The weaving of a tale

There is a spider who lives in the window over my bed. Her web is strung like a safety net, woven horizontally between screen and glass so that she’s able to perch herself in the joint of the window frame. At the point in the morning when I open the blinds, the sun is at just the right angle to reflect the iridescent slopes of her handiwork. Myself a creature of habit, I’ve taken to greeting her as I start the day.

It’s generally just an offhand comment, a quick “Good morning, window spider!” as I fold sheets and fluff pillows. (I have yet to come up with a better name than that, but often simple observation just feels right.) Sometimes I’ll remark on the fact that she continues to grow, despite me never seeing her actually catch anything to eat. This morning I noted that she seemed to have weathered last night’s storm rather expertly, already adding a secondary layer under her net where holes wore through.

window-web

I realize that it must sound rather bizarre to hear me explain so casually my chatting up an arachnid. And on that point, I probably should have prefaced the post by telling you that I’ve always been a bit of a talker, even to inanimate objects. Any of my previous roommates could relay an instance where their shouts of “What?” were met with statements like, “Not you, the microwave!” or “I was talking to the sofa!” My internal monologues have a way of becoming external dialogues.

So, in that sense, it really is only fitting that I should transition myself from dreams to wakefulness by talking to a spider. She quite literally watches over me while I sleep, and the poet in me has started thinking that she’s there to filter out the negativity that would latch on to me in the vulnerable night. Or maybe she is really he, my own little Anansi to gift my subconscious with tales of clever triumph. I hold a tiny (very tiny) hope that one morning I’ll wake to see “SOME WRITER” woven over me like a silken miracle.

window-spider

Of course, the pragmatist in me knows that she is just a spider. But in researching what kind of spider she is (a task that proved to be a war of wills), I learned that she’s just my kind of spider. Tegenaria domestica, the common house spider, is also known as a barn funnel weaver due to the conical retreat built into the end of the web. It’s an immigrant spider – coming over on ships from Europe in the 17th century, they found a new home in the port cities of the Eastern seaboard.

This species is shy, not poisonous, and more perceptive than her orb-weaving cousins. Her web isn’t sticky, so she can’t rely on chance prey, but she’s also not an aggressive hunter. Instead she sits patiently, her front pair of eyes able to detect shapes, and waits for the opportunity to grab food she knows she’s able to dominate without danger. House spiders can see humans, perceive their enormity, and choose to back away rather than confront them.

Still a poet at heart, I keep coming back around to the tale of Arachne, the spider’s mythological namesake. Her story is meant to illustrate the danger of excess pride, though it seems to me to be more about female jealousy than anything else. Of all the versions out there, I prefer Ovid’s, in which Arachne not only out-weaves Athena, she does so with a tapestry that illustrates various scenes of gods taking advantage of mortals. Athena, proving Arachne’s point, throws a tantrum in which she destroys the tapestry, poisons Arachne, and curses her to be a spider for eternity.

My own addition to the tale is the thought that perhaps Arachne, having suffered the unjust wrath of the gods, is determined to look out for us mere mortals. That by cursing her into a spider, Athena inadvertently also blessed her with a certain immortality. Quiet and unassuming, she weaves a protective layer between the angry sky and my gentle heart.

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