Thursday, October 4, 2007


Heard a gasp come from the front yard yesterday morning and I went outside to find my husband and mother-in-law staring up at the eave of our house. There, billowing gently in the breeze, was a spiderweb the size of a wagon wheel. And perched in the middle of it was the fattest, gnarliest arachnid I have ever laid eyes on.

This sucker is the size of a friggin' egg. He has a bright orange body, with flesh textured by swirls and strange markings. Very unusual legs. A couple of them extend upward, two pointy, jointed outreached arms. The rest dangle down in one leggy clump. The web itself is magnificent, countless rings and a geometrically perfect pattern.

My mother-in-law suggested that we get rid of that thing. "But .... how?!" I wondered. She looked up at him with narrowed eyes. "I'd shoot him," she said.

Normally, I couldn't agree more. Since childhood, I have been a trembling, hyperventilating arachnophobe. At the sight of even the tiniest house spider, I'd freeze, and from my lungs would burst a screech like I was watching an axe murderer chop my mother to bits. Even as an adult, I still have occasional nightmares about giant spiders dropping down from the ceiling onto my face. The dream is so realistic that I literally leap out of bed and bolt across the room, petrified. You know what else? I got so sick of flipping open my dictionary at work and ALWAYS having it open right to the tarantula listing (with the appropriately frightful drawing) that a few years ago I got a sharpie and blacked out the picture:

So now here I stand, staring up at my worst nightmare dangling from my rooftop, and I realize the most unbelievable thing: I'm not scared. In fact, as we discuss ways to, er, "handle" the situation -- like with a broom, or bug spray that has some SERIOUSLY long-distance spraying power -- I feel kinda sad about ruining things like that. And when I think about the spider dying, Chickenbone's face keeps popping into my mind.

Isn't that completely ridiculous? I know it is. I just wrote that sentence and already I'm embarrassed about it. But I'm starting to think that having a dog has made me think a little differently about something like a spider. I mean, this orange creature? He's just a little guy, just like Chickens. Just a little guy trying to get along in the world! And his web, way up there on the rooftop? It isn't exactly bothering me. It's not like it's draped over my pillow or something. Plus, he worked really, really hard on it! You can tell. It is so intricate and big! And then if we just go and kill him? I don't know, it just seems so mean now!

Now I'm sure there are limits to my newfound compassion for nature. If this sucker even THINKS about putting even one of his scary spider feet into my home, he's getting a hammer in the back. (A hammer tied to a broomstick tied to a mop, but a hammer nonetheless!) But for now I think we'll all keep an eye on each other and see if we can't just calmly go about our business.

Here's a picture, though honestly, you're going to have to trust me that this dude is so, so much bigger than a photograph could ever illustrate.


Doc said...

You get lots of hits because "Chickenbone" is one of the funniest blogs out there. And believe me, I've read, like, 5-10 in my lifetime. I read regularly even though I react to dogs the way Amy reacts to spiders.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's one hella big spider. But you have to figure that a spider that big is eating things that big... so your yard and home are freer from bugs than before. He'll move on soon enough.

Chickens is cuter than any spider alive, but I do admire your new found compassion. Maybe we're both a little more compassionate about the spiders in our lives, huh? ;-)

Tim said...

I'm surprised you could even type "spider" that many times.

curry 18 said...

I take great comfort in the fact that I might have played a role in the spider's life extension (as temporary as it may be). Would it be stretching it to say I kinda feel like I was the Gov that made the call on the red phone two min before execution?

T-shirt Face said...

Looks like a marbled orbweaver. Literature says it drops from the nest if disturbed (so I wouldn't disturb it if I was standing under the web), and main food source is chihuahuas and small people.

Robyn said...

I have a few things to say:

a) I also have blackened out the tarantula picture in my dictionary and have for years because I ALWAYS opened up to that page. WE BOTH DO THAT?!

b) I understand the confusing pull of hating insects and spiders yet not wanting to murder them. I have the same rule about once they trespass indoors, they've asked for it. But I usually still scream "sorry spider, sorry spider!" as I beat them to death.

c) my natural response to seeing a bug, and I've noticed it happens even when I see one on TV, is to scream "help me! help me!"

Amy said...

T-shirt Face, I went outside today and studied the spider as it wrapped a moth in webs and then sucked out all its blood. And a Google image search confirms that you are absolutely right. It is, in fact, a marbled orbweaver. Perhaps I should give you some sort of prize. Can of Raid?

Kathleen said...

Everything is dying...when I was a kid, horney toads were everywhere, I haven't seen one in over twenty years. All the frogs and amphibians are dying. Bird populations, down by over 65%. All of these things are connected. I hope you don't kill it. Maybe it'll get eaten by a bird or a lizard or even a bat (spiders are their food) but in the meantime, it'll eat your flies and mosquitos. If you find them in unwelcome corners, you can move them. I won't even kill black widows altho I will take their egg sacks.

Yours is so pretty, you've been blessed, it's a gift. What a lovely spider to have. I blog about the spider who lives under my cooler in the summer. A "writing" spider (I think she was illiterate) none of her kind came back this year. In what I think is related, our barn swallows only produced two broods this year; they usually have three. Maybe someday soon, we won't have any more spiders at all :(.

Amy said...

Thanks, Kathleen! I do feel oddly blessed - or, at the very least, entertained. I go out and check on it at least a couple times a day. It's a little freaky when it isn't in the web (where is it? on the roof? in a tree? in the kitchen, fixing itself a sandwich?) so I'm always glad when it comes back.

(p.s. I call it Orbie.)

Robyn said...

Wait a second. This is a weird small world. I clicked Kathleen's name and it went to her site, Fashion-Incubator, which I read all the time. She also lives in N.M. and has helped very patiently with my silly fashion industry questions. And here she is on Chickenbone Jones!?

Brandy said...

It is a strange story how I happened upon your blog. I also found a marbled orbweaver. Only spiders in the open scare the bejesus out of me, so I captured it in a water bottle. I fed it ants and another smaller spider, and am now looking up specific information about the spider. Which lead me to your page. Strange that I thought I alone was special when I found my spider. Now it appears we both are.