It was dark. I often work in dim light since the computer screen backlights everything. I’d strained my back the day before, and getting into a standing position took some time, with the first steps being necessarily ginger. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw it in the shadows. A wolf spider was on the arm of my chair, just inches away. I could move neither fast nor fast enough. By the time I’d hobbled to an empty peanut butter jar (we keep them for this purpose), it was gone. But the fright remained. It was several hours until I could think of sitting in that chair again, although the spider was last seen fleeing the site of the attack. That got me to thinking about how spaces maintain the events that transpire in them. It’s the early stage of haunting, I suppose.
Spiders were a childhood terror. Just a week before the current spider incident, I was in the basement doing some repairs when a spricket jumped on my arm. Sprickets, also known as camel crickets or cave crickets, live in damp places and they actually jump at their perceived enemies to frighten them away. It works. I was absolutely terrified by the thing. It was large, and although it was on my arm only a second or two, I wanted to run screaming from the cellar and strip off my shirt and throw it in the washer. I couldn’t go back into the basement the entire day. It was the site of the fright, you see. Spricket and spider were long gone, but their threat remained in the place I’d encountered them.
I often write about sacred space. There is also such a thing as scared space. I can see how this would’ve evolved from our primate ancestors. Chimpanzees, for example, are frightened of large spiders. They can climb trees right after you and they are impossibly fast. I suspect in our encounter the spider was more frightened of me than I was of it. I’m a giant in its multiple eyes and, were I not a believer in catch-and-release, could easily have killed it. (Messy for the chair, but conceivable.) Our ancient ancestors would likely remember—this is the place the spider bit Oog. Must avoid. So the idea remains, scarring the spaces we habitually sit. Spiders outdoors, as long as I see them before they see me, are not such a source of fear. But right now I think I’ll pick a new favorite chair, until my favorite becomes sacred again.