I went down into my basement to fetch something out of the freezer and I saw a very large spider on the floor in front of me. I believe it was a wolf spider. Todd had said that one lived across the cement floor under the cellar steps where they came in from the outside. The spider has lived there for years. I never see it. I didn’t care that it was there. But here this one was before me.
I had a bad summer infection from a bite of some sort. Could have been a tick. Could have been a spider. It escalated from a very tiny pink speck to full blown cellulitus and staph infection in a matter of days and sent me into the hospital in Montana on more than one occasion. It took me a long time to get better. To this day, I don’t know what bit me. There’s no way a wolf spider would have crawled onto my lower abdomen and bit me and I would not have known it. But I am a little creeped out now. I have developed a small problem with spiders.
I bent down low and examined the wolf spider and thought about all this. From what I recall, wolf spiders are not poisonous, but I did not know what kind of spider this was for sure and even if it was a wolf spider, I did not know that if surprised, would it deliver a bad bite. I crouched looking at it, trying to decide how I felt about it and if I should kill it. Was it a good spider or a bad spider? Was it a good enough reason to kill it just because it existed?
I picked up a box and smashed it down with a swift blow. Its long legs immediately recoiled into a tight ball around its body and it ceased to live. I immediately felt badly. “Was that really necessary?” I asked myself. I think not, was my immediate answer. I was ashamed. I would not tell my husband that I had killed the spider that was probably the one he had been seeing for years. I came upstairs and logged onto the web to educate myself on wolf spiders. (a little late I told myself). It had not been a good decision to end its life. This house spider eats other kinds of bad bugs in your house which could carry diseases like mosquitos and earwigs, which now that I think of it, I never do see inside the house. Well now they would be descending upon us as I have killed off our guard. I felt pretty badly and now foolish.
The next day I went into the blueberry patch to gather the last remaining berries and lo and behold was another spider, sent by the universe to visit me. A gorgeous black and yellow garden spider which spun an intricate web across the blueberry branches. I brought my eyes close and told it, “I will not be killing you. There is no reason to. You are a thing of beauty and out here in my garden, you have a safe home.”
I kill other spiders in my house when I see them, sucking them up in my sweeper nozzle as I target their webs across my windows and corners of my log walls. I feel no remorse. I am a bad enough housekeeper to make allowances for spiders such as these to let them live. But why was I so upset about the wolf spider? Maybe it was because it was so big and it wasn’t causing any harm or even unsightly webs (wolf spiders do not weave webs).
My son-in-law in is a practicing Buddhist. The other day we were walking on the macadam road after a rain and when he noticed worms on the shining blacktop, he picked one by one up and moved it over to the grass by the side of the road to save them. I thought it sweet but really? How many could he move as we continued with our walk? Where would he draw the line? I did not tell him about me ending our house spider’s life.
I didn’t tell anyone about my bad deed but my friend Dave Kline or a bike ride. He said that he understood how I could feel badly but he told me a story of a friend who put his foot into his shoe and got bitten by a wolf spider hiding in it. The bite caused his foot to swell and became deeply infected, taking months and many rounds of antibiotics to get him better. You can’t always tell, he said. I felt slightly better.
The next day we went to a screening of Ken Burn’s new film series, “Vietnam” at Fort Indianatown Gap in Annville, PA. It was very moving and the auditorium was filled with many white-haired Vietnam Vets who wore their baseball caps saying so.
In the film, they examined the question that many of the soldiers grappled with, “Why were we there? Were those people really bad- the villagers in their straw huts, the women and children?” It is hard for me to relate. My killing experiences are limited to spiders.
Afterwards, a panel was brought up on stage to share their insights, feelings and memories. Two were Vietnamese. One had been a refugee, another had been a South Vietnamese pilot who ran out of fuel over a US aircraft carrier in the ocean and went down. It carried him back to America where he has been ever since. They both expressed heartfelt, teary-eyed gratitude for the opportunity to come to America and have a life. It was very touching to hear them speak. A Vietnam Vet stood up and told them that that was why he was in Vietnam killing the Viet Cong, because these Vietnamese were good people, family people.
Todd and I said to one another that there were many “good” Vietnamese people in North Vietnam that were killed too, whole families, just as there are good people, family people in Afghanistan and Iraq that were killed. A wise Veteran stood up and quoted another wise Veteran in the film who said, “There is no winner and no loser in war, only destruction. When are we gonna learn?”
My family vacationed in Vietnam this past winter. It was a lovely place and the people were wonderful to us. It was very hard to believe that our peers, just a little older than us, were over here not all that long ago, killing them. No one in Vietnam held anything against us, not in the south or the north. Of course, no one in their 60’s were alive anymore (napalm poisoning?) or at least that we saw. Todd and I asked one another, “Why were we over here again, fighting? So far from home? What did these people do to us?” When I ask my Vietnam Vet friends WHY we were there most say they do not know, not even to this day. That must be a very hard thing to deal with. Of course, very few enlisted. So many were drafted and did not want to go. Shame on Americans for treating them so badly when they did come home, when most of the soldiers did not choose to even go.
Good killing, bad killing…it is a hard question we ask ourselves. Killing is hard decision whether it is a wolf spider or a rural family in a rice patty. I sat there in the auditorium filled with Vets, who still are haunted by nightmares, who drink too much to suppress their memories, the hard decisions they had to make so many years ago and my heart goes out to them all. It sounds completely ridiculous, especially to a Veteran, but because of a small wolf spider in my small life , I understand just a little bit more.