The room where we’re staying here in New Zealand is teeming with life. That sounds so positive and lovely stated like that, “teeming with life,” doesn’t it? Like we’re in some fabulous wildlife sanctuary filled with tiny playful monkeys and exotic butterflies and mysterious yet-to-be-discovered species. Or that maybe we’re in a magical underwater world where each teaspoonful of this watery bedroom contains an entire ecosystem.
We’re talking flies and spiders and tiny worms.
One night I counted twelve spiders hanging from the ceiling corners. And why wouldn’t they be? There are at least 20 flies in the house at any one time; surely one must stumble into a web from time to time.
I made a deal with the spiders. I am deathly afraid of being bitten by one because spider bites on me swell to hard hot red welts the size of grapefruit. But I also don’t like killing. At home I liberate spiders and take them outside. I figure that even if it’s below freezing it’s not killing them (is it? no wait, don’t tell me), and they are creatures of nature and know what to do to survive. It’s not like the mice that used to snack on the peanut butter smeared inside the humane traps in the pantry; I’m not sure whatever happened to those because I refused to be the one setting them free in faraway cornfields, leaving behind a faint mousy scent in the car.
The deal was this: I would love the spiders if they didn’t come down and bite me.
One night I lay in bed, the lights still on. There were two spiders hanging just a few feet above me, but we had made our deal and I was (relatively) peaceful about their presence. I lay looking upward and noticed a fly flying around up there near the spiders. At least, I thought that there were two spiders up there; now it was hard to tell. One of the darkish blobs my contact lenseless eyes thought was a spider now looked more like a smallish flying insect. It flitted about here and there near the fly. I could tell the fly felt comforted by the nearness of another creature so like it.
I watched them dance.
That was the fly’s undoing, the dancing. It was lured in by the dancing spider and became caught in the web. I watched the spider, now acting very much like a spider again and no longer dancing at all, as it busily approached the fly, still buzzing helplessly in the web, and then stung it and wrapped it more securely. Everything I knew about spiders from reading “The Hobbit” was true. They do stun their prey and wrap them up. I watched the spider attach the fly-package more securely to the ceiling corner above me, and then I fell asleep.