Spider karma

A friend on FB wanted to know the story about my spider karma, and after writing most of a long-ass reply there, I decided it would work better as a blog post. Thank you, Barb H, for kicking my ass back into gear with posting here.

So. Years ago, I lived in a basement apartment, and there were spiders everywhere. Some of them were truly horrifying — one so much so that I won’t even talk about it here. I had always been terrified of spiders, because my mom was, so that’s how I grew up. But you can’t live among them and keep up that level of terror for years, so over time, in that apartment, my problem dropped from a serious phobia down to a high-alert fear level. One day, I was cleaning and decided to dust the bedroom window shelf. It was a small basement window up near the ceiling. I got on a chair and didn’t notice the wee spider on the shelf — one of those little sort of golden ones that you see everywhere. My face was a few inches from it and when I dusted, it ran around in a panic. I screamed. Really very loud. The spider shot up into the air a couple inches and came back down hard, all curled up into a ball. Dead.

I felt awful, to put it mildly. I left the body there for a couple of days and kept checking on it, but yup, it was dead. I’d killed it to death by screaming so loudly that maybe its heart or brain burst or it died of sheer fright. I never got over that.

Some months later, it rained so heavily that water leaked in through that window and ran down the wall. I dreamed that the water nearly filled up my bedroom, and I was standing on my bed in water up to my chin. I saw a pillow floating across the room and the tiny spider was on it, waving a leg at me and calling, “Mom! Mommy! Save me, Mom!” I paddled across the room and put my hand under the pillow to keep it afloat. “It’s okay, baby. Mama’s here. I’ll save you.” I woke up sobbing.

After that, my fear of spiders was relatively nonexistent to what it had been all my life. They still startled me over the years, but I was able to appreciate their existence, able to appreciate that they wanted much less to do with me than I did with them. I began to coexist with them, and never killed another, instead catching and releasing them. I even let some stay in my next apartment. One lived under the kitchen stove for a season. In my house now, we’ve had several resident spiders over the years. Mainly outside, but a few inside. One lived in our kitchen window between the pane and the screen, and it reminded me of having an ant farm when I was a kid. I got to watch it grow from a baby to well over an inch long:

KitchenWindowSpiderChestnutYawningDog/Kitchen Window Spider

My next apartment (the one where the spider lived under the stove) was on the second floor, and it was on the main street of our town, with very few trees around. Just not a very spidery property, really. One day, I left the house to go somewhere and walked into a web someone had built overnight. Luckily, I walked into it with my arm and hip, not my face, because it was a low web in a shrub outside the door. Unluckily, it was a HA-YOOJ web with a giant-ass spider in it. The web was so big and strong that I felt a tug when I walked past it. I didn’t realize what I’d walked into, kept going, moved my arm and felt another tug. I lifted my arm, thinking I had caught a piece of the shrub on my sleeve, and saw the whole web hanging from it, partly attached to my hip, and the spider sitting in the middle of it. I shook my arm and screamed, and the web came away from my side but still hung from my arm. I panicked and started running, my arm held out to my side, the web hanging like a gossamer bat’s wing, the spider holding on for dear life.

I kept running. And screaming. Maybe I thought the web would fall off or the spider would jump off, I’m not sure which. But every time I looked down, I was still wearing them. I ran around the outside of the house twice, screaming most of the way, I think. On the second go-round, I had either enough presence of mind or just enough luck to scrape the web off on the same bush it had come from. I jumped around in the back yard, trying to see all over myself to make sure the spider hadn’t abandoned the flapping web for a seat on my shoulder, or worse, was hiding in my hair. I couldn’t tell, and couldn’t get in the car without knowing, and didn’t want to go back upstairs in case it was on me and might jump off and hide in the apartment.

So I ran next door.

Next door was an old Victorian like ours, but the first floor was a business. I ran into the office and a guy sitting at a desk looked up with huge eyes. I said, “Do I have a BIG spider on me anywhere? Look very carefully!” and did a slow turn. He got up from his desk and said, “Turn around again,” and I cried, “Oh, God!” and he said, “No, no, I just need to make sure, it’s okay.” I turned around again and he looked at me very seriously and shook his head. I said, “My hair!” and he inspected my head. After a few more odd moments where I put him through his paces again, I calmed down. I told him what had happened and he said, “That was you?”

“What was me?”

“The screaming! I thought it was some kids playing around. It was loud.”

I was too freaked out to be embarrassed, really.

Every day after that for a few days, when I walked past that shrub I’d look carefully to make sure no giant-ass spiders were in residence again. Less than a week later, I came out the door and almost did a moonwalk backing up: the web was in place again. I ran back upstairs and got my camera and took a picture of the spider and its web. It was definitely the same spider, because it was all jewel-toned in the morning light, and it might have given me a look like, “Yeah, I recognize you, too. You’re that crazy bitch who took me on a trip round the world a few days ago. My stomach hasn’t been the same since.”

I left the spider to its web for good. As long as it wasn’t attached to me and we both knew where we stood, all was well. I went next door and walked in like a normal person this time. The same guy was at the desk and he laughed and said, “Another spider?” I said, “No, the same spider. It came back. Look,” and showed him the photos on my camera.

orbweavergreenwoodaveYawningDog/Orb Weaver

His eyes got all huge again. “That’s what was on you?”


“Wow. Um… ugh. No wonder you… wow.”

“You wanna come next door and see it? It’s back in its web.”

“…no thanks…”

My spider karma came full circle that day. I had a close encounter (and have had many more since), got terrified, and the spider and I both lived through it.

Be kind to animals, and spiders too. Your karma will balance nicely if you catch and release instead of ending someone.

Just make sure you always shake out your bath towels before applying them to your wet, nekkid body. Just sayin’.

A Winter’s Rescue Tale

The Orange Dog and The White Dog retell Clement C. Moore’s “A Visit from Saint Nicholas.”

For all the dogs and other animals still waiting for their safe and warm forever homes.

YawningDog/The Orange Dog and The White Dog, waiting for snow

‘Twas a cold Winter’s evening, and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes Winter’s magic would soon fill the air.
That night we were nestled all snug in our beds
While visions of chewy treats danced in our heads.

But soon we crept into our parents’ warm laps;
They’d just settled in for their long Winter’s naps —
When out in the trees there arose such a clatter,
We sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window we flew like a flash,
Pawed open the shutters and nosed up the sash.
The moon, on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of mid-day to objects below;
When, what to our wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh with a team of nine deer.

Bill Stevenson/Flickr (altered)

Through pine boughs it glided and onto the gable,
Then in through the window, down to the night-table.
The driver turned round and gave us a wink —
‘Twas the Spirit of Winter, yet not as you’d think.
Neither Santa nor St. Nick, no angel or faerie,
But the essence of Winter: stars and snow, crisp and merry.

Jason Ahrns/Flickr (altered)

Then a glow filled the room and the shadows drew back —
It came from the nose at the head of the pack.
By this we could see each and every deer’s feature —
Not reindeer at all! But all manner of creature:
A rabbit and rat, a pig and a steer,
Squirrel, fox, and cat and yes, one little deer.
Yet crowning each head, no matter how odd,
Was a set of fine antlers, and each gave a nod.
Their eyes, how they twinkled! Their whiskers, how merry!
Their cheeks were so furry; their muzzles, quite hairy.

But arf! The ninth creature that led through the fog
With her nose all lit up was a little blonde dog.
Her eyes looked like ours! She was cute as a button;
Her shanks were so sprightly, like sleek leg o’ mutton.
She pranced like a pup and sneezed once or twice,
Then shook out her fur, all crystal with ice.

YawningDog/Piglet the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Her coat shone like moonlight! Her antlers, so pretty;
Her little pink tongue was all warm and dog-spitty.
Her tail curled so proudly and swept side to side —
‘Twas evident she was enjoying the ride.
Her toenails tick-ticked upon the night-stand,
And each time she leaped, like stardust she’d land.
We reached out in wonder, a curious sniff:
Touched noses with her, became friends in a jiff.
Her glow grew within us and showed us a sight:
Lucky dogs just like us! In warm homes, as is right.

Remi and Wolf, courtesy of Justice Rescue

We used to be frightened — neglected we’d roam;
And so many just like us still wait for a home.
The memory of that touched our tender dogs’ hearts,
Then the little blonde dog gave a yip — and two farts!
And with jingling of bells and swooshing of tails,
The team turned the sleigh on quicksilver rails.

We saw then that the sledge was filled with our kind!
The spry and the lame, the sighted and blind —
All going to homes filled with warmth and good cheer
For the rest of their lives, to nevermore fear.
Their humans would care for them always, forever.
Good food and good treats! And mistreatment — never!
We felt in our hearts a great joy that night,
Of love always near, undying and bright.
We crept back into bed with the humans we love,
Cuddled up and entwined to fit like a glove.

YawningDog/The Orange Dog and The White Dog, all snug in their bed

As we fell back to sleep so secure, curled up tight,
We knew everything would turn out all right.
From the sleigh came a bark, a miaow, and a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
We heard in our dreams as they flew out of sight,
“Happy Winter to all, and to all a good night!”

Please consider donating time, money, supplies, or anything you can to Friends of the Danbury Animal Control, the Danbury Animal Welfare Society (DAWS), Justice Rescue, Wildlife in Crisis, or to your local shelter, animal rescue organization, or wildlife rehab organization. Remember that adopting a pet is a lifetime commitment.

The magic of puppies

CorgiPuppyDanielStockmanFlickrDaniel Stockman/Flickr

So yesterday, I was at Redding Roasters and there were three or four other people hanging out and talking with Kaitlyn. After I’d bought the world’s best coffee, Kaitlyn turned around and then came out from behind the counter with the most adorable, fuzzy little Corgi puppy in her arms. She had a big grin on her face and I immediately squeed and reached for the puppy. Kaitlyn gave it over and I stood there cuddling it and kissing it (hugging it, petting it, squeezing it and wanting to name it George…).

The puppy was splayed out on my chest with its warm belly on my left boob and its head on my shoulder and I never wanted to let it go. I asked if it was a boy or girl and heard a voice from behind me: “Her name is Maggie.”

I turned around to see a woman standing there smiling and realized that when Kaitlyn had brought the puppy out, she had been about to reach past me and hand her back to her mom, but I’d intercepted and puppy-nabbed.

I babbled something like, “Omigosh I stole your puppy I’m so sorry I didn’t realize can I still hold her a little bit more oh pleeeeease?”

The woman was laughing and said of course I could, and I cuddled the puppy like she was going to be taken from me at any moment — which of course she would be soon as her mom got tired of me slobbering all over her baby. The woman was very nice and didn’t seem at all fazed by my reluctance to let go. I finally realized I should hand the puppy over to her mom before I had to be asked to, so I did.

I never thought to ask Kaitlyn why the puppy was behind the counter. Maybe I wasn’t the only puppy-napper at Redding Roasters that day.

IWillNameHimGeorgeHQ2The Abominable Snow Rabbit/Warner Bros.