“The noiseless, patient spider” sits in watchful silence under the plastic box on my bathroom floor where I had covered it a few days ago. It is a threatening, coal black spider a good inch across, and one is immediately aware of impending danger. Of course I don’t think it is really dangerous. I could squash it, but that would be a big mess. I could get the vacuum cleaner and finish it off that way. But I don’t want to do anything with it at all, except remember to call Jim to the rescue, something that I have failed to do so far. Yesterday I dared to lift the cover to see what would happen. Still it sat seemingly immutable for just long enough to let my attention lag when it shot off, but I was quicker and closed up the cage before it could get away. One of the things I thought about was, what if I was asleep in my bed and that spider crawled under the covers and crawled on my leg.
Ever since then it has been imprisoned under the plastic cover, under the washbowl so that its cover doesn’t get kicked off. How is it able to just sit there? Will it stay alive? Doesn’t it need or want something to eat? Our species is so intent on getting things done. When my mother lived with us I found it excruciating to listen for long periods to the same stories that joined together in a solid narrative, so that, in a spirit of defiance I could step in and take over her story saying I”ll bet Grandfather Perley never took a drink. And mother would say, “Papa said, give Mr. Perley a pint of whiskey and he could do anything.” and then she would continue without making any additions or corrections. Sitting still under these conditions was impossible, so I took up knitting. It has been days for the spider. The species, unlike ours, is programmed to sit still, while we have been moving
Perhaps the spider is waiting to catch something. If it didn’t have the cover over its head would it be sitting there waiting for a bug, would it weave a web, is it looking for a good web place? Can it lead to thinking? Can it think? That’s the hard part. Thinking leads to action. Sometimes I sit like I am in church and just think. About this and that. Then, suddenly, like the spider, I jump out of my chair and pick up a dirty cup. A series of actions follows that I hadn’t expected at all. Like mother’s narrative they simply occur. The empty coffee cup, the empty pot, the dishes in the sink, and before you know it, the onions and sausage frying away to start the sauce. You can predict what will happen, but you don’t, like the spider’s sudden spurt of energy when it senses prey or feels danger and falls effortlessly into a series of moves that must have been preordained.
Once again I’m reminded of the weddings. Like any good grandmother I sat with my hands in my lap as the band got underway and the next thing you know I begin to get a little twitch in my shoulder, fingers start tapping. I notice this, but don’t plan it and the next thing I know Im out on the dance floor cutting the rug with many partners. In the new world we don’t have to dance with just one person. We can dance with a whole bunch. We have so much fun doing this, it’s little wonder that we are noisy. And spiders do not have a good time. Why? Because spiders are noiseless and silent, and unlike E.B. White’s Charlotte they show very little int erest in their children. I’ll have to admit that being a human can sometimes seem scary with all our noise and pandemonium, and we feel a need to defend ourselves. But we can be scary to spiders. The black spider’s dignity doesn’t impress me much anymore. When Jim came down on this one with the vacuum tube it went right into action, but lost its life in the battle against the power of the vacuum.
Don’t forget. It’s a free country and spiders have the freedom to behave the way they want to–or must. For that reason I’m going to stop teasing them and criticizing them, even emulating their more attractive attributes. Just don’t let them be too silent and noiseless around me.