After months of bitter cold and more snow that I’ve ever seen spring is upon us.  Lore tells us that this is the time when Persephone comes up from the Underworld and graces us all with sunshine and new growth.  The days are longer, the air is warmer, and there is promise and hope of new life and fresh beginnings.  I have notices blossoms on trees and new sprigs of grass.  Unfortunately, the blossoms were blown from the trees and the dog did his business all over the grass, but the signs were there nonetheless.

The more prominent sign of the season to come sprang up at me last Wednesday.  I was on the porch with the pooch when I saw it, the season’s first spider, a fiddleback or brown recluse to be exact.  It was most likely living under the stone pot on which the dog caught his leash, and it darted somewhat dazedly across the porch in its panic, and I was able to grab the dog’s leash before he tried to eat it.

Let me tell you all what a big deal this is to me.  Though I have curtailed it in the past several years, I am a severe arachnophobe.  Just the word makes me shiver a little.  When I was a child anything that remotely resembled a spider was subjected to my screams and stomps whether they were actual spiders, mosquito eaters, which I thought were flying spiders and couldn’t think of anything more terrifying, or mere dust cobwebs in the corner.  Then fifth grade happened.

My teacher in fifth grade was a wonderful woman whom I still talk to this day.  Her only detriment was her insistence on two things.  One was named Hairy-it and lived in a terrarium a hundred miles too close to my desk.  All year I lived in a sustained state of anxiety and panic.  What if it got out?  What if it decided crickets were no longer good enough to eat and went carnivorous?  What if she had mistakenly been sold a venomous beast?  If this didn’t bring me close enough to dropping out of school in the fifth grade and living out the rest of my life as  circus performer, the second thing would really drive me into madness.

It was a report, but this was no normal report.  We had to catch, you heard me, catch a spider in a jar and observe if for a little over a month.  There were 36 students, which meant there were 36 spiders just hanging out in the classroom.  The jars sat on our desks, and once a week we would open the jars and feed them.  I had a hard enough time looking at the thing.  My grandfather trapped it for me, and I spent the next fortnight trying not to vomit every time my gaze wandered towards the  jar haphazardly sitting on my desk just waiting for an excuse to fall, knock over the other 35 jars, and set all the eight-legged captives free to claim the fifth grade classroom.  The research phase of the report eventually came to an end, and some brave kind soul let my spider free so I didn’t have to chuck the glass jar at a wall and run like mad.  I got an A and lost five years from the end of my life.  I have done research reports and dissection write-ups on some seriously repulsive things, and have done them happily with not even the urge to look away.  None have ever caused me as much turmoil as that one spider report.

I am happy to report that I stayed in school, and even graduated.  I have also noticed that as my arachnophobia matures it takes on strange nuances.  For instance, I am more bothered by spiders in a movie of on TV than I am of real life spiders.  Why?  I think it’s because I can kill real spiders whereas I am forced to watch two-dimensional ones until the scene ends.  There is a quest in Diablo II in a spider cave, and I almost didn’t make it through the level because of it.  Hubby had to coach me.  It’s extremely difficult to kill things and pick up gold and gear with one’s eyes shut tight.

Living with someone who is almost as anxious around spiders as I am has helped me fortify my nerve at least to the point where I can kill them or trap them and toss them outside if weather and environment permit.  I still shriek like a little girl and brush myself off for 20 minutes each time, but I’m a lot better than where I was.  It still doesn’t mean I like it, but I’ll tolerate it if it means sunny weather is here again!

Go now, dear readers, sing the Itsy Bitsy Spider…with the hand motions.  I won’t watch.

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