.

Feta (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)

*The Spider’s Web

The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unfolds a plan of her devising,
A thin premeditated rig
To use in rising.

And all that journey down through space,
In cool descent and loyal hearted,
She spins a ladder to the place
From where she started.

Thus I, gone forth as spiders do
In spider’s web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken thread to you
For my returning.

© 2012 C. Bertelsen


  1. So poetic and beautiful anology…attach one silken thread to you for my return…You captured the moment famously! Beth Ann


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