Four Fears: Spiders, part II
In 1990, after I learned I had AIDS, I decided I did not want to die afraid. I made a list of everything I was afraid of—
- Public Speaking
Over the last few days, I have written about overcoming my fears of water, public speaking, and heights; today, I will finish writing about spiders.
NOTE: This post is continued from yesterday's "Four Fears: Spiders, part I." To read that post first, click here.
One day in 1996 I got out of my car—and stood face to face with a wolf spider. She had dropped down on a web, and she just hung in front of me, looking at me. She didn't run. I think she meant to do it, feeling confident, somehow, that I would not hurt her. We looked at each other a long moment, then she slowly climbed back up her web.
I had known that there was a spider in my parking stall at my condo in downtown Salt Lake City. I had run into her webs getting into and out of my car, but I had just brushed them aside. I never went looking for her, or tried to hurt her.
Summer turned into fall, then winter. I thought that the spider would die—few spiders live more than a year, and most die when the cold comes.
But this was a smart spider.
Above my parking stall was a fluorescent light that burned day and night. The heat from that light let the spider survive until spring, when I again saw her webs in the corners of my stall (my stall shared only one side with another car: the driver's side of my stall was the cement wall of the elevator room, so there was that whole wall and the corners at the end where she could spin her webs).
Naturally, I named her Charlotte.
I happened to be there when Charlotte caught her first small insect that spring, a young fly. Charlotte was so excited to have something to eat that she nearly fell from her web—she literally shook and shook: but she caught herself, and she had her first meal of spring.
Drew came into my life that spring, and I showed Charlotte to him. Watching her was like having our own National Geographic special in my parking stall.
Her babies hatched, and she gathered them onto her back. It was astounding to see not just her eyes looking at us: but the eyes of twenty tiny baby spiders clinging to their mother. Wolf spiders are unique amongst spiders in that they care for their young after they hatch: they protect them, and, I'm sure, they teach them how to survive.
Charlotte survived three winters there. Many times I would hurry to my car—and Charlotte would drop down, as if to say hello, and she'd hang there on her web a moment. I never minded the delays. Other times, I would turn around from getting something out my car—and there she would be, looking at me. I enjoyed and looked forward to our encounters. Once, I brushed into her, and she was on my shoulder. I learned against the wall, and she climbed off my sweater and onto the wall.
One horrible day, Drew and I drove in and parked, and five of my hated neighbors stood there, angry. "We just killed a horrible spider in your packing spot!" they shouted at me. "How could you let it live?"
Drew and I both wept. We got up to my home, and wept. I had never imagined a day like that would come: that I would cry over the death of a spider. Seventeen years later, as I type these words, I am emotional again. After fearing spiders most of my life, I had come to love one.
I will not die afraid of spiders.
Singh Kaur, Guru Ram Das
Singh Kaur (1955 - 1998) was an American Sikh who helped bring Indian classical music and sacred chants to the West. She was a noted poet and New Age composer, as well. She had one of the most beautiful voices I have ever encountered. She recorded 26 albums in her life, and I cherish those that I have: in particular, Guru Ram Das (recorded in 1991 for the Crimson Collection, from the New Age label Invincible Productions).
The word guru is made of two parts: the Sanskrit word "gu," or darkness; and the word "ru," or light. It means the journey a soul must take from darkness to inner light. The chant "guru ram das" is a song of protection, meant to take a soul from the personal to the infinite. Kim Robertson, the harpist, beautifully accompanies Singh Kaur in this moving performance:
A day will come for all souls, as it came that horrible day for Charlotte, when we are ripped from the personal and thrown to the infinite. What will become of us there, if anything? If what the gurus and the ancient yogis teach is true—Charlotte is on a path through lifeforms and lifetimes to enlightenment.
She will make it.
I created "Behold I Go," the image above, in 2006. The title is from Robert Herrick's poem "Eternity":
O years! and age! farewell:
Behold I go,
Where I do know
Infinity to dwell.
And these mine eyes shall see
All times, how they
Are lost i' th' sea
Of vast eternity:--
Where never moon shall sway
The stars; but she,
And night, shall be
Drown'd in one endless day.