I had a major reckoning with spiders as a kid, maybe around 8 or 9. I had spent my entire existence on Earth decisively afraid of everything that crawled. There's a home video of me in my high chair, in a duck-lipped lament about the 'bug' in my mashed potatoes. "It's pepper, Lu," my mom's voice aims to soothe in the background but I am indignant. "IT'S A BHAWG!" I would continue to nail myself stubbornly against a backdrop of fear for years. I trusted no one and nothing, even when curiosity got the better of me. I would follow six or 8-legged critters along the pebbled ground of our small town crescent, hands behind my back like a tenured professor deep in thought. Always learning (and fearing) from a distance.
I once opened the toothbrush drawer in the bathroom to find a massive spider--it's muted brown and yellow body shaped like a thick bonnet. She wove her way gracefully over my family's toothbrush heads as if blessing them with her presence. It was the most elegant and terrifying thing I had ever seen. Shock rippled through me, but thankfully nightmares never came. I felt an odd respect for this spider queen who squeezed her thick, conical abdomen into a dark bathroom drawer and remained unfazed upon being caught. She was so beautiful and so unlike the daddy long legs that scurried along the trim of the house.
At 9ish years old (honestly, I might have been 12. I'm having trouble placing an age to a vivid memory), I woke up the day after the toothbrush arachnid encounter with a clear mission. I had decided not to be afraid of spiders anymore. The idea was freeing. I looked with renewed perspective at these essentially harmless, oft misunderstood 8 legged mysteries. In later years I would scoop them up from my bedroom carpet or dance studio hardwood and escort them out of harm's way. I would apologize for walking through webs unannounced. I would learn about their eight eyes and gothic survival methods. The females eat the males sometimes-- terrible fright or a new level of feminism...? Lol.
This morning, during our daily breath work in the sun, I felt a tingle near my belly button. I've gotten accustomed to listening to these little sensations before reacting. Most often it is a stray hair of mine making its journey groundward, a loose synthetic thread, or a secret brush by, invisible to the human eye. Today, as I fixed my gaze inward from a resting child's pose, a tiny white spider was suspended between my belly button and yoga mat. The white ones feel lucky to me, 'different' from the basic corner wispies I sometimes put outside and sometimes vacuum up in my hurry to clean the house. I ladled its tiny body from the air with a cupped palm and shook it loose in the nearby grass.
Spider symbology points to a lot of things: spiders represent slow, methodical creativity, and deep, dark, feminine power. Some spiders see the UV spectrum, which means they witness a wider array of color and dimension than humans. Even the most deadly spiders prefer not to attack humans--we are much more dangerous to them than they are to us. They mostly just do their own, creepy thing. A thick little spidey on our front porch seems basic enough until the sun sets, and by the narrow archway lights, her pristine empire is illuminated... in over a foot of sparkling geometric wonder, all of her prey and former 'selves' or skins arranged in a methodical tower behind her throne.
All I can do is be glad I decided not to let spiders scare me so much, and let them exist in wondrous fashion, charming in a kind of shuddering way.