Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.
~Walt Whitman, “A Noiseless Patient Spider”
I had just turned left onto 25-E, headed towards Knoxville, when I felt something looking at me. I glanced to my right. Something definitely was looking at me. Something with too many eyes and too many legs, its inky, fuzzy body skirting across my dashboard.
Right as I thought, “It’s gonna jump on me,” the little spider sprang towards the steering wheel.
I screamed. In my imagination, the little guy was shrieking silent spider screams as he dropped down where my legs were supposed to be operating the gas and break. Both limbs went rigid, and for the next 100 feet, I pleaded with the offspring of Shelob to not jump on me, or bite my toes, or crawl up my pants leg. I know I had some things to say to God at that moment, and He probably just laughed.
I swerved into the Weigel’s parking-lot, opened the door before putting the Kia in park, and began fencing the eight-legged fiend with the flip-flop I’d used to eradicate flying termites in Honduras, until he was no more than a black smudge and streak.
I looked up, out of breath. A woman pumping gas was watching me.
You might have guessed: I cannot stand spiders. I couldn’t even make myself post a picture of one, however appropriate for this post, because I knew I’d have to look at it again. And it would be looking back at me.
I think it has just as much to do with the way they move and look at you as it does the fact that they can bite. Even the beloved Charlotte from E.B. White’s book, though “a good friend and a good writer,” still precipitated an almost reverential fear (White 184). It didn’t help that I grew up in a house heated by a wood stove, meaning that a species larger than the smudge on the bottom of my flip-flop would hold dance lessons in our kitchen and living room at night. My mom would catch one (or two) in a mason jar to put back outside (So they could come back in, seriously?) and then show it to me the next morning.
“Isn’t it beautiful? Just look at the detail! Isn’t it amazing what God created?”
I was still convinced that spiders came after the Fall.
But, there was one spider who, despite my aversion, commanded my attention and awe.
Her name was Mrs. Sir Isaac Newton.
(I’ll be sharing more about said arachnid, Mr. Whitman, and flinging my own gossamer thread in the next post.)
White, E.B. Charlotte’s Web. Scholastic Incorporated, 1952.
Whitman, Walt. “The Noiseless Patient Spider.” The Poetry Foundation. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45473/a-noiseless-patient-spider. Accessed 9 July 2017. Because my copy of The Norton Anthology of Literature doesn’t contain this marvelous poem in the Whitman section.