Along Came A Spider…

Along Came A Spider… by Angela Gilliland
The other day a friend was poised to kill a spider she spotted. I raced to her side and promised to dispose of it far away from her. I took the spider to a grassy area and let it go with well wishes. You see, I owe a lot to spiders and I intend to repay that debt whenever I can.

I was not always a lover of spiders. Most bugs were OK, many of which I fondly recall keeping in glass jars as pets in my childhood. Spiders, on the other hand, were a little too creepy. I suspect my distaste had something to do with all of those legs, those clingy webs, and their rapid movements–who needed them?

As it turns out, I did. A few summers ago I was experiencing a personally difficult time. I found myself in my mid-twenties, unfulfilled by life. In short, I felt that I was not living up to my expectations for myself. “Is my life really worth living?” I introspectively considered daily and sometimes hourly. I was in a depressed state and I knew it, but I was having a hard time climbing out of it. I have never been good at turning to others for help, so I was struggling in solitude.

Each day was filled with despair and a pervasive sadness that I, today, cannot even comprehend. That is the strange thing about depression: when you are suffering from a down time, you can’t recall feeling happy and when you are happy, you can’t fathom the depths of sadness you have endured. I remember that time as living in a strange realm between life and death.

The one thing I took some interest in during this dark period was flowers I grew on my second floor balcony. Each day I would dote on my feeble attempts at a green thumb. Some days I would step outside and feel stray strings from cobwebs against my face. They were quickly swept away.

One night I went to get a piece of an herb from a planter. Annoyingly, a small brown spider was setting up residence very near my herbs. Wanting my balcony free of spiders, I immediately grabbed a broom and swept the spider and its web to the ground one story below.

When I went onto the balcony the next night, the spider had returned to the same place. Not to be deterred from ridding my garden of spiders, I dug through the cabinet and found a 6-year old can of bug spray and set out to kill the spider. I stood at a distance and sprayed the toxic fumes. I was surprised that the spider was able to hold onto the web as I sprayed with full force for so long. After what seemed like more time than it should take, the spider fell–presumably to its death—to the ground below.

The next night, to my disbelief, the same spider was back, happily spinning her web in her favorite place! Even though the bug spray I used was old and was intended for other use, I was surprised that the spider was not killed by it or at least deterred from climbing back up to my botanical balcony. I reached for a broom and opened the door, resolved to show the spider who was master of the garden balcony. As I raised the broom, I watched the spider steadily and merrily spinning her web. In a second of hesitation I noticed how magnificent the delicate creation looked in the light. The web was truly a work of art; a gift from nature.

Watching the spider with broom in hand, I did something I had not been doing much of lately: I smiled. This little orb weaver who I had tried to kill the two previous nights did not let my destructive acts deter her from returning to her desired spot. She had staked her claim to what she saw as her rightful place in the world. It did not matter that other forces wanted to beat her down; she resolved to pick herself up and start over each day. I put the broom down and went inside, leaving the determined little arachnid to her work.

I do not know where she spent her days, but at dusk each night she would appear and spin a new web. It was amazing how skillfully she maneuvered around her creation. After completing her work, she would sit as queen. Some nights it would rain and she would take cover under a plant or hold onto a rail, but she would return to her web soon after the rain ceased. Other nights she would fearlessness sit on her beautiful web as the wind strongly blew against it and rocked her.

I silently cheered for her ability to hold onto her web. She had anticipated that there would be inclement weather and uncontrollable challenges to her creation, so she had made her web strong. I spent a lot of time watching the spider. I was genuinely interested in her progress and what she caught to eat each night. I would even leave the porch light on to attract more bugs for her capture. I wanted my flowers to be a good home for her, and they were: she grew steadily.

I started to look forward to checking on her each night. I admired her perseverance. If a simple brown spider can overcome daunting obstacles and create a new web each night to live a life of contentment, then certainly I could pick myself up and go on too.

One night, as the weather began getting colder, the spider did not reappear. I checked every night for several weeks, but she was gone. To my surprise, I missed her. She had come to represent the qualities I want to posses. Perhaps she went to the big spider web in the sky or perhaps she knew her work at my place was done.

By observing her steady and peaceful determination each night, she gave me confidence in myself and the world around me. My spirit began to change and the sun re-emerged in my life.

In the several years since I last saw my eight-legged friend, I finished law school, got a job I love, met my husband, married him in Italy, traveled to Africa, and gave birth to a wonderful little girl.

I trace my journey from pseudo-adulthood to true adulthood to that summer. I emerged from the depression a different person. My thinking was altered, and I had a new respect for and debt to spiders. If the darkness ever comes again, I hope the lessons learned that summer help me clear the clouds.

I no longer dislike spiders; I welcome them. In fact, we are all like spiders; we try to create our own little place in the world. Sometimes it will rain and other times the wind will beat against us and make us fall, but we have to get back up and have enough determination and confidence in ourselves to make our mark on the world. We must find bits of happiness and strength to continue the struggle–even if the inspiration comes in the form of a little brown spider.

(c)2004 Angela Gilliland.

Angela Gilliland lives with her husband and daughter in Indianapolis, Indiana.
She can be contacted at: amgillilandkirkpatrick at yahoo dot com

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