I Never Thought I’d Miss Scorpions

I am supposed to be writing a poem right now, and that poem is not supposed to be about spiders.  I intended to start writing it a lot earlier.  Like, yesterday, but I kept finding other things to do until it was after midnight.  Then this morning I slept in, which I am almost never able to do.  Then I felt guilty and knew I had to get writing it as soon as I had my coffee, as this particular poem has reached the level of lurking in my head and it’s making me cranky.  Then I decided I didn’t want to think that closely about the issues that make me want to write the villanelle, so I decided I should go for a walk.  That got me feeling all noble because if there’s one thing I don’t like simply for its own sake, it’s exercise.  Then I was so hot I had to sit in front of the fan, which is by the computer, so I decided I might as well upload the pictures off my camera, and while I was online I might as well poke around iTunes, and look at pictures of Moscow estates because I am reading Anna Karenina, and watch that one baby elephant video that always reassures me all is well with the world, and you know how it is.

I never did think it would be possible to miss scorpions, but I do.  That’s because up here in the Pacific Northwest you have some nasty-ass spiders.

Just to be clear, yes, this is what I kind of miss:

Awww, look at that face. Photo:  Angus McNab, Flickr Photo Sharing.

Mind you, the first time I ever saw one of these, it was in my bed.  Even that trauma cannot make me think PNW spiders are any improvement. Besides, the scorpions in Nevada are big enough you can pretty much hear them coming.

The spiders up here don’t even lurk all that much.  Oh, no.  They are not hiding-in-dark-corners colors so much as they are bright red or bilious green.  They’re right out there in the open.  I’m out for my walk, tripping along, feeling healthier and more virtuous with every step, approaching a lovely bower-like arrangement over the sidewalk and thinking, oh how pretty, Nature made a shady leafy arch for me to walked under and then – BAM!  Out of the corner of my eye I see it, crouched greedily in its web that is cleverly spanned across my path, ready to pounce.  Aauuggh!  I’m doing that oh-my-god-is-it-on-me dance on the sidewalk, and I can hear all the passing drivers laughing at me.  Okay, I can’t actually hear them, but they must be laughing. I would be.

A clearer picture would have required getting within 3 feet of it.  Frankly, it wasn’t worth my life.

I have learned that is their favorite kind of place to hang out.  They spin webs between street signs and tree branches, between the hand rails on staircases, between the eave and the porch railing.  Don’t give me that “They’re more scared of you than you are of them.”  If that were true they wouldn’t be all up in my face and trying so hard to get on me.  They’re not trying to catch bugs, either.  The bugs are in proper bug places, like on the floor and under rocks.  These spiders are trying to catch people.  They are pretty small as spiders go but they seem to think they are Shelob, and I’m not willingly getting into it with anything that has that level of chutzpah.

The morning after arriving at our new home in Washington, my husband told me how I was asleep on the mattress on the floor and a huge spider, the size of his hand at least, was marching across the floor right toward my head, but he killed it.  I’m sure he wanted me to recognize his spider killing bravery and laud him as my hero.  All I could think was – really, you had to tell me that?

Many years ago, back in Nevada, a black widow was on the curtain right above my baby son’s head. Mother reflex kicked in and I killed that bitch with my bare hand.  Before that I wouldn’t even kill spiders with a broom because everybody knows they can run right up the broomstick and bite your arm off at the shoulder, and I’m not stupid.  Well, not usually.  In a fit of temporary stupidity that lasted for several years I continued to kill my own spiders until said baby son was big enough to be the manly spider killer for me.  Then I reverted to common sense and stopped getting that close to something that is so inherently lethal.

Because these creatures are lethal.  I don’t know if they’re poisonous, but they don’t have to be.  All they have to do is scare the spit out of you on the stairs, so you fall and break your neck.  They only put webs there so you can see them out of the corner of your eye at the very last minute, out of some warped spider sense of fair play.

I have now put off the villanelle as long as I can for today.  Perhaps feeling invisible spiders crawling on me will serve as additional inspiration.

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Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

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