Spider: My spirit animal?

Spider. This photo was taken before my obsession.
Spider. This photo was taken before my obsession.

I am more than a third of the way through this 31 day writing challenge and I am wearing out. The hard work lies ahead. Stamina, courage, consistency…will I find them? Today’s suggestion (we are always at liberty to ignore the prompts) was to think of an animal we love or relate to and write about it. Draw it, photograph it, capture it in words.

I’ve written so much about my relationships with my cat and two dogs. I’ve tackled family dynamic issues and the great question of who domesticated whom. We’ve played and taken photo after photo of them all. They have brought so much to our lives I couldn’t bear to pick one. I decided to ignore them. In brief all are well. Mimi is ancient and dotty, Elvis is fit and trim senior, and Olive is in the prime of life.

I was looking through some past images to see what spoke to me as a writing subject. I thought about snakes. I was born under the Chinese sign of the snake and seem to attract them. I like them. They scare and mesmerize me. But snakes weren’t speaking to me. Then I saw some horse images. Until only a few years ago I had never given horses much thought. Then I woke from a dream with the desire to learn to ride. I have since been riding and do like horses but I have not become a horsewoman nor am I obsessed. I know the basics and can properly sit in the saddle. Horses to me are like other people’s children. I sure can love them and play with them but I never want one of my own.

Next I spotted a spider image from several years ago and I realized it was an harbinger of things to come. In the last few years I have transformed from a full on arachnophobe to arachnophile. I can remember not being able to look at pictures of spiders in National Geographic magazine a few years ago. I literally was reduced to tears and chest pain at the sight of close up spider faces.  Just think how upset I as about the real things. I used to have to send the man of the house into the bathroom to get them for me. Now I shower with them. They say desensitization requires knowledge and controlled exposure. I say that and a nice camera and some cutie-pie jumping spiders will do the trick. As ladybugs are to beetles, jumping spiders are to arachnids. Cute as bunnies.

I overcame my fear while working at the Cave Creek Canyon Visitor Information Center. It was fall. The snake display was gone and there were few visitors. I wandered around the place looking for lizards. I found spiders. Lots of spiders of many types. After weeks of wandering and looking I came to know who lived where and I learned their species names. I also learned they, mostly, make for easy photo subjects. With their completely alien morphology I can see why we fear them. They look nothing like humans. Eight legs, many eyes, fangs with venom, eggs laying. Some are medically significant (as in they can harm humans) but most are of tremendous help. They are like cats. Spiders are eating all the things that destroy our food crops and stores. They eat mosquitoes. Some have adapted alongside humans and require human shelter to survive. I have learned to love spiders. I still don’t enjoy being surprised by them but I do like to observe them. I’ve even thought of having one as a pet.

What I like more than spiders though is that I learned my brain can change. I learned that fear can be overcome. I knew this about other things but something about learning to love spiders when there was nothing in it for me, unlike, say riding a horse, brought it to another level.





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