Note to Readers: The following post is from NEBRASKAland’s newest intern, University of Nebraska-Omaha student and freelance writer Patrick Mainelli. In the coming weeks and months, you will see more and more of Patrick’s work both on this blog site as well as in NEBRASKAland. And I hope you like reading his work as much as I do.
My wife won’t let me in the front door. I can’t get out either. Although the door, and its surrounding brick archway, were built very specifically for welcoming or ejecting human bodies from our house, this is the exact activity my wife has deemed morally inexcusable. There will be no coming, no going, no large parcel deliveries. We won’t greet guests in the porch-light or buy cookies from young strangers. When I go for the paper on Sunday morning, I have been strongly encouraged to walk around the house from the back. It’s absurd. The entrance to the place where I sleep and eat and take off my underwear is ostensibly off-limits; because that’s where the spider lives.
From the top of the door to the protrusion of the handle, a “wonderful” web sways in the afternoon breeze, tossing its sticky shadow across the pavement. The enormous spider, full of weeks’ worth of insect calories, relaxes on its well-protected perch. If any thoughtless person were to even crack the seal of the door the whole web would be lost. Every time I walk by, I notice the web through the window in the door, its threads so tightly woven that they obscure the view to outside. At night all the little half-chewed bits of gossamer fly wings light up like distant stars reflected in the moonlight.
My wife seems to have a special connection to the spider and visits with it every day when she goes to collect the mail. I remind her that I would gladly get the mail myself, if only I could use the ingeniously located door; but she insists it’s not a problem. It’s hard to understand how a spider’s continued existence is more important than my own convenience; but since this sort of thing probably falls under the jurisdiction of that (I think intentionally vague) vow to “cherish and honor” and since the paperwork says that that whole ceremony was sanctioned not only by the state of Nebraska but by GOD; I use the back door.
The truth is though, I don’t mind the spider. The web is actually sort of pretty and the size of its owner is really rather impressive. I like looking out each morning to see the things that may have been captured the night before and I feel compelled to root for the spider’s ultimate success and happiness in life. But this all seems a little unusual. Would our ancestors find our behavior entirely laughable? Would Nebraska’s earliest settlers have allowed this sort of intrusion into their homes of sod? Are we naïve? Do I live in a society that has become so thoroughly urbanized and detached from reality that I can find time in my day to romanticize and protect a spider!?
Two days ago my wife came home from work and found a mantis caught struggling in the web. The spider had already approached the larger animal and was preparing whatever terrible finishing move was suitable for the situation. Gingerly, and with the compassion of forty mothers, my wife plucked the mantis from the shores of death and placed it lovingly in the grass. When I asked her why she would so brazenly interfere with the course of nature, and natural selection, and for all we know, “God’s will,” she responded simply, but with conviction, “mantises are cooler than spiders.”
Maybe there isn’t exactly a point to this story. I don’t know that this spider means or symbolizes anything other than a small pain to me. It is sort of interesting though, and maybe somehow historically significant. Someone might like to keep this as a record, so that future generations might better understand the kind of people we were. Art and politics are great at telling a certain kind of story, but it’s not the full picture. The billion forgettable peculiarities of life have to make a home somewhere. This is just a story, and it is far from complete but I hope that one day, some person that I will never meet will pick this up and know that in 2010, in America, a man gave up his home to a bug. For love.