I’ve owed you guys a post and explanation about the whole spider web fest going on in my yard and in my designs. I also owe you some more photos, since after all, last night was Halloween! (You gotta see what I did!) So I guess it’s about time I give.
First with the writing.
Later with the Halloween photos.
Truthfully, I’ve had an enigmatic fascination with spiders since childhood. One of my favorite childhood stories was about a pet wolf spider named Wolfie. (Come to think of it, oddly enough, I later had a cat I also named Wolfie after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I only made the pet spider – pet cat connection just now though. Interesting.) I was also the first one my girlfriends called when the creepy-crawlies showed up in their space. Julia the spider-wrangler to the rescue.
I love spiders. Fiercely like most people don’t.
Energetically, I think spiders – especially cobweb spiders – often naturally show us where the stagnant places are in our homes – those neglected areas that need attention. They create action where there is none. Metaphorically, I try to imagine Grandmother Spider pointing out things that need attention in my life and I try to picture where that would be. “Oh look here honey. You forgot this area. Here, let me help freshen it up.”
Garden spiders – I see them a little differently. Grandmother Spider’s protective nature seems to come out in them, in a delicate and breathtakingly beautiful way. Then there are the little black jumping spiders I generally nickname simply “Harry.” They show Grandmother Spider’s nature to dance in the sunlight and play.
I also often talk about how spiders are Mother Nature’s first fiber artists and I adore their individual and distinctive webs. Orb Weavers are particularly fascinating in their design! They have such interesting and distinct designs, each one using a special technique and signature marking of its silk fibers. I’m fascinated by the focus, patience and skill each spider displays, not to mention their grace and dance. Each web is like a fingerprint and I’ve toyed more than once with the idea of making a collection of different crochet spider webs, recreated to the design specifics of each unique species. It would be a neat undertaking.
I watch spiders, play with them, catch them, study them, and hold them in a place of reverence.
And that’s the truth.
But the whole truth is far more complex than just that alone. There’s another side to it. While I adore spiders, I also deeply distrust and fear them. Almost inexplicably.
It’s a paradox.
You’d think with all my spider experience and fascination, that I’d be the first to own a tarantula or at least to pet them at a zoo.
But not me. Not by a long shot. Just watching someone else hold one gives me the creeps.
You see, another part of the truth is, there’s a constant attraction/repulsion magnetic thing going on inside of me when it comes to spiders. And I’ll never let them touch me. I just can’t. No matter how fascinating spiders are to me.
I can’t. do. that.
And I won’t allow the poisonous ones to live. Those are two lines I can’t budge on.
Needless to say, I have trust issues. As long as I can see them, I’m just fine away from it unless I have a jar – thank you. Come near me, surprise me, crawl on me? Forget it. I’m your worst enemy.
How’d it all come to be? I’m not sure I know.
But philosophically, I deal with it the same way I deal with every other challenge in my life. Education and observation. If I’m going to be afraid of something, I want to understand it very, very well. I’m just not into this fear of the unknown crud. Far easier to deal with the fear of what I do know. So show me that face.
My earliest memory of a spider is actually from a dream I had when I was about 4-5 years old. A honey-colored little cobweb spider suddenly grew from a tiny little creeplie in the kitchen corner into a giant creature before my eyes. And then it told me (still dreaming here) that it was going to devour me. Yup. It said plainly, “Julia, I’m going to eat you.”
Right. Well, at least it’s honest. Awesome.
And in my dream, fearlessly like a dutiful little daughter, I stood there staring up at the enormous creature and said frankly, “Don’t eat me; eat my dad. He’s bigger!”
I have no idea why I still remember that young dream, other than out of some sort of sense of guilt. But my adventures with spiders had only begun.
The next spider introduced to my childhood was the docile wood spider. Silly little bumbling creatures that are visibly more scared of humans than any other spider I know. They practically fall all over themselves just trying to run away from you. I tried to find a photo of one for you, but have been unable to locate one. And I’m guessing the name “wood spider” is probably one of those “folk names” that families hand down and is not likely an “official” name.
The wood spiders I grew up with are simply brown and tan striped and look similar to wolf spiders, though not nearly as husky or hairy, nor nearly as brave. They are the first spiders to run at the sight of you or when the light is flipped on. They liked to live in my dad’s woodshop and warehouse at work and some were so big. As a kid I sometimes wondered if maybe they were really hairless tarantulas instead, only more leggy and less body. And except for the fact that they seemed to trip over their own legs a lot. In fact, I’ve never seen another kind of spider that seemed as likely to simply lose a leg like this kind.
It was around this time that I first read Wolfie and other books on spiders.
It wasn’t too long later when I got to see tarantulas. Like, a lot of them. Somewhere around that time, there was a bumper crop of brown tarantulas out in the Wichita Mountains outside my home town. I remember we were on our way to and from a drive up Mount Scott, and the road was covered in brown tarantulas. So many of them were being smashed by cars going by. There was no way for the vehicles to avoid them and the tarantulas were coming out of the bushes into the road in droves. It was like some sort of giant tarantula migration. I stared at the numbers of mangled bodies on the road and felt both sad for their misfortune, yet thankful that they couldn’t jump into our car (I hoped). And still, they kept coming. I could see they’d never have a chance against a motorized vehicle. Silently I wished they could hear me think at them, “Please don’t cross the road! There’s nothing there but danger!” Part of me really, really wanted to see one up close and to save all the spiders. And part of me just wanted to be the hell out of there.
As mentioned above, I was also introduced to a species of jumping spider that I simply call “Harry.” I remember them playing/hunting on my Grandma Leona’s sliding glass doors and crawling the ceilings at home. I used to tap on the glass near them to make them jump. They always struck me as a weird combination of cats and dogs in personality. Cat-like reflexes with dog-like enthusiasm and play. They are amazingly gifted at catching flies! And unlike brown recluses, I have never been attacked or stalked by one of these, even though they are hunting spiders. When they are scared, they like to warn you by jumping a bit like a dog does when barking at a stranger. But I find usually they lose their initial fear pretty quickly and like to play.
Fun, more docile spiders were not to be the sum total of my experience though. Brown recluses soon crossed my young path and set a precedent for everyday survival, as you might remember from my stories past. It’s a story born of necessity. A clan of spiders surrounded my workspace, and for years no one would believe me they were there.
So out of sheer survival, I learned more about “fiddle-backs” than any normal child. Probably just desserts for offering my father up as a replacement snack long ago. Even if it was only in a dream.
Let’s fast forward…
Over time, as I watched spiders and noted their individual web designs, I became more and more fascinated. And I tried to share this fascination with my children, so they would learn the differences between the spiders they saw and come to appreciate their gifts and lessons too. Some of the best entertainment we had together with spiders actually came from blowing bubbles into the webs woven by garden spiders on porches between roof and banister. The glycerine bubbles and the tiny bubble blower you can get from Gymboree are the best. Watching a spider attack a bubble only to have it pop is a sight to see. They don’t have facial expressions and yet, somehow you know what’s going through their minds by watching their body language. One spider was really upset that she could not find that fly she knew she just caught. We never laughed so hard!
But in all of this, I can’t say I’ve lost my revulsion either. I still can’t hold a spider. I still don’t like being surprised by them. I hate it when they drop on me from my ceiling and oh yes, I will scream and dance and throw things and hunt until I find it, because I can’t stand the idea that it might be inside my clothes somewhere.
And that moment you walk through a web you didn’t see? Umm, yeah – I still go ballistic-ninja. If you ever see me dancing around a yard, fencing with a stick, now you know what’s probably up. I know it was a comedy, but I totally related to the scene in the movie “Arachnophobia” when that spider crawled up the main character’s body. Only I’m not paralyzed by it. I’m transformed into a something my kids don’t recognize as me.
Some years ago, at our old house, we had two mimosa trees in front of our house. I decided to crochet a spider web and hang it up, doing my best to make and pose it as realistically as possible. Noting little bits I’d observed in just watching how garden spiders will craft and hang their webs. There has to be proper tension and support.
Maybe someday I will overcome the fear part of my revulsive fascination with spiders. And maybe not. (I’m thinking after all this time, the later is most likely.) But unlike others, I do face my fear dead on, day after day. It’s called working with your fear, not judging it, not pushing it, not making it into anything that it isn’t.
By accepting my fear and distrust of spiders, and by embracing it, I also allow myself to still see the wonder in amazing creatures and their personalities and talents that I might otherwise miss.
And perhaps that’s what overcoming really is. Perhaps that alone sets me free.