Loving the Tarantula

For my entire life I've been terrified of spiders. Even the teeniest speck of a spider brought on panic attacks as a child (and who am I kidding...two years ago a black widow nearly scared me literally to death). I remember some story about a black widow being in my crib, but I don't know if it's true. I do remember the black widow that came crawling out of the faucet one day when I was about to take a bath. And all the black widows that made webs on the foundation of the house who terrorized me as I helped my mom plant marigolds. Me and spiders just didn't mix.

The last three months of college in Boulder I lived in the basement of a townhouse. Desperate to find a place, I'd taken the first one I saw. The day I moved in the former tenant casually said, "By the way, this place has a lot of spiders." Alarm bells sounded in my head. I went into full panic. How could I live there?! Just then, a big spider lumbered out of the closet. It was a long three months. Every morning, as I sat peeing in the tiny bathroom, one or two spiders would crawl out of the space occupied by the water heater (and a spider colony, apparently) and come to wish me a good morning. Or sometimes they sat in the bathtub, and spiders always look bigger contrasted against white bathtubs. These spiders met with a watery grave.

Other spiders in this house weren't so lucky. They were doused with Raid. And so was I. Perhaps all my health problems can be traced to living in a Raid bomb for three months.

Even though I thought the only alternative to going crazy from panic was killing these creatures, I didn't feel good about it. I just didn't want them near me...and especially not on me. 

One spider almost caused me to wreck my car. It was a gorgeous fall afternoon in Denver. I pulled out from the light at 6th and Speer and as I did, I looked to my left. I detected movement on my arm. My heart raced and then I saw it: a small, white, creepy-as-hell spider. I shrieked and flung my hand to whisk it off of me. Then I remembered I was driving. I looked up just in time to avoid hitting the car in front of me. Shaking terribly, I pulled into a gas station. I searched the car...it couldn't have gotten far. The spider crawled out from under my seat and met its death: pounding by ice scraper. 

So I guess I'm a recovering spider murderer. It doesn't feel good. But I am trying to make amends. Sometime in the last year my heart flipped over and I started to care for spiders. Not love, mind you, but I developed a respect and admiration for them. They're pretty amazing. They create incredible webs. And many cultures believe they are symbols of the goddess. So that changed my mind. I started to wonder if Spider was one of my totem animals. I had no trouble accepting Bear and Owl, but Spider? Hmmm.

Somehow, it sank in and I embraced spider as sacred. I placed the Spider card from the Medicine Cards on my altar. And I declared a moratorium on spider murder both at home and at work. Now they spiders are relocated. I have also spoken with the spiders and told them the house rules: they can live with me as long as they don't get on me. If they break that rule, I can't guarantee my reflexes won't kick in. No one's tried it yet. 

But the biggest change came last week on a hike with a friend in Mount Diablo Regional Park. (You may remember that this is the place where I first encountered Owl. It's a magical place...I've seen a mole, quail, and a coyote there as well.) We were out at dusk, our favorite time to be in Nature. At one point I looked down and saw my friend about to step on a tarantula! I yelled out, but couldn't articulate what I wanted to say. 

Luckily, she stepped right over it. That's when I realized I wasn't afraid. Instead, I wanted to see it. I wanted to watch it, take it in. I could appreciate its beauty, its fragility. It was big, at least the size of the palm of my hand. And yet, I had no desire to run away. I told my friend in amazement that this was the first time I'd seen a tarantula and not panicked. The last time I saw one, I was the one who almost stepped on it. As soon as I saw it I jumped several feet to the right and had a panic attack. This time, I didn't want to leave the tarantula. 

Eventually we sauntered off on the trail. I couldn't stop thinking about the tarantula. And I knew then that I'd accepted Spider as a totem, because that tarantula is in my heart even now.



d page said...

Very touching story, Katrina. I have been arachnophobic most of my life as well. I have worked hard at being kind to spiders. We even have a few that live in our home, now. Spiders also represent the weaving of poems and stories.

Katrina said...

Thanks Debra. I did more research on tarantula specifically after writing this, and read they shed their exoskeleton when they want to grow. That is exactly what's happening in my life...so appropriate to have a visit from tarantula now.