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.


Pagan Blog Project: Depression, Dreams, and Divination

I’ve been living with clinical depression and anxiety since I was a child, and I’ve tried over a dozen different medications throughout the years to alleviate it. The only reason I haven’t tried more is that mindfulness meditation has been relatively effective.

But it’s not quite enough, so last week I started Wellbutrin. Here’s the funny thing about me and Wellbutrin: I’ve been wanting to try it for years, but have never had the courage to ask for it. Year after year I’ve let doctors prescribe all sorts of medications, secretly wanting to try this one, but being afraid that I’d be seen as pushy or disrespectful.

But I finally worked up the courage to ask, and now I’m on it. The pharmacist warned me that it can interfere with sleep and told me to take it no later than mid-afternoon, but the other night I forgot and had to take it at bedtime. Mistake! Giant mistake! If anyone ever tells you it’s okay to take Wellbutrin at bedtime, point them to this post.

I fell asleep fine at first, but woke up agitated around 3 a.m. I started fretting about the stupid bullshit that signals an anxiety attack: a mean message someone sent my friend, the books I’ve loaned people that I want back. I’d just started wondering if I’d have to get up when I fell back asleep.

After that came an hour-long string of frenzied nightmares. In one, there was an intruder in my bedroom and I was afraid to see who it was. In another, my husband started yelling at me in a Judge Doom voice. In more than one, I tried to wake myself up by moving but was frozen by sleep paralysis. (Sleep paralysis just sucks, friends. It just bites. I get it all the time.) But the strangest nightmare was the one about the moon.

As I’ve mentioned before, I used to be afraid of the moon. I haven’t had that fear for a long time, but in one of my final dreams, I went up to our rooftop patio to look at the stars and saw the moon in its current phase (about 80% full as I write this). I was instantly overcome with panic and bolted back inside. Then, later in the dream, I was driving up a tall hill, and as I crested it, a completely full moon appeared before me. I hadn’t escaped it! It was coming to get me after all! I started yelling “No, no, no!” and tried to turn around, but my car wheels were lifting off the ground.

If I hadn’t woken up right at that second, I would have drifted up into the moon.

I spent the next day puzzling over it. The way I saw it, there were three possible explanations:

1. The panic was caused by physiological anxiety symptoms, and found an outlet in an old phobia;

2. The dream was some divine message using Tarot imagery to tell me there was something in my subconscious that I was afraid of; or

3. Witchcraft was devil worship and I was flying straight to hell.

With no disrespect to Christians, I eliminated the third one pretty easily.

While 2 was tempting, it felt a little too pat, like an occult fortune cookie. I knew the likeliest explanation was 1…but I was still intrigued by the fact that my brain had dredged up my old moon phobia. The next night I went up to the roof and there she was, pretty as ever, and I didn’t feel a drop of fear. Then I went to bed and dreamed that I was showing my daughter a breathtaking starry sky.

I decided to do a Tarot reading to see if I could shed some light on the problem. I have four decks, two of which I use regularly, and I usually choose a deck on impulse right before the reading. This time I chose the Sun and Moon deck by Vanessa Decort. I did a five card elemental spread–Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Center–and got some nice insights, most of which wouldn’t be of much interest to you. The Center card was pretty noteworthy, though:


The 6 of Cups (reversed): two youths frolic like children under a giant full moon. The same full moon that I, as a child, hid from in fear.

With Tarot, I try to let my intuition guide me, but this time I turned to Joan Bunning’s Learning the Tarot. Bunning suggests that the 6 of Cups can sometimes mean feeling secure and taken care of, like a child. That, I felt, was it. I started fearing the moon right around the time my parents divorced and my mother sank into a deep depression. It was after I’d come to the knowledge that no one really loved or wanted me. It was the same fear that convinced me that I’d wake up and my bedroom would be in space, or that aliens would abduct me.

I thought I was afraid of the moon, but what I was really afraid of was becoming unmoored and drifting off. Of never finding a source of stability, a safe and solid place.

I think back to my childhood self and want to hug that little kid so much.

Of course, the reading still doesn’t explain why my moon phobia came back now, at this particular time in my life. It’s something that I’ll continue to work through. It’s a mystery that will unfold slowly, at its own pace.

May your dreams bring you clarity and wonder! May your depression melt like snow! May your divination give you hope and delight!