By January 3, 2013 2 Comments Read More →

How to Make Spiders Your Teachers, Trees Your Guides

Laura Grace Weldon, Guest Writer
Waking Times

Pay close attention to anything. In it you’ll find wonders.

Consider the spider.

We appreciate spiders in our family. A large orb weaver lives just outside the front door. Every night when we take the dogs out before going to bed we pause to appreciate the intricate web she’s rewoven. It has a lot to teach us about strength, symmetry, impermanence and beauty.

I probably shouldn’t admit it, but a spider also hangs out on the ceiling of our pantry. Its continued presence means there are enough insects in the vicinity to keep it fed, which logically means there are that many fewer beasties getting into our potatoes, dry beans, oats and other stored foods. It has a lot to teach us about interdependence. I’m actually cheered to see it up there, a quiet brown chap making a life for itself high above my canning jars.

When we find the occasional spider elsewhere in the house we move it gently outdoors, unless it’s winter in which case we move it to a large potted plant. (I prefer spiders be relocated to basement plants but I suspect my family members free them in more conveniently located houseplants.)

No, our home isn’t teeming with creepy crawlies. It’s the same as your house. We’re all part of an ecosystem beyond our awareness. Our fellow Earth inhabitants proceed with lives of purpose everywhere around us whether we know it or not. As an example, beneficial bacteria reside in your gastrointestinal tract, contributing not only to digestion but overall health. These microbes outnumber the cells in your body 10 to 1, their types varying widely from person to person—perhaps accounting for major differences in weight, energy and wellness.

No amount of clean living sets us apart from the wider ecosystem we’re in.

It’s easier to think of nature as “out there” in the pristine wilderness. But we’re a part of nature every moment. It is air we breathe, plants we eat, birdsong we hear, weather slowing this morning’s traffic, our very cells dividing and yes, that high pitched whine signifying a mosquito is hovering nearby.

Tiny creeping and flying things around us are the creatures we’re most likely to encounter, reminders that we share our ecosystem with others. It’s even possible to notice them with pleasure.

My kids particularly appreciate spiders so we pay closer attention to these creatures. I don’t know much about arachnids, but what I learn through my offspring helps me to see more complexity, beauty and worth that I could have imagined.

I think it’s easier to pay attention when we keep the joyous curiosity we’re born with but it’s possible to recapture it, to expand it into awe at the wonders everywhere around us.

Consider making a nature study of a something nearby. A tree’s lifecycle through the seasons, the activity around a wasp nest in the eaves, the behavior of birds at a feeder. We’ve learned some techniques for the amateur naturalist from Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s wonderful book Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness.

  1. Learn names, proper as well as colloquial. Learn details about habitat, health and interdependence with other life forms.
  2. Have patience. The practice of seeing, really seeing, takes more than time. It also takes cultivated watchfulness.
  3. Respect wildness.
  4. Cultivate an obsession. Let questions unfold into more questions and whenever possible, find a community of fellow enthusiasts.
  5. Keep a notebook. Writing observations and making drawings are wonderfully wider ways to learn.
  6. Maintain a field trip mentality. Keep up your observations wherever you go.
  7. Make time for solitude.
  8. Stand in the lineage. Vital knowledge has been gained by a long history of people no different than you, people who let the world around them teach its wonders to those whose eyes are open.

About the Author

Laura Grace Weldon is a non-violence educator and marginally useful farm wench who lives with her family on Bit of Earth Farm. She’s the author of Free Range Learning. She edits books, contributes to a Wired site, and blogs about conscious living. Laura invites people to contribute their stories to her next book, Subversive Cooking. Please visit her excellent blog at www.lauragraceweldon.com.

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

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2 Comments on "How to Make Spiders Your Teachers, Trees Your Guides"

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  1. Linda says:

    Thanks for your article Laura. We too have a spider who weaves her web just at the entry to our front door. The house is newly renovated and I want to keep it looking pristine and beautiful, but hate the thought of destroying the amazing work of our resident spider – so mostly I don’t (!) The Maori here in NZ believe we have ‘tree guardians’ who protect our homes. Particulary powerful if these are acknowledged and their blessing and protection asked for. A big pohutakawa at the driveway above my home stopped a runaway trailer (laden with concrete blocks!) from crashing into the house. (This tree had been part of the blessing done by a Maori elder when we moved back into the house) How wonderful is the power of spirit in nature – right in front of our eyes, as you talk about in your article…… yet, we fail to see – or have not been educated, in our culture, to do so.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, we have an atrium inside our house, which is outside. We decided to let the vines take over, and be wild. Well, we were blessed with a bird pair that nested, and now have at least 3 babies, maybe 4, who play wildly at dusk every early eve, and are quite plump now! It truly is a joy to experience their lives parallelling ours. Our atrium is 99% glass, so we get quite a show. I love allowing nature, and watching what happens…:)

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