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Kiss of the Spider Woman

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A spider crawled up my leg the other morning, out of nowhere. It might have been hiding in my skirt, fleeing towards safety as I pulled it on, trying not to get caught up in the mad rush that is me getting ready for work everyday. I had to consciously resist my fear as I bent over to inspect it, forcing myself not to swat it away or squeal. Instead I put my hand in front of it and let it crawl onto my palm, no cup, no piece of paper separating me from this creature that I both feared and revered. As I brought it closer to my eyes I could see that it was a perfect specimen. I carried it quickly to the door and let it free, and took it as a sign from the spiritual word that I must be doing the one thing I’m not: writing.

About a year ago, I got very into totem animals, and was horrified to discover through Ted Andrews’ guided meditation that my totem animal was a spider: the one creature on this green earth that really freaks me out. But since then, I have come to embrace the spiritual symbolism of the spider, and pay attention when they appear in my life.  According to Ted Andrews, in his fascinating and fun-to-read book Animal Speak, the spider is the author of the most primordial alphabet:

“It was formed by the geometric patterns found within spider’s web. To many this was the first true alphabet. This is why spider is considered the teacher of language and the magic of writing. Those who weave magic with the written word probably have a spider totem.”

When I first got to California, I spent a weekend in a lovely house with rooms to let, which I found on Air-Bnb. As I went to wash my tea cup one morning, I found a crumpled up spider lying on her back in the sink. I desperately tried to scoop her up and out of the way of the faucet’s torrent of water. I was pleased to find that she was still alive, although in rough shape, but ultimately was not surprised by her state. I was also in a rough state at that time – waking up everyday in an anxious fit, scared and nervous all day long, terrified I would run out of money and end up like one of the many unfortunate homeless people on the street, who are so numerous in California.

It’s been two months and I’ve settled into a more comfortable state of being. I moved into a house in Berkeley with five PhD students, and my life began to unfold in a much more comfortable daily routine: go to my temp job, come home, go to yoga, watch Battlestar Galactica. I have done everything else I have told myself to do: find a job, be frugal, make friends, go out when I don’t want to, , move across the country. But the writing I let go. It was the one thing I thought it was ok to give up on, I suppose because I was filling my time with the other things I felt like I was supposed to do, that this one “supposed” could slide. “Uh-uh,” the little spider messenger said, as she flickered over my summer-kissed skin with the dexterity of fingers on keys. “This is what makes you whole.”

And it does. I feel grounded to life this way. I feel centered in my truth when I’m writing, even if I’m not writing well. The rest of the world is a candy colored blur, but nothing is as concrete and sensible as writing, each line like a thread of a web connecting me to something larger and all-knowing. So here I am, writing. In between episodes of Battelstar Galactica.

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