Spiders and the Election: November 6, 2016

Southern wood spider

Southern wood spider

We don’t kill spiders. At least, not when we can help it. Upstairs and down, we keep a spider jar. As I was going to bed last night, I noticed a pale spider on my night table, barefooted into the bathroom to get the jar and managed to coax her into it. Screwing on the lid, I examined the nearly transparent creature, counted her legs. Eight. Good. Sometimes in the effort to chase them into the jar, we lose a leg. I set the jar on the chest of drawers and went to bed.

When I woke, the spider had fashioned herself a small nest of web at the bottom of the jar and was tucked cozily within it. Spiders carry their survival abilities within them. We do too, in theory. Some of us are better at accessing them than others. It’s two days until election, and many of our defenses have been penetrated by stress.

Although we’ve had record warmth and dryness, we need morning sweaters. Too cold outside for this house spider. I set the jar aside while we had French toast and coffee, grazed through the news, dismayed as always by Trump supporter vitriol. Their words are abusive: I wish I could weave a protective web around everything and everyone they threaten.

When I was a girl in Florida, I spent the night with a friend whose mother kept wood spiders, their leg spread wide as my hand. I was a little afraid, watching two of them stationed on the ceiling as we went to sleep. “They eat mosquitoes, bring luck to a house,” my friend’s mother said. Later, I learned that spiders are symbols of the grandmother in some Native American traditions.

The election disturbs my sleep. I’ve done what I could. Gave a few dollars to Hillary. Voted. Wrote about it. I support causes I believe in, like Dems in this election, the ACLU or independent film. Two days ago we saw “American Epic: The Big Bang,” a documentary about how groups like the Carter Family and the Memphis Jug Band got recorded in the 1920s. The British director said only in America could such disparate music, created in poverty, be commercially recorded, sell widely and weave together to become the unique fabric that is American music. He admires us for that ethnic-mixing accomplishment.

Listening to savage Trump rhetoric all these months, I have become gloomy about Americans, about our racism and sexism and refusal to face facts. Fearing the damage a Trump presidency could do to our democracy, I’ve thought about running away. If Canada won’t have us, surely Mexico would. It took an outsider to remind me of the good we have here. That young British filmmaker brought tears to my eyes, made me remember that we have horrors aplenty, but we also have wonders. This is my country—and there’s much to be proud of in it.

After starting the laundry, I went onto the warmed back porch and turned the jar upside down. The spider spun swiftly from her web to the sunny wood. I wished her a peaceful rest of her life. She sat immobile a moment, then scurried out of sight between the planks.

My family was from the City. Spiders were not welcome in my mother’s house. Nearly sixty years ago, in a small frame bungalow huddled in the shade of moss-hung live oaks, I was introduced to sacred spiders. That Florida—before air-conditioning, before interstates—no longer exists, but what I experienced then is still with me.

Fear of spiders is learned. In this campaign, Americans have learned to fear each other. If Trump is elected on Tuesday, I will fall to my knees, heartbroken and ill. But on Wednesday I’ll rise and resolve to fight the fears that put the America I love in danger.

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7 Responses to Spiders and the Election: November 6, 2016

  1. Beautiful, Pat. Only you could think of spiders in a benevolent way at a time like this. And that’s exactly what we need.

  2. Kitty says:

    Brilliant, Pat! So glad to be reminded of our best selves and resolve to emulate the spiders- and you!!!

  3. Jana says:

    So true, so true!! The best thing that Trump
    has done for us (is there ALWAYS a positive?) is opened a dialogue. Who is NOT talking about immigrants, racism, attitudes about gender, civil discourse. I hope we continue the conversation at home, at work, in the grocery lines. If I started a discussion group in my home who would drop in? We need these things in the open. We need to turn to each other and look at each other. We need…

  4. The root of hatred is fear, and America is among the most fearful nations on Earth. Hence the reported 15% increase in guns sold in Colorado so far this year (not sure what the figures are nationwide). So you’re absolutely right: fear is what we need to address. The difficulty is that fear makes money for a whole lotta people, including politicians. That’s no reason not make the effort, though.

    I should add that Melody is a pal to spiders. She’s got me trained, when I find them inside, to pick up small ones and bell-jar bigger ones and put them outside. Don’t know if this will ameliorate my previous spider karma, but…

  5. Bob Jaeger says:

    Thanks, Pat, for the welcome reminder, the breath of fresh air.

  6. Jean Queneau says:

    Bless you, Pat!

    Our son Paul learned to read, finally, in third grade when he discovered spiders (and snakes). He took to reading from the’S’ volume of an old encyclopedia set each night, becoming something of an expert on the subjects.

    He majored in journalism and for several years has been the conservation editor of Bugle, from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in Missoula MT.

    For most of his life I’ve been grateful to spiders for helping him find his niche: a life that has opportunities and meaning.

    Jean Queneau

  7. Gregg Painter says:

    “If Trump is elected on Tuesday…”

    I hadn’t even considered the possibility. How could I not have? Sigh.

    My kid used to freak out about spiders, even into her senior year in high school, as I recall. Somehow she changed from an arachnophobe to an arachnophiliac. She would quietly let spiders spin their webs in her post-high school rooms and enjoy their lives. People change.

    Now, how people change in the months and years to come in the wake of Trump’s imminent coronation will be another story. I don’t think there will be many Trumphiliacs for very long. If I am wrong, we are in for some scary times.

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