It had become a sort of pet. The web it crafted was impressive to say the least, yawning across the pathway. Looking back, it seemed fated. We went out and watched it spin creative webs full of intricate details. Spiders are one of those creatures that I have a love/hate relationship with. I find their behavior infinitely engrossing and their appearance oddly appealing. But I’m apparently a yummy meal for those arachnids with voracious appetites.
One spring after being feasted upon and stalked by a clan of wood spiders I enacted a genocidal rampage as retaliation. Thirty-six bites in five days as I slept was too much! My fury was quick and thorough once I located their castle-like nest in an old tub in the abandoned downstairs apartment. Apparently, they had moved up because of flooding due to the spring thaw.
Afterwards, I felt guilty. They were just creatures trying to make a living. We developed a peace accord and all has been fine.
Last summer I met the Praying Mantis for the first time. I had seen plenty of them in documentaries and books. Their movements and habits captured my imagination. One hot and humid summer day I returned home from a job interview and at my front door stood a small Mantis. We spent some quality time together, it danced for the camera and crawled all over me. Days went on and it grew, thriving on whatever smaller creatures it could find.
Balmy summer moved into brisk fall. I came home one evening and saw a huge Mantis on the wall near the spider’s web. It turns out it was a black and yellow garden spider. They can get pretty big; this one was a good three inches long, but the Mantis was bigger.
Night gave way to morning and still the creatures were frozen in a stalemate. The Mantis stared with uncanny stillness and absolute patience. Another night passed. In the morning the spider was gone, reduced to a pile of awkwardly strewn legs stuck in the web and littered on the ground next to a blob of something. The Mantis stuck around for another three days, then disappeared.
There is so much violence in our world. Everything kills to live, whether animal or vegetable. Humans act like animals and, if we listen to media, are no better. Everything sounds so bad. Murder here, genocide there, disagreements over there and here and all over. One group kills another group over disagreements or land or who knows what. It happens. Nature happens.
Observing animals can tell us something about ourselves. But it isn’t the whole story. Somewhere around the next corner lies a chameleon waiting to snatch the Mantis digesting a meal, and something else waiting for the chameleon, and so on.
There always seems to be something bigger or faster or better.
But we are humans. We are animals but we are more. We can and should use our abilities to work together. Sure, there will be disagreements and misunderstandings, but that is where compromise and growth come from. I’m not saying we should forget our animal nature, that would be bad; we should be keenly aware of it and learn to use all aspects of ourselves as strength rather than weakness.
Self defeat is not an option.