Last early summer, I saw a baby orb weaver sitting above my sliding glass door. I almost squashed it, but something told me to leave it be. It wasn’t really hurting anything by being there. I shrugged and returned to my sunny reading spot, watching the little one from the corner of my eye.
He was still there the following morning and the morning after that. “Well, maybe he’ll help keep the flies out of the house,” I mused, squinting at the spider, “You hear that? Don’t be a freeloader.” I went back to my book.
The next time I saw him, he was more snugly in the corner of the door frame, his whole body no bigger than my pinkie nail. I named him Hubert.
As Hubert grew, he started building webs and catching small flying insects. He would remake his web a few times a week when he wasn’t docile in his little corner. It was clear he’d decided he was home. One other thing became apparent as he grew: He was very much a she and so was henceforth dubbed Huberta.
Now, Huberta was no freeloader. She caught wasps, flies, hornets, and all manners of winged things that got too close. One time, I watched an ill-fated stink bug escape death only to crawl right back into the web, determined to be lunch.
I watched Huberta hunt for long minutes at a time, spinning death cocoons. I even watched her first date—a small, scraggly male who was ever-plucking her web to get her attention. On a clear evening, my brother and I stood at the glass door for almost 15 minutes, transfixed, their courting activities awash in soft lamp light and backed by stars.
They danced around one another until, one day, the male disappeared. “Did she eat him?” I wondered. “Or did she scare him off?” I watched with rapt attention to see if she would swell with eggs. By this time, she was larger than my thumbnail; it was hard to tell if there was a change.
She would eat her webs and then make a new one, strand by strand—it was fascinating, mesmerizing. I read that female orb weavers get energy from eating their webs, and they do sometimes eat the males they breed with, but if he’s quick, he can escape.
The question remained: Would Huberta lay an egg sack? Was she successful? I worried for her as the days grew shorter and the nights colder. I thought any day now, she would disappear. But there she stayed, tucked in her corner, almost hibernating.
A few weeks ago, I happened to look, and there it was—a fuzzy, marble-sized egg sack right in the corner of the doorway, with the proud mother beside it. I smiled. “Way to go, Huberta,”
The other day, I looked at her corner, and she was gone; only the egg sack remained. I looked all around in case she was nearby, but no—she was gone. I looked at her babies, wondering. “Will any of them stay? Will they remember their mother’s favorite spot?”
I remembered spotting that tiny, seemingly unnoteworthy spider back when the days were long and warm, and my chest constricted. You’re not going to cry over a spider, are you? A nasty voice argued in my head. “What are you playing at?” I responded, sniffing, “You know full well we always cry at Charlotte’s Web.”
The last web Huberta built still sways in the breeze in the doorway, scraggly, weak. Eventually, it will blow away. But I’ll remember her and all the hornets she kept away from the house. She earned her spot. I’ll miss her.
Now, why did I feel the need to tell you about Huberta?
Well, it’s simple: sometimes the things you let evolve turn into something you didn’t expect. And sometimes that thing you let alone seems small and insignificant until it isn’t—until it’s given the chance to breathe.
I could have smashed her in a knee-jerk reaction based on fear and/or indifference and missed out on an entire window into a life cycle I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
The same can be said for emotions. It’s so tempting to squash a feeling I think is undesirable for one reason or another. But that feeling could turn into something beautiful if I don’t let fear rule my actions.
It’s scary to care and love and feel, but unfortunately, that’s really the only thing that matters. We can react rashly and squash those feelings, or we can pause and determine if it could be something special.
Sure, some emotions do more harm than good, and we must recognize those times. But surely, surely—not every spider deserves to be squashed, and not every emotion should be smothered before it has a chance to show you what it is.