The Photographer and I are staying with the Nurse and the Artist this weekend, in their attic room that doubles as a studio. Showing us to the space, the Artist warned that there were brown recluse spiders behind the walls, so she understood if we preferred an air mattress in the living room to the studio attic futon. She showed us where she had placed cotton balls soaked in eucalyptus (which apparently brown recluses don’t like) and sticky traps around the edges of the room. She brandished a small wooden stick and said, “I call this my Death Stick.” It was used to kill spiders that were found half-alive in the traps. 

I was sure the Photographer would prefer the living room air mattress. He was sure I would as well. But ultimately we unanimously opted for the studio attic, because it felt good to be in a creative space that was real enough to incorporate a little danger. The Artist talked about how they challenged her to be deliberate in her studio. A piece of fabric left casually on the floor would be an invitation to an approaching spider, and a careless moment of picking it up less than thoughtfully could mean a poisonous bite. We talked about the association of spiders with creativity, in myth, because of their web weaving ability.

Falling asleep the first night, I thought that the good thing about brown recluses was that they are, after all, reclusive, and prefer the darkness and safety of the space behind the walls to the frightening openness of the room. We tend to think of all dangers as though they are stalking us, poised to attack. Reality is a bit different. Most dangers we live side by side with, and when we understand a danger’s nature and limitations, we can often trust it in a certain way.

The Photographer dreamed that he woke and pulled back the covers to find a spider where his feet should be. But it was a gentle scare. All in all, we slept well in the room of spiders.

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