Note #1: The title of this post is metaphorical. Native South Africans: Please don’t take offense.
Note #2: If you are afraid of spiders, I recommend that you do not read on. Images may be disturbing.
I wrote a couple of posts about rain spiders during my first year of blogging. The first post, Meet Millie, was written a week before I moved to Joburg, when Jon sent me blurry cell phone pics of a huge rain spider that had taken up residence in our house. Those pictures nearly swayed my decision to get on the plane to South Africa. (Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But you get the point.)
A few months later, another rain spider appeared in the house and I wrote another post, called Rrabobi!. I can still remember the terror I felt, cowering on the other side of the room, when Jon moved within close range of the spider to photograph it. I thought he was completely insane and could not understand the affection he had for these massive arachnids.
Jon’s photo from March 2011.
I have always been intensely, irrationally fearful of large insects and spiders. I could never have imagined that fear going away.
I was therefore surprised this past Sunday morning, when I walked out of my bedroom and spotted something on the living room curtain. I moved closer and saw that it was a rain spider.
I didn’t scream. I didn’t gasp. I didn’t scurry away. Instead, I fetched my phone and took a picture.
Please note that phone cameras don’t zoom (at least not effectively). I got right up close to the spider to get this shot.
I wasn’t scared at all. I just thought the spider was beautiful and I wanted to Instagram it.
Quick aside on rain spiders: Apparently they will bite when threatened (a rain spider bite is similar to a bee sting), but I’ve never heard of anyone being bitten. Rain spiders are not dangerous. If you doubt me, read this hilarious passage from Wikipedia:
An experiment was done in 1959 where a P. superciliosus [rain spider] was allowed to bite an adult guinea pig on the nose. The guinea pig died within 7 minutes, leading to a belief that the spider’s venom was dangerous. However, further research on anaesthetized guinea pigs showed that the original guinea pig had actually died of shock, rather than as a result of the spider’s venom.
Anyway, as the day wore on, I began to fear that the spider was dead. His legs were in a weird position and he looked limp. I nudged him with a feather duster and he sprang to life. My heart rate accelerated slightly when I saw his legs start moving. But again, I wasn’t scared. Just energized.
The spider stayed on the curtain for two days. When I got up this morning he was gone. I was sad.
Another Instagram, shot right after the feather duster incident. I had planned to take some DSLR pics later on, but he retreated into the folds of the curtain and I never got another clear view.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my feelings about rain spiders have changed, in the same way that I’ve been surprised by other recent changes in my feelings and behavior. This spider encounter was symbolic — one of many weights that are slowly lifting. And another sign that I belong here.
Now, if only my mortal fear of Parktown Prawns would go away. But like most other South Africans, I think I will continue to live in terror of those prehistoric monsters.