Saturday, September 27, 2008

Note to RedFish and my cousin Heather: DON'T LOOK!

For as long as I can remember, I was terrified of spiders. All spiders... the webby kind, the jumpy kind, the rubbery brown kind, any kind you could name. Just seeing the word "spider" actually made my heart leap with involuntary terror.

You think I'm kidding? Well, I'm really not.

But I have come a very long way... so long, that I can now objectively classify certain spiders as "those who don't see me as something to bite." The ones that fascinate me most -- and which are freely allowed to live in my house -- are the jumping spiders, Family Salticidae.

My friend Lori, who now lives in the Pacific Northwest but who at the time lived in Iowa near me, spoke lovingly of the little jumping spiders as "cute" and as helpful little creatures who ate bugs with ferocity and glee and had absolutely no interest in humans. I slowly began to see her point -- their squatty little furry bodies, their prepared stance and their instinctive defensive posture whenever you come near -- were humorous and, yes, cute.

I finally began seeing these as "not spiders", even though they are. Spiders are nasty, horrid, evil things that lurk and want to bite me (bear with me for a moment, that's my irrational chick mind talking). Jumping spiders aren't like that at all.

So when I was upstairs earlier, doing my laundry, I noticed one of the largest jumping spiders I'd ever seen on one of the windows. I happened to have the camera with me and got as close as I could without losing focus or scaring him away:

Obviously this is using the camera's super-close-up setting, so the picture isn't as crisp as I'd like, and he/she looks enormous when in reality he/she was only about as big around as a quarter. But I have identified this little critter as a Phidippus audax, or a Bold Jumper spider:

I found this spider's iridescent green chelicerae and fierce facial expression absolutely charming. Does that make me weird?

And I believe this is prima facie evidence for the fact that I have indeed come a loooong way.

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