Thursday, August 15, 2013


Don't worry, there will nary be a photo of a spider anywhere on this post, even though that's what the majority of these words might be about. Instead, here is a photo of a lovely nightcap that happened the other night: white pike whiskey from Brooklyn c/o of Sharon and Paul topped with a most delicious honey lavender syrup c/o Elizabeth.

And now, spiders.

When we first moved into our house we saw spiders everywhere.

"You sure have got a lot of spiders," our exterminator told us, putting into my mind the image of our house coming crashing down upon a field of spiders, a spider village if you will, causing confusion, and even worse, anger that would be unleashed upon the intruders (that being us).  During this past year that we have lived here, I have seen too many different variety of spiders, but if it wasn't for the fact that I had a newborn baby that seemed especially susceptible to scary spiders and if I hadn't spotted one that looks alarmingly like the picture of a black widow spider that I googled soon after, I might have a mildly vague interest in this ecosystem that we seem to have disturbed. Instead, I started growing a mounting hatred to the little critters. "Ugh." I would groan every time I saw a web forming on our front porch. "Can't we get an extra dose of extermination around the house?" I would ask Ken, anxiety tinting my voice.  And then there was that time I vigorously squished a baby spider to it's death.  I was a murderer. It was so tiny!

One particular time after yelling at the top of my lungs for Ken to please come and deal with a bug that had found its way to our bedroom, I thought briefly back to the days when I would do such things as ushering the bug to a piece of paper in order to release it back into the wild. "Off with it's head!" I now screech, body tingly with phantom crawlers.

The other day while waiting for a stoplight, I spied the biggest spider I ever did see crawling up an invisible string slung across an U-Turn sign. The dusk light gave the fat body of the bug a sephoric glow wand I watched, mesmerized and only vaguely disgusted, as the spider unfurled its legs upward in its climb. It made me think of Charlotte's web, you know the Charlotte, and so it was with great familiarity that I approached this letter by E.B. White that he wrote when he was asked to explain why he wrote the book.  It's worth a read.  But I was especially tickled by the last few sentences of the letter:

I haven't told why I wrote the book, but I haven't told you why I sneeze, either.  A book is a sneeze. 

A sneeze! I can't wait to sneeze out a book.  Reading the letter made me remember how fondly I regarded the book and it also made me remember how thoroughly disturbed I was to learn that the way that baby spiders make their way into the world is by bursting forth from a ball of web by the millions.  Be fascinated by everything, is the lesson I'm taking away here.

While looking up more on E.B. White and mentally putting his book of essays on my to-read list, I also came across this article in the Paris Review.  It's an interview with White, which is a great read, but I want to highlight here what the article includes at the beginning - a couple of paragraphs that White's stepson, Roger Angell (also a regular contributor to the New Yorker) wrote about visiting E.B. White's farm with some children who were fans.  I'll include a little excerpt of it here, it made me well up:

The boy, though, was quieter, and for a while I thought that our visit was a disappointment to him. Then I stole another look at him, and I understood. I think I understood. He was taking note of the place, almost checking off corners and shadows and smells to himself as we walked about the old farm, but he wasn’t trying to remember them. He looked like someone who had been there before, and indeed he had, for he was a reader. Andy White had given him the place long before he ever set foot on it—not this farm, exactly, but the one in the book, the one now in the boy’s mind. Only true writers—the rare few of them—can do this, but their deed to us is in perpetuity. The boy didn’t get to meet E. B. White that day, but he already had him by heart. He had him for good. 


  1. oo spiders and flies, omy! what a juicy post! I'm thankful there are hardly any bugs around here, i think in pretty much the whole city of alexandria. I definitely reacted the same way back at the baltimore apt. It is interesting to think about, as dad put it, how people have such aversion to bugs invading their space, when really it's quite the opposite!

  2. I think we should visit White's farm. That is one of the books I really enjoyed with you. Video version first. Hm.whohas that video we used to watch in Tenafly?