“I seek a garret. The spiders must not be disturbed, nor the floor swept, nor the lumber arranged.”
* Henry David Thoreau *
There is a congregation of spiders who reside in the corners of my bathroom. Inverted, they hang from the ceiling, by day and by night. They are small-bodied creatures; their combined head and thoracic sections—the cephalothorax—is rounded into a light-brown disk no bigger than a lentil; the abdomen, dark brown and cylindrical, the size of a peanut. The body is flanked on both sides by long spindly legs, light-tan as the thorax but with kneecaps of auburn. Chelicerae hang abruptly from the mouth like two tiny stilettos. Taken together, these parts compose a graceful creature—thin, delicate, fragile. A handsome specimen of nature.
But how did they get here? How did they arrive in this indifferent human world so far removed from the wild? There is no window in the bathroom, no apparent opening to the outside world. No cracks in the walls seem large enough for them to squeeze their gangly legs through. Surely they have not crawled out of the drain, for they do not seem to like the moisture—they spend their lives on the near-side of the bathroom, far-removed from the dampness of the shower. Have they spontaneously arisen from the lavatorial miasma?
And why are they here? Why have they arrived, and how did they find their way? Are these creatures lost souls in an alien human habitat? Are they, perhaps, just frightened émigrés huddled in a dry corner, fearful of the strange land they have stumbled upon, haunted by the large creatures that repeatedly visit? Do these spiders even recollect the outdoors or pine away for its presence—a storied, sylvan world now lost to them?
Maybe they have spent all their lives here. Maybe they were born to a generation of bathroom-dwelling arachnids, generation after generation after generation. Maybe the barren corners of the bathroom ceiling is all they have known. Despite their mysterious origins and incongruous circumstances, theirs seems to be a contented life. Though resplendently graceful, they seldom move. They stand an enduring guard over the sink and toilet, watchmen on an eternal silent vigil. Quiet, monastic, unhurried. Ever present, ever-vigilant. They lead lives of amity.
Their webs, if they do make any, are non-descript. Invisible. Wispy cobwebs of fluffy silk bundled in the corners, of seemingly no practical use. Inside, there appears to be no insects victimized. In fact, the spiders seem to share the bathroom with no fellow invertebrate dwellers. From where do these spiders get their sustenance? Do they eat at all?
I’ve chosen to live with the spiders in the bathroom. They are not demanding guests. They cause no fuss. Their presence has become part of the décor; I can no more think of the bathroom without thinking about the spiders that inhabit it. Why spoil the commensal relationship we have together, out of a desire to clean and tidy? No, these creatures are part of the home, welcome as a cherished guest. They have just as every right to exist and inhabit this space as we do. We and the spiders, both fellow creatures adorned on our home the earth together, seeking out our livelihood whichever way we can.
Making the House Ready for the Lord
Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
Still nothing is as shining as it should be
For you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice – it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances– but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
While the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
As I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.
* Mary Oliver *