Category Archives: Nature

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’.


Free-tailed Bat, copyright 2011 Leonardo Ancillotto. All Rights Reserved.

Disclaimer: This applies to North American New England bats; if anyone very knowledgeable about bats of the world would like to comment and add advice, please do.

If a bat gets into your house, here is what to do:

This almost always happens at night, so try to isolate the bat in one room by turning the lights off or low in that room, and turning the lights on or bright in other rooms. Bats are not attracted to light. To isolate the room, close the doors very slowly and very carefully. This can take some constant effort because the bat will usually be swooping and dive-bombing throughout the house. Be very careful not to slam doors or barriers — you do not want a squished little bat.

I tend to sort of crawl around on the floor while doing this, to avoid the bat’s flight path. No, they are not going to dive for your hair or face — but they do swoop and dive, and if your hair or face is in the way, oh well.

Once the bat is isolated in one room, open a window — make sure the screen is up and open, preferably as you are opening the window; you don’t want the bat crashing into the screen repeatedly.

If the bat doesn’t immediately fly right out the window, turn the lights off completely, and it should head right out.


Okay, so that’s what to do. Here is what not to do:

Scream and run around like a nutter, flapping your arms.

Grab a pillowcase or towel or other item to trap the bat in. Bad idea. Hurts the bat, may hurt you.

So there it is, that’s about it. Simple.

Bats are largely beneficial creatures and they want to be in your house even less than you want them to be there. Be good to the bats and ease them out. Remember, “Don’t panic.”

Also, please see Bat World Sanctuary‘s page on What to do if You’ve Found a Bat.

Manky and Squinch

It’s a word! I was looking up “grimace” and there it was: squinch. I often say the rodents make the squinchy face and Nitram says You made that word up.

Ooh, I have to look up another word he made fun of me for saying…

Yessssssss! I said of his holey sweatpants the other night, No wonder you’re so cold, you in your manky sweatpants. He looked at me like I was crazy, then he just about snorted soda out his nose at the word.

I am vindicated. Well, actually, I thought I had made up both those words because they just sort of occurred to me, but either they have occurred to a lot of other people as well or I’d heard them long ago and not remembered. Or both.

It comes to me that Manky and Squinch would make great mouse names.