I’m not alone in hating spiders. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute arachnophobia ranks third — right behind fear of public speaking and fear of death — among the country’s top phobias. Approximately 30 percent of all Americans are plagued by it. I won’t go into detail about when my fear of arachnids began — though it involved my first night away from home and a top bunk inches from a ceiling where I was told “all the spiders lived” — but I still recoil at the mere suggestion of anything with eight legs.

In fact, I dislike almost everything about spiders. The way they skitter furtively across the floor … or drift down from their hidey holes to ensnare hapless flies in their sticky shrouds … or the angry three-pronged bites they leave behind on their stealthy nocturnal visits.

IMG_1983And yet, the other morning I had to stop in wonder at the sight of this web, hitched across the rose trellis, bejeweled with dew. It reminded me of Robert Frost’s poem ‘Design’ which the critic Jay Parini has called “arguably one of the best sonnets every written by a American poet. It is a frightening poem, one that confronts the dire possibility that the universe is not only godless but that God is evil.” I can’t say for certain, but I tend to believe Frost was an arachnophobe, too.

Robert Frost, 1874 – 1963
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth–
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth–
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.
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11 Responses to Arachnophobia

  1. Hi, Love receiving these!

    For some reason spiders don’t really bother me (although not talking about black widows and that other one…scorpions? Have to look it up.) I , instead, cannot abide snakes. I don’t mind a garden snake, but beyond that , no. Nightmare stuff!

    I don’t know if I could name a favorite flower. I love so many. Cosmos would be a favorite, peonies, iris….so many. Bachelor Buttons.
    Cheryl Sullivan
    Bangor, Maine

    • I think I meant tarantulas !

      • Liza says:

        Thanks, Cheryl! I’ve read that there are over 100,000 species of arachnids, including spiders, scorpions, tarantulas, and ticks — anything, it seems, with eight legs — so a lot to be afraid of. Snakes, I’m okay with, especially the ones that eat spiders!

  2. annette shear says:

    Well: you need to come & visit the Natural History Museum and the return of the SPIDER EXHIBIT! It’s fascinating, you’ll learn a lot about the spider(s) and won’t be scared any more! (if you come on Thursdays from 12-2P I’ll let you in and you can see the spiders and ME!)

    P.S. I’m sending this blog to that English woman who heads up the Spider & Butterfly exhibits at the museum and will look forward to seeing her reaction/remarks!!!!

    • Liza says:

      Thanks for the invitation, Annette, and it’s very kind of you to think the exhibit might cure me. But just the idea of a SPIDER EXHIBIT makes me want to steer clear of the museum for the foreseeable future. You, on the other hand, I’d be happy to see at any time.

  3. Margaret Sheffield says:

    hi Liza
    last weekend in Westhampton I was in a really
    old house and turned on the bathroom light in
    the middle of the night and guess what almost
    fell “into my hair…..”
    What a beautiful Frost poem, but frightening too
    July 3

  4. Liza says:

    Spiders at night are the most terrifying as they always seem to be enormous … Lovely to hear from you.

  5. Patricia Aakre says:

    Dear Liza,

    I sort of fell under the spell of a garden spider one summer. He hung there, in his perfect web, waiting for flies and such, not bothering anybody or jumping out at you the way some water spiders scare the life out of me. And we love the elegant architecture of the daddy longlegs, like a skeleton revealed.


    • Liza says:

      Thank you, Patty, for reminding me that they do show great patience and are fine seamstresses. And then, of course, there was — or still is — Charlotte, one of the wisest characters in all of literature.

  6. Beata M. Newman Scarpulla says:

    Dear Liza,

    This is what I have to say:
    The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the waterspout.
    Down came the rain
    and washed the spider out.
    Out came the sun
    and dried up all the rain.
    and the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.

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