I don’t like spiders. They lurk, they jump, and they simply have too many legs. And yet, there is a certain grace and elegance to them. Their webs, a distasteful surprise when strung across a hiking trail, shine like works of otherworldly art when they hold the morning dew. While I have long had a healthy respect for the role spiders play, in recent years I have also come to appreciate the aesthetics of spiders.
I have actually had to work at this. A few years ago, I lived in a house on the bank of a river, and discovered a whole new world of spiders, both inside and outside the house. I began taking pictures of the ones that built webs outside the windows, and bought books to learn more about the different species I encountered. My approach was to ease my discomfort through familiarity, on the assumption that the unknown is much scarier than the known. (To be honest, though, I still can’t leaf through those books for any length of time without starting to feel like something’s crawling on me, so I guess I’ve still got work to do.)
So I’m making progress on spiders, and I feel like that’s started to help me look squarely at other things that frighten and repulse me. I can’t say I’ve found any beauty in oil-slicked wetlands, religious fanaticism, or people who turn to cruelty as a way to quell their own fear. And I’m not saying I want to find beauty in them; frankly, I want to oppose them and prevent them any way I can. But the first step is to be able to face them without flinching – heck, even with flinching, if that’s what it takes – and see them for what they are. I’m not always able to do that, but I think it’s worth the effort.
And I’m making progress on spiders. That’s a start.