I wanted to put a nicer title on this post. But then I remembered my friend, we’ll call her K., who has a real aversion to spiders. This is not your ordinary insect fear. K. takes it to a whole ‘nother level.
And I didn’t want anyone to be opening up The Enchanted Earth for a nice dose of gentle contact with nature — and end up freaking out, their laptop on the floor, their day potentially a lot worse for it.
I’ve recently discovered that there are readers afraid of moths, butterflies, and even grasshoppers. What will they think of a spider portrait? We all have our challenges, and some of our past conditioning is pretty ingrained. My sister is extremely wary of wasps, and I freeze up at sight of a cockroach.
No matter how cute this little girl is –and she is really, really cute — if looking at her will make you feel the way I do around cockroaches, I say, let’s not do that. If you have any issues with spiders, you are to clear the blog room now. Thank you for visiting. I’m so glad you came. A brand new post will be up tomorrow, and it won’t be insect- or arachnid-related, I promise.
And we will not talk about you behind your back, either. It is safe to vamoose, as my mother would say.
To give everyone a little visual space to get out of here without glimpsing the cuteness (or horror — all is perspective), let me quickly mention that though I have appreciated spiders for a long time, and been fascinated by their intricate webs since childhood, not until I ran the garden with a no-kill philosophy last season did I appreciate them properly. They eat mosquitoes — and don’t ever eat plants. They don’t act as vectors for common crop diseases. (The spider mite, which does transmit pathogens, is not a spider at all.)
Spiders are a gardener’s best friend. I mean that. Especially if you are attempting to garden organically or if you perceive your bit of Earth as part of the larger landscape.
Insect populations really do tend to keep each other in balance, if given the chance. And arachnids and birds are a part of that big picture, too. If your garden is hopping with life and activity, if you don’t spray poisons, especially broad-spectrum insecticides (which affect many more creatures beyond insects, including spiders and human beings) you will invite these creatures to come and participate in their cosmic dance right there among your basil and tomatoes.
Or in this case among the out-of-bounds apple mint that is a favorite of the tiniest winged pollinators. The mint patch* is a bustling social scene all the day long, now that it has opened up its sweetly fragrant inflorescences. If I were a small spider, I might think taking up residence there among the freshness of the apple-minty leaves, surrounded by tiny prey on all sides, was something close to paradise.
Are all the arachnophobics gone now?
And now to share the cuteness that is…
… Phoebe** the jumping spider, honorary garden maintenance assistant in the kitchen garden.
I was bent over weeding, and as I straightened, I came face to face with her, hanging out in the mint. How could I not be charmed by those eyes?
I kind of wanted to cuddle her. But I did remind myself that, although most spiders have mouth parts that are unable to pierce human skin, there are a few spiders who manage it anyway, when feeling threatened.
Besides, she was only three-eighths of an inch long. Human cuddling might be perceived as threatening.
Also, I’d have interrupted her at her work. (See the tiny thread she’s got going? It’s just barely visible in the shot.)
I hate to be interrupted when I’m working. Just ask F.
We did exchange a silent namasté, Phoebe and I, short and sweet. It felt good. Almost as good as this one does:
*Yes, we went from a mint plant last year to a mint patch this year. I will never plant mint in the ground again. I knew plants in the mint family were overly aggressive, but I naively and arrogantly imagined that I could keep this one apple mint under control — at least until we moved again. Then I’d pot it up and take it with me. Only now I’d need about a dozen pots. Large ones. There’s probably a lesson and a blog post in there somewhere.
** Of course I named Phoebe. I have a habit of naming the creatures with whom I make meaningful or prolonged contact. Anybody remember Thad and Fiona?