I think I might be taking this animal thing too far. In this blog and in my life, I've been increasingly smitten with animals of every variety, from dogs and ducks to fish and chickens. But lately, I've even been feeling kindly toward spiders.
Like many people, I've always had a mild spider phobia and I've definitely had a healthy fear of dangerous species. When I was in my twenties and living in California, for example, I didn't hesitate to kill a black widow that had the temerity to crawl up my kitchen wall. Actually, I called E., who killed the spider with a folded New Yorker Magazine, allowing the creature a literary death more eloquent than my current description of its demise.
One morning this past winter, while I was still in Florida, a small brown spider crawled out of the pocket of my jeans just as I was about to put them on. Fearing that it might be a dreaded brown recluse, I killed the spider immediately, this time doing the dirty deed myself. Over the years, I've realized that E. doesn't like killing arachnids any more than I do, so I really couldn't foist the job on him.
Once I'd disposed of the spider, I spent a considerable amount of time researching brown recluses on the Internet and trying to convince myself that the spider I'd killed was a southern house spider, a non-threatening variety that looks a lot like a recluse. It would have helped my identification had I trapped the spider in a glass so I could get a careful look. But having squished it beyond all recognition, I never could be sure exactly what I'd killed. Consequently, until we left Florida, I shook out every item of clothing before putting it on, lest another brown spider be lurking in some crevice. I'm not a world-class worrier for nothing.
Now that I'm back in Massachusetts, though, I've stopped worrying too much about that particular species. So far, I've mostly seen an occasional pale house spider idling on a wall in my house or garage. For a long while, I've had a policy of leaving such harmless spiders alone, unless they made the mistake of hanging out in my bedroom. Then, my normal response was to kill them. The thought of a spider crawling into my bed while I slept was simply too much to handle.
Now I'm not sure I would even draw the line at my bedroom. During the past few weeks my spider phobia seems to have shifted toward spider philia—I gaze at the little tan spider on my bathroom wall with something approaching brotherly love, or at least cross-species friendship. The thought of killing the innocent creature makes me almost sad. So far, I haven't had to confront a spider in my bedroom or one crawling out of my shoe, for that matter. But my inclination is increasingly to live and let live, at least if I know the spider isn't likely to administer a fatal bite in return.
Lest you think I've become a total vegetarian wimp, rest assured that I wouldn't hesitate to destroy any cockroach that came my way. The same goes for earwigs, millipedes, and silverfish. Speaking of silverfish, spiders prey on them. So, long live spiders!