As a youngster, I was fascinated by nature. I trekked for hours in creeks and streams observing the wildlife, insects, and creatures inhabiting the local landscape. I chased tadpoles, minnows, and turtles; however, there was one creature that held my attention more than the rest, the common garden or the writing spider.
Most people recognize this spider as the one which creates a very large web in late summer to early autumn with a distinct zigzag pattern in the middle. The spider itself is yellow and black and rather large and intimidating. I was not overly fond of spiders; in fact, I was frightened of them for the most part, but I found this particular one interesting simply because of its size and the myth associated with it relayed to me by my mother.
My mother claimed that if you smiled in front of this spider’s web, it would count your teeth and they would fall out. If you were to say your name in front of the spider, it would write your name in its web and you would die. How intimidating is that? Regardless of my mother’s warnings, I still had to scrutinize the garden spider to see what was such a big deal.
Although it sounds cruel, I caught crickets and grasshoppers and threw them into the spider’s web (at a safe distance, of course!) to watch it do its work. The spider would rush across the web, sink its fangs into the poor insect, paralyze it, and wrap it into a cocoon for a later meal. The whole process only took seconds, and I was captivated by the action. Little did I know that this interest as a child would be of monumental understanding in adulthood.
The myth did come true to some degree. I did lose my teeth, and they grew back! Just a year ago, I cut my third set. But, it failed because I am still alive even though I spoke my name in front of the garden spider’s web just to see if I would drop dead on the spot.
Now that I am an adult, I reflect on the garden spider to understand how life works. Sometimes, life grabs us, wraps us up, and sinks its fangs into us. It holds us captive and eats away at us in times when we least expect it. Life deals out hardships like a mother who does not recognize us because of Alzheimer’s, who takes loved ones away from us due to heart disease, and who afflicts a sister with lung cancer. The web takes control and we cannot break free and we must die or watch those we love die in the web of life.
I have learned much from the garden spider and its web, but I realize that the web of life deals out cruel circumstances that I must overcome and deal with like each cricket and grasshopper tossed into my own web.
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