CONVERSATION WITH A SPIDER

I always feel pretty good about myself when I relocate a spider from the house to the garden. But the experience probably feels different for the spider.

If the two of us could talk, the conversation might go like this:

“What the hell? What’s happening?”

“I’m taking you outside.”

“HELP!”

“I’m not going to hurt you. I’m taking you to the garden.”

“No! Please! No, no, no –“

“Listen, if my wife sees you in the house, she’ll kill you. The garden will be much safer.”

“No, no, no, please –“

“You’ll be fine.”

“Oh god, it feels like I’m going to pass out.”

“I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. Can you try sitting with the discomfort for a second?”

“What?”

“In the human world, we sometimes say that if you — “

“NOT OUTSIDE, I’M BEGGING YOU –“

“Oh Jesus Christ, all right.”

“What just happened? You stopped walking.”

“I stopped so you’d stop screaming.”

“Was I screaming? I didn’t even hear it. It was like I went outside my body …. Are we really doing this? ARE WE STAYING INSIDE THE HOUSE?”

“Just this one time. But stay away from my wife and kids. They won’t be as nice as I was.”

“I AM SO HAPPY! I HAVE NEVER BEEN THIS HAPPY IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!”

“All right, all right. Just stay out of sight, okay?”

Anyway, this is the conversation I imagine. And in its own absurd way, it feels plausible enough. What appears heroic to one party — I’m saving you! — may feel unwelcome, disorienting, or just plain terrifying to the other, especially when there’s a big difference in size, status, or power. And while there’s always the risk of anthropomorphizing animals and projecting onto them human feelings or behaviors, I think there’s an equal, if not greater risk in the other direction — that is, the under-imagining of an animal’s experience, or the outright ignoring of its plain goals and wishes.

As the writer Melanie Challenger points out in How to Be Animal, we humans have largely forgotten that we’re animals ourselves and that all creatures — regardless of species — want some of the same basic things, including the avoidance of pain, injury, captivity, or premature death.

If you ever stop and watch a spider spin a web, it makes you think twice about sweeping away the next web you see. So much patience and precision go into a web! And where the hell is all that silk coming from? Up close, it looks like a magic trick.

Spider webs can also be used to stop bleeding if you’re in the outdoors and don’t have better options. Webs have been used this purpose since ancient times. I don’t know how it works exactly. You can look it up at the same time you’re googling ‘night soil.’

Symbolically, spiders are associated with creativity, especially storytelling (‘weaving a web’). So as a writer maybe I appreciate that aspect, too. Maybe I see them as kindred spirits.

Now it’s true that a spider likely lives more in the moment than humans do. Once I plop him down in the garden, that’s his new reality. He’s not looking back in time or bemoaning his fate. But also there are more predators outside the house. In my attempt at mercy I may not have helped him much.

For now, I’ll look the other way and pretend I don’t see the next spider which crosses my path in the house. But generally, if I’m relocating one, it’s because someone in my family has become aware of its presence and is pretty focused on its prompt removal. My family has less patience for ethical dithering. (My specialty!)

I’ll continue to study the problem and report back. All things being equal, I prefer not to cause panic — for my family or the spider.

About Kit Troyer

Kit Troyer lives in Los Angeles. He worked previously as a newspaper reporter and a criminal defense attorney. For the last 15 years, he has been a stay-at-home dad. But that gig is running out. Kids will soon be moving out and moving on.
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32 Responses to CONVERSATION WITH A SPIDER

  1. Alek Keshishian says:

    Another brilliant post… ahhh the dilemmas in leading a good life…

  2. mamason99 says:

    I love these. Going back one – our neighbors have a pool that they let us use. I also save the bees from drowning.

  3. I actually love spiders & have had a conversation with a few, lol. Yours is hilarious though 🥰

  4. Aleen says:

    Ok. I feel like an ogre. Do I have to coexist with the spiders inside the house too? Wasn’t it enough to allow the rats, bees, and spiders to live in the back yard?

  5. Ann Coleman says:

    I think you nailed this one! I love animals (with the exception of rats), but I’m with your wife in not wanting to share my house with insects. Still, whenever I relocate or kill one, I feel guilty, because ultimately it’s just another creature trying to live it’s life, the same as me. I think sometimes we forget that nature can be cruel, and that we’re all natural beings, you know? But what I liked most about your post was the insight into how sometimes what we do thinking we’re helping actually has the opposite effect and we need to be careful about that…especially when who we’re helping doesn’t have the ability or power to say, “no, thanks.” Great post!

  6. great insight about the risk of “the under-imagining of an animal’s experience.”

  7. usfman says:

    I think your statements about spiders needs to be conditioned on their whereabouts at the time.
    There’s a big difference between watching a spider harmlessly spinning a web and a tarantula crawling along one’s arm. I’m not thinking about their creativity in the latter circumstance.

  8. One of my favorite speeches about friendship is Charlotte’s at the end of Charlotte’s Web. It gets me every time. I’ll post it in my blog now. You might like Louise Bourgeois’ spider sculptures and drawings if you haven’t already seen them. Spider for me is also one of my totem animals

  9. Wrye says:

    Nice job, man – you just outed a living spider in your house. You think your fam doesn’t read this???

  10. Spiders kind of creep me out …

  11. I don’t think I’ll ever see a spider again without thinking of this conversation. ❤️

  12. Nancy says:

    Interesting that I found this today. I actually was trying to assist in relocating a little grey spider this morning from my bedside table. As I spoke to it softly, i outstretched my hand so it would climb aboard. It lifted its head up and looked at me with three eyes as I was speaking. I paused and the head went back down. I spoke again and I’ll be damned he/she looked up at me once more! It climbed into my hand and I set it free outside. Really made my day! I think these little creatures are much more intelligent than we think.

  13. Reblogged this on The Wild Coach and commented:
    8 legged friends are good friends …:)

  14. swabby429 says:

    I save spiders from panicing friends. This usually amazes bystanders.

  15. I tend to relocate spiders. But my blogging friend Trina clued me into the fact that there are indoor and outdoor spiders. Putting either outside when it’s 20 F may not be a favor from me!

  16. I liked the imagined dialogue with the spider!

  17. M. L. Kappa says:

    I seem to be constantly relocating spiders—they appear in the bath (how?) I love them unless they’re hairy!

  18. Dr Bob Rich says:

    I fully agree. Spiders, insects etc. are sentient beings who can remember, learn, make decisions, feel emotions.
    I was sitting in a chair with only socks on my feet. A beetle came marching along, so I obligingly moved my foot out of its way.
    It made a 90 degree turn and headed for my foot again. Experiment time: I relocated my foot 10 times, and on each occasion, the beetle changed direction and aimed for my foot.
    At last I stopped. It climbed up, then stopped on the top. “I am the king of the castle!”
    Try to describe this without “anthropomorphic” languate.
    🙂
    Bob

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