I made my way over to the tub to see if it needed rinsing out before I began to fill it. It was clean but I did notice a spider at the bottom of the tub. The spider was neither exceptionally large nor very small. I suppose it was large enough to frighten the average acrachnophobe, which I am not.
Without too much thought, I swiftly and gently scooped the spider out of the bottom of my tub with a nearby piece of paper and placed it on the floor, near the heating element in my bathroom. I use the term 'gently scooped' though in truth, being on the scoopee as opposed to the scooped side of things, and given our tremendous size difference, I don't know for sure that gently is accurate and hopefully I never will.
I watched the spider adjust to its new location, and for a few seconds I felt pretty marvelous for having rescued the arachnid. It seemed to me it would be better, even for an arachnid, to be close to heat on this frigid night, thereby making my gesture of reassigning the spider to its balmy new digs seem all the more magnanimous.
As my tub was filled by then, I slipped into it with my glass of wine. I closed my eyes sipping my wine, listening to Billie Holliday and savoring the moment. When I re-opened my eyes and to my astonishment, I watched as the spider I had just rescued raced from the tiled back wall of the tub and dove, head long into the water without a moment’s hesitation.
I quickly found the light on the wall and for the second time retrieved the spider from the tub. I placed it in my palm, allowing it to dry out or catch its breath or whatever it is that spiders do when they’ve nearly drowned to death, then I placed it back near the radiator.
I was incredulous and was just about to settle back into the tub when I noticed the spider was racing, once again towards the edge of the tub, this time from the side of the faucet. I began to panic a bit. I wasn’t afraid for myself, though I was beginning to get a little spooked by the crazy little bug, but I was worried that I might not be able to get the spider out of the tub safely this time.
I watched as he dove, head long again, right into the water. I couldn’t help but marvel at the athleticism of the spider, who at that moment looked more like an Olympiad than an insect, to me. Or like a commando on some crazy mission he could not be thwarted from.
He dove deep this time, and I struggled to see him at all. I thought if I got up in the tub, it might seem like a tidal wave to such a tiny bug, so I tried to remain still as I could while I tried to find him first with my eyes, than with my fingers.
Finally, I saw him surface, float, dive, swim or at least I thought he was swimming, until he started to sink. I scooped him up in my palm and let the water ease out of my fingers trying not to lose him in the rush of water. When the water had drained from my palm, I thought I saw him struggle for a second or two, but maybe it was the movement of the water, then he went limp. I looked at him in my palm, just a piece of black ink, rolled up into a ball, which had just a moment before been an Olympic superstar of a spider.
I got out of the tub and was poised to put him in the toilet, but that seemed wrong to me somehow so I placed him on the bathroom window sill, hoping he might still have some life in him. He did not.
I watched him for a second before slipping back into the tub confused, though not terribly troubled by my bathtub bug encounter. I wondered about this seemingly suicidal spider and was, in truth, slightly annoyed at the incident for having interrupted my lovely bathing ritual, if only to end the life of a spider. But before long I settled back into my bath and lovely glass of wine. And then I saw them. There were three tiny little versions of the larger spider, rolled up into balls that had an occasional and barely distinguishable leg sticking out, here and there. They seemed to be floating towards the tip of one of my knees. I stared at the tiny black dots, identifying them rather quickly for what they appeared to be which was the tiny, dead offspring of the spider I had twice removed from my tub. Apparently, I hadn’t rescued a suicidal spider at all, I’d merely prevented a mother spider from attempting to rescue her drowning babies, twice. Feeling deflated and much less wonderful than I had just fifteen minutes before, I gently removed the floating babies from my tub and rose to place them near to where their mother lie, rolled up and dead. It seemed right and if I were a mother, it’s what I would want I suppose.
There is a group of white tail does which have taken up residence in my back yard, which abuts a large forest. Does, I've learned, often travel in small groups to raise their fawns. I've witnessed adorable, spotted baby fawns clinging to their mothers side in this group. I've watched them frolic, play, nudge and reprimand their babies and I've watched them all bed down together to sleep peacefully in my back yard. It's been a delight to watch through the years.
A couple of months ago, as I drove on a back road I saw a beautiful fawn on the side of the road, dead. It looked to have been recently hit by a car. I pulled over, got out of my car and sat with the dead fawn. I found myself wondering, had the mother witnessed the baby being hit? Had she mourned? Do deer mourn? How long was it before she could pull herself, and maybe her other babies, back to the safety of the woods, leaving her dead baby behind. I sat for a moment on the side of the dead fawn, crying over this deer tragedy.
This morning I woke up and went into my blue bathroom to brush my teeth. I noticed the dead mother spider and her babies on the window sill. I used a piece of toilet tissue to swipe them from my window sill and dispose of them with a flush. At that moment I recognized my human folly in feeling such selective sympathy and compassion for one species over another, which just doesn't seem quite fair in regard to a mother's love........V.