Mourning the Death of a Spider
I killed a spider yesterday.
I didn’t mean to.
It was in my kitchen sink, hidden under a toaster tray. It jumped out and startled me when I went to wash a few things. We’re upstate and it happens here sometimes. Critters rule the world up here. It’s part of the magic of the Adirondacks.
Except I’m not a fan of spiders.
They’ve freaked me out since I was a kid. There’s history there. And this was one of the “scary” ones - with thick black legs like the plastic ones that go in fake spider webs around Halloween. So at first I just walked away and hoped it would be gone when I returned.
But a little while later it was still there and I didn’t want to leave dirty dishes in the sink. There were bowls from ice cream and I was thinking of mice. Since I didn’t want to touch the spider, I adjusted the faucet so the water flowed away from it. Still… the spider frantically tried to climb the sink wall as tiny drops splashed around it. It stayed mostly in place, as if on a treadmill, while I carefully washed a few things.
At one point a splash sent the spider down in a little streak of water. It rolled up into a tight protective oval, something I’d never seen before. I stopped the water so it could recover. The spider opened up and started to climb again.
But this time its legs weren’t working right. They seemed waterlogged and one kind of stuck to the side of the sink like a wet noodle as it tried to climb. Then another. Its whole body was different. Saturated. And then it fell on it’s back. And just kind of crumpled.
It happened so fast.
I grabbed a paper towel and just lightly touched a corner to it, soaking up excess water on and around its body, hoping that would help. Hoping the spider was just in shock, or playing dead.
I’ve been visiting the sink ever since, hoping to see the evidence that the spider somehow made it, but this morning it is shriveled.
So I killed a spider.
I feel pretty terrible about it. It didn’t even occur to me until later that I watched a living thing suffer and allowed it to die, because I was too uncomfortable to remove it from the sink.
Ross understood. He gave me three words to add to the “I’m sorry” that I said aloud when I realized what I had done.
Zao Chao Sheng (早超升 zǎo chāo shēng)
Recited 3 times, it’s a Daoist phrase that can be used in prayer to wish the spider in this case a speedy rebirth in a higher realm.
It helped me move on with the day (because it is a beautiful day), but I’m struck by how it all sits with me.
Since our evening with Mattias Desmet, I have spent more time observing the mystery of life and the mattering of living things… that aren’t just matter and mechanics. Our cabin in the woods gives us ample opportunity for stillness and nature. There’s so much to learn from going quiet for a moment.
Today, I’m sad about a spider’s suffering. Next time I see one in the sink I’ll know to do it differently.
I dislike spiders immensely, but I try not to kill them.
I usually catch them under a glass and then slide paper underneath, before moving them.
Occasionally they are big enough that my biggest glass isn't wide enough to contain their legs.
Then I run away.
I'm lucky not to live in Australia, nor anywhere I have to experience the terrifying camel spider.
The response to killing another living creature, another part of the great unfolding, should be pain and shock, and revulsion. The tragedy of this culture is that we have created a mental seperation from all that not only makes up this planet, but actually enables and supports our ability to be born and to live, is that those feelings seem to be missing in so many.