Spiders and I have a troubled relationship. Way back in the recesses of my memory, I seem to recall a time when an elementary school class I was in had a pet tarantula. I even vaguely recall handling and petting this creature, and thinking it was "neat".
Somewhere along the way, though, the relationship went south.
It could have been that time I awoke with one skittering across my face and, in an excess of enthusiasm, smushed it into my hair. Or possibly the time I woke up thirsty and sleepily took a big swig of water from the glass beside the bed, only to come fully and unpleasantly awake when I remembered that water doesn't have legs. (There was the moment of horrified clarity when I realized it would be faster to swallow the wiggling thing than to run to the bathroom to spit it out. Only later did it occur to me that I could have spit it back into the cup. By then, the damage was done.)
As a gardener, I am forced to acknowledge that spiders number among our friends in the bug world, unlike, say, cockroaches or termites. They live in my garden in vast numbers and eat the bugs that would otherwise be eating my prized plants. They spin beautiful webs, and I appreciate beautiful spinning, whether accomplished with two legs or eight. And truly, with limited exceptions, they are harmless little creatures.
As long as they stay in the garden. If they come in the house, all bets are off. I like to think that we have an understanding here.
But there is a grey area in our uneasy truce, and that is the topic of this post. You see, we have spiders around here that have an absolutely remarkable talent. They can spin enormous, fully-evolved webs in midair. I kid you not. Huge things, right in the middle of the street, without a tree or an overhang in sight. During the day, this is not such a problem. Most spiders close up shop during the daytime, preferring to laze away the heat of the day in whatever cool and shady spot they call home. But at night--ah, at night, the spiders come out to play.
And therein lies the problem.
Almost every night in the summertime, after dinner and dishes and homework and showers and reading and lights out, I walk the dog. This is the only time of the day when it is cool enough to walk and when my time is not otherwise occupied with the evening rituals of a young family or with sleeping.
This also seems to be prime hunting time for the spiders. At least twice a week, despite keeping a careful lookout for spider webs, I walk through one of these mysteries of the natural world--a spiderweb magically suspended in midair. Most of the time, the web is unoccupied when I crash through it, the occupant perhaps having been warned of the impending destruction of its impressive hunting grounds by the noisy, panting approach of a 110 pound dog on a forced march in a full fur coat. Whatever the reason, I am supremely grateful.
Not that my reaction to an empty web is exactly a model of restraint and decorum. The dancing and screaming and thrashing must be quite impressive, actually, judging from the way the cars slow down to watch. Because, you know, you can never really be sure that the web IS empty. There are all those wispy bits of web, sticking and tickling and itching...and all you can really do is thrash around, trying to brush off whatever sticks or tickles or itches as quickly as humanly possible before it bites you or gets into your underwear, please God!
But once in a while, there is genuine reason for all that dancing and screaming and thrashing. Once in a while, there is a confirmed occupied web. Like tonight.
Tonight I was walking the dog after dark, as is my wont, keeping my usual eye out for spiderwebs, and mostly just minding my own business, when it happened. I walked full-on into a bloody HUGE spiderweb. This sucker went from my upper chest down to my ankles, and at least from one side of me to the other--which I know, because I was wearing a v-neck shirt and capri yoga pants, and both my neck and ankles, as well as both arms, were instantly wrapped in sticky web. And it was thick. It made a noise when I walked through it! And just as I started my usual dance-and-scream-and-thrash routine to get the web off, I felt the spider racing down my back under my shirt, heading straight for the promised land under the waist band of my pants!
You cannot imagine the chaos that ensued. I'm pretty sure I did a damned good impression of a woman possessed. Because not only was the web occupied, not only did the spider actually seek refuge inside my clothes, but it was a BIG spider! I could feel its individual feet racing along my bare skin. It probably left marks. It was the King Kong of spiders, and I was not at all happy to have in on my body.
The dog, as usual, was no help. She took advantage of the break in our brisk pace to lie down on the cool concrete and have a little rest. She is a Newfoundland. She is stoic.
I eventually did get the spider out of my shirt, you will all be happy to know, although not without probably breaking some indecency laws. I also managed to scrape off most of the spider web on the way home, although I had to stop periodically to thrash around a bit more, feeling phantom spider tracks running across my skin.
After all that trauma, I'm feeling the need to curl up with some yarn and soothe my battered soul. But first, I need a shower. A long, hot shower. And there'd better not be any spiders in the bathroom.