I decided to paint the ceiling of the small studio space that adjoins the cottage. It has been bare plaster for all the years I’ve lived here. Getting right up into the high and dusty corners I disturbed numerous spiders – those long legged, colourless types that lie flat against surfaces and play dead. I tried hard to clear them out of the way unharmed but I missed one and inadvertently painted over it. It was completely covered in a coat of white emulsion and was still up and running. This perturbed me as I dislike the thought of adversely affecting other living things. Would it survive in this ghost-like form?
I have so much empathy for anything struggling to survive. One morning I noticed that a spider had dropped into my dog’s drinking bowl. I wrote this sonnet about it.
A Diminished Thing
(“What to make of a diminished thing.”
From “The Oven Bird” by Robert Frost)
What to make of a diminished thing in need,that looks for all the world it has deceased?
I poured the water from the bowl and freed
the drowning spider, on the ground released.
Then took some time to watch if life returned,
if from that sodden, ragged ball uncurled
a creature more determined having learned
there are four elements to handle in one world.
Like petals know to unfold at first light,
with reclaimed stature, buoyant as if airhad blown soft breath to dry out all despair,
it resurrected with renewed delight.
I marvelled then that spiders have a soul
to challenge death and make a shrunk thing whole.