Happy October! It’s my favorite season, and I wanted to write about something timely. Here in the Pacific Northwest, this is when we see spiders everywhere. In my house, there’s always a week or two when the giant house spiders emerge from wherever the hell, wandering around presumably in search of a mate. They come out of the woodwork. I’m always really edgy during that time.
I’m both fascinated and frightened by spiders.
I recognize my fear as somewhat overblown and irrational. Still it persists. And so it was a strange turn of events when, a few weeks ago, it dawned on me: I had become accustomed to, even fond of, one particular spider that had taken up residence outside my bedroom window.
I had just started rewriting my novel-in-progress, just recommitted to my daily writing schedule. So every morning, I’d wake up and see her and I’d watch her as I struggled to think of a natural line of dialogue, the perfect word, etc. I’d think about what her life must be like: doing the same thing each day, sitting on the same web in the same place, just waiting for food, just living. I’d think about how her life wasn’t too different from mine. Then, one day I woke up and she was gone. It had been very windy and stormy that night and I was sure she had just blown away. And I was inexplicably disappointed. That night she came back (I’ve since learned that orb weavers eat their web and rebuild it daily). It felt like a blessing.
Every day, I watch her weave her web and she reminds me that we are all the center of our own worlds. I watch her move in the dark and it reminds me of deep creativity and of moving into the dark and inaccessible corners of my own life. Yesterday, I watched her immobilize a yellow jacket. Her large body moved with a vicious, devastating speed. Within seconds she had wrapped the wasp in silk and was dragging its heavy body back to the center of the web. As she was eating it, I couldn’t look away. It was menacing, disquieting, vaguely disgusting. It reminds me of death.
It reminds me of one of my favorite James Wright poems, “The Journey.” It’s about a spider, and death, and, by association, life. It ends:
Have searched all over Tuscany and never found
What I found there, the heart of the light
Itself shelled and leaved, balancing
On filaments themselves falling. The secret
Of this journey is to let the wind
Blow its dust all over your body,
To let it go on blowing, to step lightly, lightly
All the way through your ruins, and not to lose
Any sleep over the dead, who surely
Will bury their own, don’t worry.
Intently, I watch this spider step lightly, lightly through her web. Her long limbs thrum the threads and they vibrate wildly. A beautiful, brutal display. Even behind a pane of glass, I won’t get too close. I don’t quite have the stomach for it, not yet. Still, it’s a kind of love, isn’t it?
Though love can be scarcely imaginable Hell,James Wright, “The Art of Fugue: A Prayer”
By God, it is not a lie.