Lessons from Spiders 2: Keep Your Head Down

Lessons from Spiders 2: Keep Your Head Down

There are times in life when I just have to keep my head down—either to get a job done, to avoid notice or just to get some needed rest.

Life moves quickly and stuff changes and sometimes I’m lost in my own head.  This is where I was when I first encountered the spiders.

It’s a new townhouse and it’s in the middle of a quickly developing area in a city that hasn’t had a chance to stop and take a breath and adjust to the influx of people suddenly surging into and seeping over its borders.  There is a goat farm behind my new home, bordered on all sides by townhouse complexes and properties for sale, fetching millions of dollars for tear-down homes.  Between the goat farm and the back entrance of my townhouse is a swath of scrubby brush masquerading as parkland but full of blackberry brambles and dark shrubs perfect for hiding if you are a spider.

For some reason the town-homes here are constructed sans screens in the windows.  Our unit was one of the only ones left and had been sitting vacant for several months.

Add the scrubby brush to the screen-less windows and vacancy, combined with construction workers going in and out to add finishing touches once we signed and initialed our purchasing agreement, and the resulting environment is perfect for eight legged critters to scramble in undetected.

Now add movers.  And excitement.  And furniture and boxes and dishes and clothes and spices and books and pillows and cupboards.  Clever arachnids have places to hide.

Now add me.

It’s evening.  The late summer breeze is whisking the shower steam out of the window and I can smell the fabric softener on my pajamas.  I take a deep breath and reflect on the day.  It’s refreshing to have our bedroom organized after a month of moving boxes covering the floor and furniture and stifling nights sleeping in the spare room which I’m sad to discover is not a comfortable place for future guests to stay.  I hear the television set downstairs in the living room softly playing and a laugh track from decades ago.  My husband must be watching something nostalgic.

Nostalgia.  Since we have moved across the country, I feel more like I am on vacation than relocation.  Granted, the first couple of weeks in my new place of employment snapped me out of my reverie but since it is the same corporation I worked for “back East” there is an element of familiarity that tempered the displacement.  The shiny newness hasn’t worn off yet.  I’m not ready for nostalgia.

I walk through the growing darkness of the hallway, making my way to the stairs and absentmindedly wonder why my husband would leave a sock right at the top of the landing.

Then the sock moves.

It’s not a sock.

My brain hasn’t registered yet what I am seeing.  I instinctively reach for the hallway light but before I even flip the switch my mind has said, “Mouse? Rat? Living creature of some kind…” and it scurries in a characteristically eight-legged way.

Thousands of icy fingers creep up my spine and my arms both begin to tingle as a precursor to panic and still my brain can’t register what my eyes are seeing.  I start to sweat.

Centimetres from my bare left foot is a hairy brown spider the size of my hand with legs the width of my fingers.

I flick on the light switch now.  The spider quivers and we both prepare to run.  Instead I yell down the stairs and possibly into the next dimension,

“Gah!”

“What?” My husband is startled from his nostalgia.

“Um…can…you…ah…”  I’m staring at the spider and I’m sure he’s staring at me. Split seconds become a sticky web of hours.

If this hairy brown beast darts he is going to a) run across my foot (shudder!) b) hide in the dressing room and burrow into my clothes (panic!) c) escape to the hell from whence he came to reappear when I’m alone and defenseless (cue paranoia).

“Gah!” I shout again.

I hear footsteps and glance at the spider to make sure they weren’t coming from him.

“You okay?”

“Um…I don’t want to move…”

“Spider?” He knows me so well.

“Yes but…um…he’s huge…and if I move…”

“Where is he?”

Footsteps up the stairs.

“Don’t startle him!”  I am barely breathing.

“Where is he?  Where are you?”

“Landing.”

The spider tenses and I back up.

Footsteps back down the stairs.  Where is my knight going?

“Babe?”  I call weakly.

“Just grabbing a paper towel.”

“Um…I think you’re going to need more than a paper towel.”

Footsteps up the stairs again.

“How big can it be, Love?” Step, step, step, step.  “Whoa!”

“Right?”

“Wow.”  My husband looks at the paper towel in his hand and then at the offending arachnid.  “I don’t think he would even fit under a glass.  I’ll go get one.”

“No!”

“Kidding, kidding.”

He removes his slipper and lifts it to whacking position.

I recoil.

The spider darts.

“Gah!”  Me again.

“Where did he go?”

I point to the hall table and the back left leg which isn’t big enough to hide the spider’s back left legs.

My husband wiggles the table.  The spider panics and runs in a circle on the landing.

WHACK!

WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!

My eyes are shut when I hear my husband say, “I’m going to need another paper towel.”

*******

Later I’m on the couch with my legs tucked under me, away from the floor, of course.  A nostalgic laugh track is playing on the TV and my husband is sipping a cup of tea.

I’m a bundle of nerves.

“What the hell kind of spider was that?”  I ask.

He shrugs.

“I never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever saw a spider that big in Ontario.”

He shrugs again.  “I’m sure they exist,” he offers.

“It was like a tarantula!”

“No, Babe.  It wasn’t that big.”

I blink at him.

“Okay, it was big but I’m sure it wouldn’t have hurt you.”

“What if there are more?”

“I doubt it,” he reassures.

But I am traumatized.  The shiny newness of my environment has suddenly tarnished. I feel utter bewilderment.

Where am I?  What is this place?  Where are the familiarities?

Even the damn spiders are different!

I walk around in a sort of stupor for days after that first encounter.  To everyone I meet—from my boss to the check out lady at the grocery store—I describe the spider in detail.  It’s only when a slightly smaller version of the first arachnid darts at me from behind the mirror in my dressing room and another runs under the kitchen table at 5:30 am (and I have to drag my slumbering husband downstairs to end its life) do I realize the stupor in which I have been walking has turned into a vigilant scanning of the floor.  I’m suddenly hyper aware of my environment.  Every shadow is a spider.  Every customer at work is a possible fraudster.  Every grocery store has a terrible selection.  Every person I meet is passive aggressive and won’t just spit out what they want like people did in Ontario…

And then it occurs to me:  It’s okay to keep my head down.  It’s time to look around.

Up until the encounters with the arachnids I was only going through the motions of relocating.  Setting up my home and meeting my team at work were just temporary pastimes until I got back to regular life.

But my regular life had changed.  And I had to face it.

It was time to keep my head down, to plan my steps carefully, to notice my new environment and to be okay with the occasional fear that might dart at me unexpectedly.  It was time to be quiet and go unnoticed and to absorb instead of compare.  It was time to rest my mind.

My husband started referring to the spiders who ran out to meet me as my “friends”.  It wasn’t until one of them met him on the landing that he decided to catch and release it and show me it wasn’t that scary.  But when the drinking glass with which he tried to entrap it wouldn’t fit over the spider’s legs he opted for the slipper treatment.

Friend or no friend he wasn’t going to risk having that thing crawl over his face in the middle of the night.

Shudder.  Panic.  Cue paranoia.

Do spiders have you scanning the floor before you take a step?  Maybe you have been keeping your head down to get a job done, to avoid notice or just to get some needed rest.  I’d love to hear from you!  Click below and leave me a comment.

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