Friday, November 14, 2008
"Men! The only animal in the world to fear."
I was cleaning when I discovered a cobweb strung across the handle of the back door. I was not amused- squeamish as I am about the sticky grey strands- but ever more disgruntled when I observed the owner of the establishment settled comfortably into the middle of it.
She was not alone: the white lump tucked into the other end of the cobweb alerted me to the possibility of many more owners and many more establishments in the not too distant future.
I could not destroy the cobweb with both mother and family nesting inside. I could not fathom how to go about dismantling the lives of spiders. Ordinarily, in a panic and incoherent frenzy, I would produce the vacuum cleaner and erase all trace of whatever was darting around.
This time, strangely, the prospect of hundreds of hairy creatures scurrying about the house was weighed evenly with the notion of exterminating the eggs with an inanimate household appliance. Past experience assured me that refusing to do the former would ensure that someday, in attempting to put my foot into a shoe without checking for occupants, I might experience regret at sparing the cobweb from doom.
What I wanted was to put the lot of them outside in the open air, but the cobweb was dangling across the threshold. Even if I could have propelled myself to touch the door and slide it open, the web would tear asunder, the mother would flee to secret corners, and none of us would be any the better for the ensuing chaos.
I rolled up my proverbial sleeves for a most delicate operation, ignoring the goosebumps and the repulsion and the compulsion to run away. I acquired a cardboard box, emptied it of my favourite teabags, caught my breath.
"Don't move," I said. Perhaps I was speaking to the spider. Perhaps I was delirious with horror. Perhaps the advice was intended for my shivering self.
I held the box underneath the cobweb, urging, for the good of us all, the mother to remain calm while her habitat was transferred.
The cobweb wobbled lightly as the box approached. The spider flexed her long legs, drew herself to full size, raced across the cobweb before I quite knew what was happening, and threw herself bodily on top of the eggs, comforting and protecting the unseen creatures from whatever harm she imagined was about to befall her family. Seeing her cover the eggs with all she possessed, I felt some unfamiliar twinge rise inside me, and a reassurance that it was the proper thing to do.
There she stayed, perfectly still so that the business of moving her and the eggs to the cardboard box went far smoother than I had dared to hope. Once the door was ajar I set the box on the porch, weighing it down with two large stones. The mother wasted no time in drawing the egg up to the furthest corner of the box, where she wound a fresh cobweb around the sphere and wove another curtain to shield them from the elements of weather and from interfering, intolerant humans.
Beyond one week of checking on the spiders' progress, I never was able to ascertain if any of them survived. One day they simply had vanished from the porch.
To be dragged into a vacuum cleaner would have been certain death, slow and cruel. Setting them on the porch gave them a half-chance at least. Sometimes one just has to hope the right thing was done, regardless of the eventual outcome.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 6:00 PM