On Black Widows and Panic

An article by David Brooks on August 3, 2010


I’ve written about photographing spiders before, but I don’t think I really explained how often I find myself making the decision of whether or not to take a spider’s photo. I almost never kill spiders, it just seems unnecessary for the most part. I usually take them outside in a bowl or whatever else is handy… But once you start seeing spiders, and taking their photo, you’ll see them everywhere you go.

Last week I spotted a spider in the corner of our darkly-lit dining room. It wasn’t big, but its body had a distinct shape, reminding me of a Black Widow.

A year into our life in Texas, I haven’t had the chance to photograph a Black Window. Though I have seen one or two around the house this summer, things just haven’t worked out. In one case the spider escaped under our kitchen cabinet before I could catch it. And I will admit, the thought of a Black Widow building a nest and hatching a clutch of eggs in the dark space beneath our pots and pans is a bit unnerving at times.

So I eyed the spider that rested peacefully in its web, probably somewhere between slumber and awaiting its next meal. Looking around for a suitable way to carry it outside I found a piece of white paper. Good enough! I thought. Grabbing the paper I approached the spider with the speed of a cautious sloth.

I slid the paper underneath the spider and pulled gently upwards. Success!

But what I didn’t count on was that this spider was very surprised and didn’t care much for the color white. It charged, angry and vengeful. Though I’m not completely certain, I may have seen fangs… Very large fangs. White, shiny, poison-dripping Black Widow fangs.

And then it reached my hand. I have stared many spiders in their multiple sets of eyes, but this time was different. A Black Widow on my wrist? Apparently that’s my threshold. So I did the first natural thing that came to mind… I jumped around and flailed my arms as if I had suddenly combusted into flames.

To my surprise, the move that certainly would have secured my place in the next viral YouTube video actually worked. With the spider on the floor I made a mental note that I had endured the ordeal without screaming like a mortified child.

Being a proud idealist, I didn’t step on the spider. I had disturbed it, after all, and a sudden death seemed an unneighborly response. Being at least a little pragmatic, I grabbed a more sturdy container, a tupperware bowl.

So I scooped the spider up and took it outside, into the light. Opening the container I dared peaked inside, half expecting a frenzied jump attack. From inside the container peered back at me a small, brown orb spider, completely harmless and terrified.

I released the spider to its new life of ridding our front yard of annoying insects. Returning inside, and though clearly the victor, I couldn’t help feel a bit like a kid who finally bests the school bully only to realize later that it was actually his younger brother instead.

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About David Brooks

David Brooks is the owner of the small creative studio, Northward Compass, based out of Orlando, Florida. He writes electronic and ambient music as Light The Deep, and fantasy stories about a place called Elerien.

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