The Bannana Spider and The Drover’s Wife

Imagine this really BIG

Imagine this really BIG

Am not I

A Fly like thee?

Or art not thou

A man like me?  (Blake 357)

I lived in the city all my life, so when I began to work with a peronal growth group that was partially wilderness based in Navasota, Texas there were alot of new experiences to have.  One that seemed to resonate with today’s readings was an encounter I had two summers ago.  I was outside, in the woods, participating in what is loosely termed a “vision quest”, the details of which are irrelevant.  The point is, that I was to spend a night alone in a somewhat less developed forum than I was used to.  I was sleeping under the stars, as it was.  So, I set up my supplies, hunkered down, and set about “experiencing” nature.  I expected, perhaps, to see some birds, or perhaps a squirrel or two, and I feared the incursion of ants and bees, however, as I was settling down, I went a few feet further into the forest to relieve myself.  I suddenly had the distinct impression that I was being watched.  It was an eery feeling, like the hackles on the back of my neck rising.  And I turned around quickly, to see an enormous web to my right, with the largest spider I had ever seen in my life roosting in the center.  If I hadn’t already been peeing, I would have started!  It was an enormous affair in black and yellow, the body alone nearly the size of my fist, and I had the distinct impression that IT was watching ME.  It was as if I had sensed when it had become aware of me, and I felt as though I was the one hunted.  The world felt slow then, the rush of my own blood the only sound I could hear.  I didn’t move for a long time, and then the spider moved a leg, as if dismissing me, and I retreated to my sleeping bag, afraid suddenly for the darkness.

This is the odd sense of animal division that I felt resonating today, particularly in Harrigan’s readings.  It was fascinating to me, the contrast between Blake’s trite, sickeningly religious simpering couplets, all concerned with safe fuzzy animals and the taming of the predators, and the sharp visceral narratives of Harrigan’s experiences with “unsafe” animals.  As I met the gaze of that Spider, I felt the same fear that Harrigan introduces during his recollection of the tiger attack; “The idea of being hauled through that tiny space by a tiger had an almost supernatural resonance–as if the window were a protal through which mankind’s most primeval terrors were allowed to pass unobstructed” (Harrigan 174/366).  Even Costello acknowledges this fascination with the predatory indirectly.  The poem she references as an example of potent animal imagery in poetry is a poem about a Jaguar.

We are fascinated as humans, touched on a primal level by the experience or the memory of being hunted.  The utter acceptance that there are creatures older and more ferocious than us, who live their lives in an ancient cycle that we often believe to be wiser than our own, is something I wonder at often.  How different an experience Blake’s lamb is, when he coos, “Little lamb,; Here I am,; Come and lick; My white neck;; Let me pull; Your soft wool; Le me kiss; Your soft face;” (Blake 354), than Harrigan’s snapping turtle, who, “sensing a little slack int he line, it lunged forward with such force that its front legs cleared the ground.  Paralyzed with awe, I stood and watched as it lumbered hissing toward me, its reptile eyes fized on mine, its neck coiling and strikeing, I remember thinking, It’s coming to get me!” (Harrigan 192/368).  The sheep does not touch the deep places of souls like the tiger, or the spider, or the shark.  There is power and mystery to them that we marvel at.  As Harrigan adds, “a snapping turtle was still a kind of nightmare creature, and a part of me did not want to accept the idea that it was as vulnerable as the rest of creation” (Harrigan 195/369).  I wonder if it is not the mirror to our own predatory nature that touches us so deeply.  As omnivores, and even as “conscious” beings, we are plagued by an almost incurable division of ourselves.  Human beings alone in creation are fractured beings, torn by our very reasoning minds into smaller bits, tossed hither and yon by tides of emotions we can barely weather.  And yet, when we look into the eyes of a tiger, do we not see a being, whole and complete?  Is it the claws that still our hearts, or the teeth that stop our breath?  Or is it a resonance, somewhere deep within us, of the power and presience of the predatory parts inside each of us?  Is it the tiger that scares us, or ourselves?

Wonder why they don't make blow up spiders??

Wonder why they don't make blow up spiders??


~ by dadaniel on March 4, 2009.

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