What would you consider to be the worst thing in the world? In George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith’s interrogator O’Brien felt that the “worst thing” varied from individual to individual.
“It may be burial alive,” he said, “or death by fire, or by drowning, or by impalement, or fifty other deaths. There are cases where it is some quite trivial thing, not even fatal.”
One could argue it, I suppose. Like, being buried alive is pretty damned frightening AND SO ARE boa constrictors. But for the purposes of the novel, it was determined that Winston’s “worst thing” was rats. When O’Brien came toward Winston with that mask-cage contraption containing the two starving rats, Winston’s panic was primal. Inevitable. “He was blind, helpless, mindless.”
Tell me, what makes you “blind, helpless, mindless”? Rats? Mice? Bats? Snakes?
Me? Easy-peasy. My whole life? Spiders. “Blind, helpless, mindless” just thinking about them. Big, hairy, tarantula-like spiders. Hell, they don’t even need to be all that big, all that hairy, all that tarantula-like. Eight legs? A few too many, I say.
Let’s go to the opposite. The best thing in the world. Paradise. I was there. Last week. With my whole family. When you have adult kids, grandkids, this is a special treat indeed. We’d rented a house, aptly named Casa Nirvana, in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. The view of the Pacific Ocean was epic; the weather was a consistent 30+ degrees Celsius under the truest of blue skies.
Midweek, I sat smack dab between two powerful kundalini yoga classes. Called the Yoga of Awareness, Yogi Bhajan describes it this way: “Kundalini Yoga is the science to unite the finite with Infinity, and it’s the art to experience Infinity in the finite.” The first day of practice, our spiritual yoga instructor invoked the Mayan calendar, told us it was the start of a rare 13-day cycle in which we should pay attention to our dreams, a cycle in which we could make great things manifest. My daughter Jetanne was vacationing – with her husband and three young kids – mostly so that her house would stay tidy long enough to sell. She’d attended yoga with me, so selling her house for a good dollar was her desire. Me? My dreams, desires, always have to do with creative abundance for writing.
So, there I sat Wednesday evening, poolside, Soave in hand, while Jetanne and her husband got ready to go out for date night in town. My husband B and I were looking after the kids. I heard Jetanne scream. We’d been introduced to scorpions (not poisonous!) on the deck the first night. (And laughed at my daughter Randelle, the well-travelled one, shrieking about them from atop the high outdoor table.) We’d also come across numerous daddy longlegs (not so big as to cause insomnia, but big enough to ponder before drifting off) in the house. And we’d been warned when we arrived: “It is beautiful. Yes. But remember. You’re in the jungle.”
When I heard Jetanne scream, I thought, Well, there you go. She’s come across a tarantula. Damn. Paradise lost. But no! Her husband was on the phone with their realtor who was outlining the bidding war on their house, saving the best for last (of course). The number was higher than list price, higher than their wildest dreams! Yay!
Off they went, happy as clams, their wee children drifting into dreamland. B and I continued to sit outside, sipping and yakking with Randelle, my son Jay and his gf. The three of them were heading out too, so after a bit they went inside to get ready. I heard screaming. There were no more house sales to manifest. At the bottom of the staircase, Jay’s gf had her cellphone flashlight trained on the biggest, blackest, most ominous spider I have ever laid eyes on. Omg! Shrieks. Shivers up spines. Blindness. Helplessness. Mindlessness. Experienced by all. A giant pot with a lid was found. A giant spoon. Jay and B were each, thankfully, man enough to team up, facilitate the removal of the behemoth. Toss it as far and away over the cliff as possible. Phew.
But then, a mind can go mad. Babies? Friends? Relatives? Every nook and cranny was checked before bed that night, but surely tarantula babies, friends and relatives can just squeeze in anywhere? Randelle pointed out the gap below the front door before departing.
B googled our spider. Tried to assure me with stats. Pointed out how spiders with this appearance are often – by experts even – mistaken for the venomous kind. I pointed out, as calmly as possible, that I didn’t give a damn about venom! If that thing came near me, if one of those big hairy (B said they weren’t hairy) legs touched any part of my body, well . . . I’d die.
Sleep was tough. The next morning, as Jay and I chatted, he said something to the effect of well, you have to think, that a place this beautiful would just have to have something that opposite, that ugly.
At yoga that day Jetanne got to brag about her impressive dream manifestation to the instructor, who clapped her hands, thrilled. I said, “Yeah, and I manifested a tarantula.” The instructor didn’t flinch. Said calmly, “Oh, that’s a great sign. Spiders represent transformation. Are you afraid of transformation?”
Hmm. I googled it. Got this, from www.reference.com: “Spiders symbolize the feminine energy, ability to be receptive to new environments, creativity, patience and dark life aspects. The spider is a unique symbol because it has dark and light aspects to it, meaning that it connects with many areas of life.”
Dark and light. Ugly and beautiful. On vacation, as in life, you have to take the bad with the good, huh?
And I know I must accept that, just because I (and many others) think spiders are ugly, does not make them so. I feel better considering their good qualities: receptivity, creativity, patience. And spiders weave beautiful webs, you have to admit. Here’s what got me through the rest of the week though: the kids ran into someone in Santa Teresa who had lived there five years and had never seen such a spider.
Rare. Our tarantula was rare.
Website photo counterclockwise: Casa Nirvana day, Casa Nirvana night, our rare tarantula. Photo credit my kids, Randelle and Jay.