Monday, October 9, 2017

The North American Writing Spider

Yep: there's a spider known by this particular name. Never heard of it? Well, you're not alone, because I didn't either, until just recently.

Not until I met the man on the street, as it were.

The meeting occurred on a rather ordinary day: early afternoon, outside a coffee shop along a downtown sidewalk, where I was eating lunch al fresco. Ordinary; and then came this man. The encounter was un-ordinary from the start, because the man greeted me without prelude, suddenly and aimlessly, as if we knew each other ... but we didn't know each other. Still, I remained friendly, and we exchanged some small-talk.

Then, also from out of the blue: I was introduced to the spider.

Again without lead-up or prelude, appropriate to nothing, the man proceeded describe this "North American Writing Spider," along with a vague story about how he'd learned of it (which I don't remember exactly, but, I'm sure, did not involve his being accosted by a random man on the street). From there, the encounter grew even more awkward, palpably so, until I drew on the last of my friendliness reserves and bid the man good day.

With that, we parted ways, back to being pedestrian and diner, the end. However, the man did leave me with one takeaway about that Writing spider: despite its large size and elaborate markings, it was quite harmless (and, actually, performed various good works within the garden ecology, as many spiders do).

Afterward, during the rest of my meal, I was left with the distinct thought: North American Writing Spider ... harmless. And then, consequently, I had another thought: of the spiders my mother is deathly afraid of.

These spiders, which appear in number at a family property every autumn (and grow notoriously large, with menacing yellow stripes), are well known to my mother, who is petrified of them, dramatically so. In fact, the spiders had just come up in a recent conversation with her, a week or so before my strange enlightenment regarding the North American Writing Spider.

I wonder what those spiders are called ...? I thought next.

* * *

At this point, you might see where this is going. And, well, you aren't wrong: the spiders at the family property, the big ugly yellow-striped ones that terrify my mother from a mile away? Yeah: they're North American Writers.

Sniffing all the telltale signs of a synchronistic recurrence, I suspected as much shortly after my categorically bizarre meeting with the man on the street (because these things do happen to me, you know). But, even after consulting the internet for some pictures, I couldn't say for sure until the seasons changed and the spiders made their appearance.

Now, they've appeared. And after a second, in-the-flesh comparison, there's no question of their species.

But no worries, because they are, after all, totally harmless!

If you are the gentleman who so obtusely but kindly shared with me this information about the Writing Spider, I would love to hear your side of the encounter, and why you felt led to approach me and say what you did. And, I think, maybe some other folks might like to know, too ...]