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.