I used to be afraid of spiders. Or, more precisely, I used to be more afraid of them than I am now. I’m still afraid — in certain circumstances — sometimes more afraid and sometimes less afraid. But my overall fear trajectory has moved in the direction of rational co-existence.
At some point in my life long ago, I decided for the most whimsical reasons that I should try to like spiders. They are, after all, very conspiculously present in my environment. And whenever you’re on a ladder trying to clean out the gutters — a place that I periodically would find myself — they can “make you hurt yourself,” as my uncle used to say.
Not that they want to. I’m not sure whether they are even conscious of their effect. But I have wondered at times whether or not they scare each other. It must be hard having a good solid relationship when you’re a spider.
But we try to find the good in life. After observing that spiders were building their orbs right across my doorway at night where I’d be sure to get caught in the nocturnal trap myself, I decided that maybe I should come to terms somehow with my fear. Without knowing anything about phobias, I decided just to watch them. At least the web is beautiful even if the spider isn’t. I learned that the porch spider would typically begin building around 8pm, so I’d get my chores out of the way early and make myself available to watch the show.
Several warm summer nights I stood on the porch and watched. A big fat hairy and most creepy spider would patiently build her web and when it was finished she positioned herself in the web’s center where she would wait for supper to arrive. Wow, she’s hungry. It was funny how I could begin to anthropomorphize aspects of the spider’s behaviors in ways that made me sympathize. After a while I began to worry about her a little. Would make sure the porch light was on — it attracts bugs. I would be careful to find the evening’s web before I ventured onto the porch myself — not as much out of fear this time, but so that I wouldn’t destroy all that patient work — for the web building took an hour of labor and she seemed to spend an entire day’s energy on it: I never saw a spider rebuild a web the same night that one had been damaged.
More time passed. Sometimes I would get closer. A couple times I even reached out my finger just to tap — or almost tap — her. You can see where this is going, I guess. Soon these spiders will be afraid of me. They will be asking other spiders for advice: “how can I get the human to stop tapping me?”
The humans! They are so big and scary! (Well, that’s a problem for the other species to solve.)