The Spiders in My Garden

I used to be terrified of spiders, but now I’m learning to talk to them.

Unsurprisingly, it was gardening that first made me rethink my relationship with spiders. I’ve had container gardens in two separate apartments about 30 miles apart, and each one has quickly become infested with aphids and bean beetles. Ladybugs and lacewings are nowhere to be seen. Instead, I get spiders, and I can only hope that they’re mitigating the infestations. I figure some food source must be drawing them to the garden, right?

Some of the spiders are medium-sized brown garden spiders. Others are teensy, cute little critters that make webs across my tomato plant trellises and ball themselves up in the middle, swaying in the breeze. My daughter has become very interested in spider webs, and the other day I turned a lavender pot around to show her a thick one. The motion scared away a moth, and a spider frantically scurried after it as it got stuck in the web, wrested itself free, and escaped. After a minute, the spider went back to its den. I could almost imagine it sighing in disappointment.

Yesterday I saw that two leaves on my lemon plant were stuck together, and when I peered between them, I saw a spider crouched inside, surrounded by sticky web. After the sun went down, it came out.

Once I saw a set of very big black legs poking out from under a wall. I hope, I hope, I hope they didn’t belong to a black widow. But who am I kidding? I’ve seen plenty of black widows and I recognize their legs.

I am honored and happy that I can provide a home for beneficial creatures. I am honored and happy that my garden, as parched and scruffy as it is, is at least a rudimentary ecosystem. Sometimes I almost feel the presence of the fey; my roof contains juuuuuust barely enough greenery to pique their interest.

But I wish I could attract creatures besides spiders. Butterflies, hummingbirds, ladybugs. A few more bees. Is that narcissistic of me?

* * *

For years and years, I’ve seen faces before going to sleep, in that half-waking period just before you nod off. I used to be terrified of them, but now–well, I can’t say I’m learning to talk to them, because they’re gone so fast that I can’t get a word in, but I’m learning not to shy away.

There are way too many at this point for me to count, but I’ll share the most striking one I’ve ever seen: a medieval king, with gray skin and white-blue eyes, turning around in the front pew of a church to look at me. I seemed to be sitting in the back pew. I’ll never forget the look of ferocious hate he gave me.

It doesn’t really matter, I think, whether these visions are ghosts or spirits or hallucinations or dreams. Whatever they are, there’s a reason they’re appearing, and that reason is worth investigating. It’s possible they’re simply pointless nightmares–or, like spiders, it’s possible that they are ugly, scary, repulsive creatures who are performing some important function.

I’ve heard it said that the Morrigan presents herself to you as nightmares. I’ve also seen insects and spiders hovering over my bed upon waking in the night.

* * *

There are enough spiders in my garden, and I get my hands into the soil often enough, that I know it’s only a matter of time before one of them crawls on me.

A few months ago I hit a milestone: a huge multicolored spider was in my sink, and I was able to get it into a glass and out the backdoor all by myself. I was hyperventilating by the time I was finished, I was so scared, but I did it.

I want to cultivate a nourishing relationship with fear. I want to see the power it’s hiding.

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