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Offbeat – 03 May 2013

http://pierremare.blogspot.com

 

Taking the spider’s point of view, if they are capable of thinking about anything other that eating, breeding and running away in terror from the havoc of feather dusters, and deadly cats and humans, life must be quite tough, and the struggle for survival must be extremely desperate.

I watched The Hobbit last night. The film is as much a pleasure as the book was. Radadgast the Brown offended purists, but the different take on him, depicted as a crazy cat lady with a beard, was welcome. I always saw him as a mysterious, slightly threatening old stick.
The scene with the spiders crawling over his hovel sticks with me more than any of the other scenes in the movie. It’s supposed to portend what will happen when the company enters Mirkwood. The main reason it stuck is because it shows spiders as objects of fear.  I recognised the intent to frighten, but was more curious to know what the spiders looked like.
There is no shortage of spiders in horror, fantasy and adventure movies. From Harry Potter to the Indiana Jones series, the spider makes its showing as the villain. I can only think of that wonderful movie, ‘Charlotte’s Web’, in which a spider is seen in a positive light.
Spiders can be gruesome in different ways. A friend showed me pictures of a bite that she got from a recluse spider. That caused my stomach to churn. She said it was utterly painful as well. I’m not sure how I would take to a bite of that sort. I’m not particularly sensitive to pain.
There are other ways that spiders can frighten. They look completely alien in many ways, with their many legs and, if you can bear to get that close to them, their multiple eyes. The idea of one of them crawling, feather-like, and ticklish, over skin is another reason to shudder.
But that doesn’t mean that I am good at being frightened of spiders. I look at them dispassionately.
I have a couple of ‘flatties’ around the house. One lives behind a picture. There are a couple more, I think, that live in nooks and crevices. I am not sure. The cat thinks they are exceptional playthings. She takes their legs off one by one, then swallows the bodies. Her process of dismembering a spider gives me the shudders as well, and some slight regret. Every ecosystem has its alpha predator, even if it is just a cat, looking for amusement.
Why regret the demise of a spider? Quite simply, I look on them as biological pest control. I am not a fan of aerosol poisons. The spray goes everywhere, and even removing all the food, pots, crockery and cutlery before spraying does not give me any sense of security that the residue won’t be a problem.
Biological pest control is interesting. A little over a year ago, an orb spider spun a web in my garden. She, the spider, was huge. So was her web. It frightened everyone who had cause to walk in that area. The web was elaborate and beautiful, particularly catching the light from sunrise, after the rain. It was also full of insects that would have found their way indoors, but for her.
Unfortunately spiderwebs also catch dust, so they become eyesores. Indoor spiders and webs have to live with the terror of the feather duster.
Taking the spider’s point of view, if they are capable of thinking about anything other that eating, breeding and running away in terror from the havoc of feather dusters, and deadly cats and humans, life must be quite tough, and the struggle for survival must be extremely desperate.
One of the most interesting things about our approach to spiders, is that it is learned from others. There are people who have learned to be frightened of spiders but, for the most part, it is the warnings of others that make people shriek when they see one of the creatures.
There are simple ways to deal with spiders that don’t involve gaudy displays of fear: Stay away from them, use a feather duster, or get a cat. All of that is easy enough, except possibly the cat. The point is, there is rarely a reason to be frightened.
The world that many of us live in is sterile and out of touch with nature. Perhaps the lessons of climate change, which we have still to fully absorb and appreciate, will teach us to value the ecosystem and its players.
For now though, be scared if you have to, but also think about the insects that the spider keeps out.

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