I measure the arrival and progress of Autumn by one simple thing. Not the changing colours of the leaves. Not the darkening evenings. Not the increasing wind and nip in the air. Not even the shops stuffed with Halloween costumes. No. I measure the arrival and progress of Autumn by how many times I have to leave the room in a cold sweat because of a spider. And they're everywhere.
In years gone by, I've had rules for spiders. Below a certain size (and we're talking money spider = OK, anything bigger = not OK) I'm happy to "let the spider run alive". In rooms other than the bedroom, the rules concern how far away from me the spider is, and whether it's resident or passing through. Far enough away and resident, I pretend not to notice. Passing through and it's a problem. And in the bedroom - well, this is one area of life where I'm sure we can all agree that size really matters and the position has to be right too. Anywhere near my bed, over my bed or indeed anywhere in the room where it could reach my bed (that's anywhere in the room, then) and I'm afraid it's the hoover if it's lucky or the newspaper if it's not.
This year, I'm opting for a change of policy. In keeping with my efforts to live a more spiritual life, I'm going to try and leave spiders alone - and even be grateful for their presence. When you think about it, there are at least five things we humans can learn from our far-too-many-legged friends. Before reaching for the hoover, paper or husband next time I see that ominous dark, scuttling shape out of the corner of my eye, I'm going to count to five and count my spidery blessings thus:
Life is Fragile but Beautiful
A spider's web looks incredibly delicate and fragile, but it's a lot stronger than you think. It's also, even I must admit, rather a thing of beauty (when the spider's not in it). How strange that something so...shudder inducing...can create something so pretty. Let's learn that the most unpleasant things in life can sometimes give birth to some amazing experiences - and let's also learn that we're all stronger than we look and certainly more resilient than we think we are.
All Things are Interconnected
Many mythologies include spiders. In Greek mythology, the princess Arachne is a skilled but prideful weaver who angers the goddess Athena; Athena later brought Arachne back to life as a spider. In Navajo myth, Grandmother Spider wove all creation using her silken threads. I think I prefer the African legends of the spider as Anasi, a trickster God, but the most common mythical spider theme is the weaving one, and the interconnectedness of creation and life. Everything in this world depends on everything else, and even the smallest of acts can have huge consequences, both for good and for ill. Let's learn to be mindful of what we're doing, and how it might affect others.
Perseverance and Patience Matter
It takes a garden spider roughly an hour to spin its web, but it usually must repair it or start from scratch again every day. Every single day, or more when we thoughtless humans crash through it at dawn (ughh...memories). Do they throw (all of) their hands up in the air, declare it a rum job and take off down the pub? No. Tenacious little creatures, they persevere, they stick at it, they get the job done. To be fair, they have very little choice, being spiders, but the spiritual message is the same. Let's learn some patience, people.
Don't Seek Approval
No matter how much vitriol I direct towards a spider, no matter how much I curse its existence and wish it wasn't there, it really doesn't care. It needs nobody's approval or affection in order to live its life - and while some, like me, might find it skin crawlingly horrid, others find it intriguing, mysterious, even beautiful. But the spider remains supremely indifferent to both hatred and flattery and just does its own spider thing, and very well it does it too. Next time we're feeling down because we haven't got the praise we think we deserve, or because someone hasn't boosted our ego that day - let's learn to just get on with it and be ourselves. Someone, somewhere does love us, and most of us are blessed to know who exactly that is, but we don't need to seek approval in order to just be.
Although I'm certain that spiders seek me out just to be annoying, there's no evidence that they spend any time surveying the land to find just the right spot to crawl about or to build those webs. Instinct takes over and the spider does what the spider needs to do, without making a list, taking a vote with family members or buying six self help books and a bottle of wine. Let's learn that too, when we have important projects on the go. Just start. Begin. Do it. It doesn't matter where, or how you start, so long as you start. Today!