March 26, 2024

The Lessons I Learned Sharing Space with a Spider.

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She appeared one morning a few weeks before Christmas.

Bulbous, but near-missable and centered in mid-air at eye height.

Her web, perhaps not the biggest I’ve encountered on my travels through jungly, remote spaces, but the biggest web I’ve seen here in Nicaragua. In truth, the biggest web I’ve ever discovered in an abode of mine.

Spanning nearly four feet wide and possibly four feet high, her web was artfully cast between my cane roof, the wooden pole centered at the edge of my porch, the wooden floor below, and the slack black straps of my TRX, hanging from the roof to the left. Her web took up the entirety of this space, close to perfect upon inspection, her octagonal design ready for trapping.

Most people might have taken a broom to the thing, destroyed her creation, destroyed her, and gone on with their day. There was a time when I was this person—terrified of spiders beyond reason. Crazed by their sight, or simply knowing a spider was near, lurking in a corner of the room but lost to my view. I could not sleep or calm.

I’ve been known to eject myself from moving cars, igniting pandemonium in drivers and other passengers. I would destroy living rooms in the dead of night, toppling furniture in the dark and chaotically thrusting vacuum cleaners in the direction of spiders that slipped away.

While working with sea turtles in Costa Rica, hand-sized black spiders would linger on hallway walls in the dark, the only route to the outdoor toilet. I would decide to just not go and turn back to my bunk and await the daylight rather than risk passing too close to the creepers.

When camping in Australia, I was trapped inside my own tent while a Huntsman the size of my face lightly snoozed on the outside opening flap near the zipper. He wasn’t going anywhere, so I guess I wasn’t either.

I’m not sure how I veered from fearing spiders enough to choose fight-or-flight toward befriending them, but these days, they don’t induce panic like they once did. At least this one didn’t, hanging dreamily in the morning sun, her shiny web taught and complicated. As one who has worked pretty hard toward my creations, I didn’t have the heart to tear hers down.

So, instead of my usual TRX workout that morning, I left her web untouched and walked Roo. For the next three days, I changed my routine explaining to her, “I’ll let you enjoy your space for one more day, but tomorrow, I need my straps back.”

Why I felt compelled to explain my decisions to a spider, I’m also not sure, but it gets worse.

After three days, I needed my TRX. By then, I felt like I had set a precedent by not violently dismantling her web. I couldn’t justify brooming the entire stringy home apart. So I explained to her, “Okay. I need to do this workout. I’ve been postponing for days. I’m only going to remove these two points that you’ve attached to my TRX. I’m not saying you have to leave, but you built on my property and I need it back now.”

Reluctant to remove the intricately woven web in full, I disconnected only the two strong web strands anchoring her huge sticky home to the straps. But that was enough for destruction. Down swung her web, floating like a handkerchief to sway against the wooden pole. I watched her eight little legs tense, not enjoying the ride. Then, isty-bitsy like, she crawled up the wooden pole. Safe, but surprised.

Do you ever get the unpleasant feeling that you’re being watched while you workout at the gym? That’s how I felt for the next 40 minutes of squat jumps and knee lunges. Watched.

Anyway, the next morning returning to my porch to do my morning things, I saw she had returned! Her web, large and round as ever, was this time anchored to a planted tree that perches in between the TRX and the wooden pole. Smart little spider! She keeps her spacious home, I keep my workout equipment—winners all around.

Weeks passed. Every morning, I greeted her as I watered my plants, practiced yoga, and wrote in my journal. I commented on her meal choices. I think I even Instagrammed her weaving her magic one morning. She was admired. Somehow, over Christmas and New Years and all the porch festivities the holidays bring, her home stayed strong and intact, apart from her kills.

One day, I noticed her web looking more shabby and dilapidated than usual, holes in the walls and frames askew. “What’s going on here?” I said to her as I watered the tree plant. “You need to tidy up your house, girly!”

And then she was gone.

The next day, only her tattered web remained; no expert spinner sitting neatly in the center.

Gone could mean anything. Gone could be she gave me the finger after my observation and moved homes entirely, seeking out another porch to rebuild her home. Gone could mean she’d only climbed higher to a snug corner of the roof, watching me, her feelings hurt by my criticism.

Gone could mean she’s on an adventure, abandoning her web and traipsing off through the bushes and tall grass into the wide beyond with her spidey boyfriend, making babies and living her spider life in ways fuller than I’ll ever know.

Gone could mean one of the handsome (but asshole) blue jays swooped and snapped her up in his beak, and she became a light, quick snack ending her life without quarrel.

I’ll never know her fate.

I think about these things, the fates unknown, if I’m sitting alone in a car for too long.

What’s going to happen to those lonesome chickens I often see down dusty sideroads of Nicaragua? The chickens with feathered “bed-head” bodies, disheveled as they amble crookedly in search of dropped breakfast kernels. The skinny cats and stray dogs who belong to the street. I wonder what happens to the people I cross paths with, the ones I don’t ever speak to but who create the setting of my life at that moment.

And then we all just keep moving on, circling, tasking away at whatever we are filling our lives with, and never crossing paths again, our fates unknown.

And maybe no one cares.

I guess I don’t really care or give much afterthought to scrawny chickens crossing the road long after they’ve crossed.

But sometimes, I do wonder about that spider.

Perhaps her life came to an untimely end, or, what I hope, is that her life came to a beautiful end. That she supped heartily on the catchings of her web every day. That she enjoyed the breeze, that she appreciated how delicate I was with her strands if I needed to remove them from the TRX.

Maybe she warmed toward the kindness I showed her.

Maybe she was meant to cross my path and give me a chance to be courteous without rewards.

Maybe it was a karmic encounter I’ll understand in the afterlife. Some kind of “Once I feared spiders and now I befriend them” connection that brings a story full circle.

Without her and her big, beautiful web taking part in my everyday scenery for over a month, I wouldn’t have these thoughts to ponder in this way.

A near-invisible display of nature unexpectedly appearing brought me a daily reminder to be kind, to share, and to choose not to destroy for no reason.

Or maybe she was just a spider on my porch. ️️

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