Sometimes you have to dive right in and face your fears. And sometimes we are thrown into a situation with our worst fear and then see it from a fresh new perspective, when we least expect it.
From the time I was a little girl I have always been afraid of spiders. I am not even sure where or how it initially started, but it’s been there for as long as I can remember. Maybe it’s the way they move, so fast with all eight of their hairy legs or the fact that they have eight eyes so they can view you from all angles. The whole catching their prey in a sticky web, so they can suck the life out of them kind of grosses me out too, but whatever it was, they terrified me.
My childhood home in Duluth, Minnesota was a typical Midwestern three story home. We had an unfinished basement in the lowest level of this house and my mom would do laundry down there. She would also send my sisters and I and any of our friends down there to play sometimes. I hated going down there. It was dark, cold and always had a small spider about the size of a nickel nesting in a small web at the bottom of the stairs. I would spot it from the top step and make sure I ran passed it as fast as I could, all the while clinging to the opposite side of the stair case, to avoid brushing into it. Then there was my grandmother’s house, same thing, a bi level home with an unfinished basement, a true spider’s haven. Well her house was small, so whenever our large family would stay there, we kids would have to sleep in the basement on twin beds that she had set up for us down there. If I complained about it, my grandma always informed me that she had just sprayed down there and there shouldn’t be any spiders left at all. It never failed, there was always at least one or two quarter sized spiders that were resistant to her can of RAID and would wind up on my bed, crawling across the bedspread as I lay there, terrified. I must have been attracting them with my fear.
Years passed and the spider dilemma continued. I took a job as a riding counselor in South Dakota one summer at a girl’s horse riding camp. The counselors had to sleep in the bunk house and my bed was positioned right under… you guessed it, a spider infested window of webs. I slept that entire summer with the covers over my head. When I lived in south eastern Colorado, I would see tarantulas by the dozens crawling out onto the county roads to warm themselves after a cold rain. It was horrifying to drive down the road where I could see them scurrying about on the shoulder of the road. Even from the safety of my car, it felt like a really bad scene from an Alfred Hitchcock film.
After I got married and moved to California, I would occasionally spot a spider on the ceiling or the wall of our apartment. I would scream in fear for my husband to kill it, because I could not have it loose in our place. This is while I was standing over on the other side of the room, at a safe distance or on top of the couch where the ones crawling across the floor couldn’t get to me. Well Kio had a knack for not killing spiders, but wounding them instead. He would take a paper towel and try to grab them gently, in which they would always fall to the carpet, never to be seen again. So now we had a crippled and disgruntled spider running around the house, seeking revenge on me, the one who ordered the hit.
I always felt guilty about my fear of spiders, they are very beneficial to our eco system and we would be overrun with bugs if they didn’t exist. As a person who comes from the mosquito state, I can tell you that we need spiders in the world and my attitude towards them really needed to change. I have gained a new perspective on them quite recently and I must say it was eye opening to see it from a different angle.
This past fall my in-laws traveled to Colorado from Tokyo to visit us for two weeks. They were celebrating a golden anniversary and we wanted to do something special for them. My father in law always had a dream to travel and camp in an RV to see some of the national parks. We decided to rent a 32 foot RV and take them to all of the national parks in Utah, which are a total of five of them.
One of our stops was Zion National Park, a gorgeous landscape of richly colored rock walls and rock canvas of all shapes and sizes. If you have never been there, I highly recommend it. September is the busiest month of the year to visit any of Utah’s National Parks, because the weather and temperatures are ideal. People from all over the world are visiting these parks during this time, so Zion was quite crowded. Kio, my father in law and I, all decided to hike to the top of the Emerald Pool, one of the more popular attractions in Zion. There was a path that had a small stone ledge that stood about 2 feet high along the trail as you got closer to the bottom. It had cut outs in the ledge to give it some design. As we were coming back down the trail, I saw several people blocking the path and they appeared to be crowding around something and whatever it was, gawking at it. Others had their cameras out. When I asked someone what was going on, they said there was a tarantula hiding inside one of those cut out holes in the stone ledge. Immediately I felt my face go pale and my first reaction was to run the other way, but I decided since I couldn’t see it, I could summon the courage to walk rapidly past there, to safety. As I forced myself past the people and the stone ledge where the tarantula was, I was careful not to look anywhere but forward, to avoid actually seeing it. After I got past everyone, I took a quick glance back at the crowd and I actually felt something I had never felt before, which was pity. I remember wondering if it was it hiding in there because it was afraid of all of those people. Hmm… I had never thought about it that way before.
When we got back to the lodge, everyone decided we had earned an ice cream cone for making that hike to the Emerald Pool. So we grabbed a cone and went outside to sit in the court yard area right next to Zion Lodge. People were everywhere. As I was eating my cone, I noticed once again a small group gathering over by a grassy spot, right next to the main parking lot area, where the tour buses would drive through about every 15 minutes or so. There must have been 6 or 7 people crouched down looking at something on the ground and they had their cameras out. For every person that left the group, two more people would take their place and they were relentless, coming and going. Whatever they were looking at, they were fascinated by it. This went on for a good 20 minutes or so. Finally they took a step back and there it was, a small black tarantula. Now when I say small, I don’t mean small as in nickel size small, I mean small as in tea cup size. It was big, but smaller than most tarantulas and most likely a younger tarantula. I continued to watch and every time this spider tried to move, they would block it with their cameras. The tarantula would sit very still and not do anything, then it would try to move again and get blocked. At one point, someone actually took a twig and was trying to get it to move, so it raised its two front legs and pawed at the air, as if to defend itself. They weren’t really hurting it, but they were blocking him from going anywhere and his lack of movement, I am quite sure was fear. Can you imagine having 8 eyes and you are looking at a crowd of giant people staring at you and crowding closer and closer?
It was difficult to watch it try to take a few steps to get away from the people and towards the danger of the parking lot, which was the only option it had. It was obvious it was trying to get away from the unwanted attention. The more I watched, the more it bothered me and then I became angry and feeling almost protective of it. At one point I said to Kio, “Why don’t they leave it alone, it’s going to get killed, they are pushing it towards the parking lot where it will inevitably get squished by a tour bus.” As we finished up eating our cones, I seriously considered going back into the lodge and getting a park ranger to help the situation. As an avid camper and outdoors person, I was very aware that National Parks protect their wildlife and that means all wildlife. Even hairy eight legged tarantulas.
We got up to leave the court yard area and I was still debating either saying something to the group or getting a ranger. I turned around to take one last look of regret at the little guy and that is when I saw a ranger picking it up gently with a piece of wood and carrying it over to safety. I felt such a huge amount of relief to see this. I had the same feeling of relief that I get, whenever I help a rescued cat or dog.
It was then that I realized, that I had come full circle with my fear of spiders. My perspective about them had changed. That day I saw the world from their eyes and what was threatening to them. All of this time I thought they were the enemy, until I saw the fear and the desperation that they had to get away from the danger of people. They were and are completely misunderstood, by me and many others. I had nothing to fear, but the fear itself. Gaining a new perspective on our fears, is the best way to handle them. I learned that day, to try and see things from the other side, sometimes it’s scary from over there too.