I like spiders.
No, I love spiders.
One of the reasons (a small reason, but important, to be sure) that I hate being away from home for more than a few days is that I know that I’ll come home to find a can of Spider Kill displaying pride of place of the hall shelf — the purchase of my mother-in-law, who hates spiders with the same vigor that I respect them. She shares this fear with my eldest daughter, who won’t open the windows of her room, even in hot weather, for fear that a spider might get in through the screen.
They say that phobias are the manifestation of opposites. A humble person actually, perhaps unconsciously, is so conceited that he wants people to start a religion about him. People who fear spiders actually want to be them or eat them … or something.
I don’t believe this for a moment, at least spider-wise.
To love spiders, you have to be grateful to them. As Annie Dilliard wrote in her masterpiece, ‘A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,’ “I allow spiders to run the house. I figure that any predator that hopes to make a living on whatever smaller creatures might blunder into a four-inch-square surface bit of space in the corner of the bathroom where the tub meets the floor needs every bit of my support. They catch flies and even field crickets in those webs.” While she allows that fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, and insects seem to have to do one horrible thing right after another, she exempts spiders.
And while I will get in my bed and scream for help if a big moth blunders harmlessly into my room, I will fend off anyone who tries to hurt one of my spiders.
It isn’t just because of the gallantry of Charlotte A. Cavatica in E.B. White’s splendid tale for children and other intelligent creatures. At my wedding, one of my sons read, “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” It’s because when I look at those webs, which are almost proof of intelligent design (or at least the intelligent design of spiders) the bloodless corpses of things that are so much worse and more disgusting are displayed there like trophies on the walls of some 1040s big-game hunter.
Water bugs. Done for.
Moths. No more than husks.
Silverfish. A whole shore lunch of them.
Mosquitoes. Oh, be still my heart! Any enemy of a mosquito is an amiga of mine.
In ancient mythology, spiders (perhaps because making webs is painstaking work) were symbols of patience and even wisdom. They don’t bumble about but make their trap strong as steel (did you know that a spider’s web is, in fact, stronger than steel, although you might not want to drive your car over a span made of that silk) and then they wait. I imagine them thinking about delights to come. They look almost sleepy, until the fly gets moored on the sticky stuff, and then, they move like the eight-legged little cheetahs they are.
When I’m away, and my daughter’s mad at me, she calls me and says, “I just killed your spiders.” As messages go, this is better than, “I just finished smoking crack,” but it still wounds me. She knows the effect it has. But karma has its uses. May all those slain arachnids visit her in her dreams, reminding her that it’s not nice to fool with the order of things.