My name is Denise, and I'm an arachnophobic. There, I admitted it. Arachnophobia - fear of spiders - has plagued me since childhood, when the Daddy Longlegs would sneak up the backs of the wicker rockers on the porch of our communal summer lake house in Wisconsin, until we felt the tiny feet on our skin and jumped up screaming, brushing them off and running in panic.
Then there were the "little old man" spiders with the pale tan-grey bodies and legs, sprinting around the inside of my house and across the ceiling above my bed, while I lay wide-eyed and afraid to go to sleep. I knew they were waiting to drop onto my face and do something creepy...what, exactly, I never quite understood.
Like many other people, I considered the spiders pests and killed them in my ignorance of their place in the ecosystem. Even now, when I refuse to kill them, I have trouble gathering one of the little guys into a container to release him outside.
When I was in high school, I could barely complete the short story assignment about the man who fell into a deep hole somewhere in a jungle. For several days, he struggled to find a way out of this trap. Each night, darkness brought hundreds of large, hairy spiders who joined him and snuggled close until dawn. After reading that story, I knew without a doubt that if a tarantula ever touched me, I would absolutely, immediately, without question, die of fright. They would find my body in full rigor mortis, the fluffy spider sitting on my forehead, looking puzzled, denying any role in the death, and perhaps wishing he had been able to apply CPR techniques.
Ironically, one of my favorite movies is the Fred Astaire/Leslie Caron dance-romance Daddy Longlegs, but even the shadow of the French orphan girl's benefactor on the wall, his elongated form reminiscent of the legs of that common spider, gives me the creeps every time I see it. I always wished they had chosen a different title for the movie.
Clearly, the Universe and the spiders have a sense of humor, as I discovered during an Advanced Animal Communication workshop. After several exercises and feedback sessions working with fluffy companion animals like dogs, cats, and hamsters, we were asked to connect with a living creature that made us fearful. Without thinking, I chose a tarantula. I wondered if our teacher had gone off the edge, and had little confidence that I could actually connect and have a conversation with a wild creature "out there in the world" somewhere, especially one that terrified me. I was wrong. Here is the message I received:
"We are teachers, not evil ones. We are ancient beings; this body is a disguise to test you. I like the many legs and where they can take me. My movement is a dance and my body is soft and warm. I'm really just a "cuddle bun" - I reach out and you back off or scream; other soft, furry animals get petted and you croon at them.
I spring and I bounce. I love my legs and the sun warm on my furry body. I feel air on the hairs on my leg - it's my only caress, and it tickles...It's soft in the Earth warm in the sun; what more do I need?
I'd like more friends - more people to understand me. They don't take the time to see inside. No one likes to be thought ugly. I'm kind of cute and very approachable...
I fill a spot no one wants. If there's no one to be scared of, how will you measure courage?
I dream of life, light, and love, and a world beyond...
Face the fear and embrace it as you do the joy. Take it inside and it will disappear. Go with Spirit - we are all there, and you will find us together. There is joy in numbers - many together - and in welcome is the celebration. Open your arms."
Most people who come to me for animal communication services want to connect with their own pets. Few are focused on learning from the creatures who share the Earth with us, and most of them would find it hard to believe that a tarantula had such depth and sentience. I have been amazed and delighted at what other species can tech us about life, love, forgiveness, death, and intelligence.
Now, I have an understanding with the spiders who live in my house. I am still a bit afraid of them, but they don't crawl across the ceiling above my head while I'm lying in bed, and when I spotted a little spider one afternoon as I lay resting, I reminded him of the agreement and watched as he stopped his slow progress in my direction, turned, and sped back across the ceiling and down the wall, disappearing into a crevice too small to see. I haven't seen another one since. Wouldn't it be nice if people honored their contracts as well as the spiders do?
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