When I was a girl I shared one of the most common phobias of people everywhere–a fear of spiders. Like many, I had been led to believe they all were dangerous. So often spiders are portrayed in books and movies in a negative light, usually featured to scare audiences and create an atmosphere of terror. As someone who loves being outside and spent a lot of time exploring the wild land around my house in western New York state, I certainly saw them often. Outside I could do my best to simply avoid them but finding one inside was a different story. I remember feeling terrified if I saw one in my bedroom, imagining it would “get me” in the night. I would try to crush it with a shoe but so often, in my altered state of terrific fear, the spider managed to escape, darting under my bed or dresser out of sight. Having one loose in my bedroom guaranteed vivid nightmares that kept me up, further adding to my fear.
Later, when I started photographing wildflowers and keying in on macro work, I began seeing spiders differently. When I could look at them in my photos I noticed how interesting and even attractive they could be, especially the crab spiders that blended in perfectly on daises, goldenrod, and milkweed. The friendly jumping spiders with their two large front eyes and curious nature intrigued me, as did the giant yellow and black spiders that hung motionless in the large webs that caught the light on dewy mornings. Before long, my fear transformed to fascination and they became one of my favorite subjects to photograph. Unlike larger animals like fox and otters, spiders were easy to find. I became familiar with some of the more common species and enjoyed watching them and learning about their habits.
These days I seize every chance I get to educate people about spiders and especially, to help them overcome their fear. In my outdoor expeditions with children, many of whom never spend any time in the woods and are terrified of spiders, I stop any lesson I might be teaching if a spider makes an appearance. Children, and the adult chaperones, are amazed when I move towards the spider instead of away from it. I happily pick up most of them, letting them crawl on me and taking advantage of the chance to show my audiences that the spider generally has no interest in me, other than as an object to explore. I love when the spider jumps from my hand or arm and with my other hand I can grab the invisible silk line and pull the spider up. The children are amazed to discover spiders always leave a silk line that for the most part, is too thin to be seen by us. When the light hits it just right though, it shines like a piece of fishing line. In the forest canopy I frequently point out these random lines of silk, decorating the treetops like tinsel on a Christmas tree.
Are you like the girl I once was and the millions of other Americans afraid of spiders? Would you like to get over this fear? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, I have several suggestions for you:
- Next time you see a spider, no matter where, try to just watch it for a while. What does it do? Where does it go? Sometimes seeing the spider in its natural habitat, from a distance, can help ease your fear.
- Check out some pictures of spiders. (See some of mine HERE) You’ll be able to look at them in the comfort of your own home. Take time to really see them, especially the features that make them unique.
- Learn more about them! Educating yourself about something can erase the fear.
- Lastly, Read my blog post about Spider Myths. You will be absolutely amazed at how much of what you know and think is true, is really just a myth.
I’d love to hear your story! Let me know your thoughts about spiders!