Monday, January 17, 2011

Of spiders and sublimity

Dreary days. Most everyone passes through ups and downs, but I'm willing to bet -- and not to boast -- that my ups are a rung higher and my downs and notch lower than most. It's been one of those weeks where I get up, hit the snooze button until I've squandered all my time for a shower or breakfast, drive to work, and go back to bed as soon as I've put in my time. Sure, there are reasons for why I've been blue, but you aren't interested in reading about them and I don't feel like writing about them.

A few months back I offered to take over the Saturday morning shift that had until then belonged to Roy, the old man down in shipping. Roy is seventy-seven years old, dying of lung cancer, and can't afford to retire. The very least he deserves at this point is a free Saturday morning and a five-day workweek.

I went to bed Friday night feeling awful and woke up Saturday morning feeling empty. All the snow on the roads and trees had melted since Wednesday's snowstorm, and the skies were overcast. I woke up to gray -- everything in the visible world bleached out, salinized, tired January gray.

No calling out sick, no coming in late this morning. After three or four days opting to sleep an extra half-hour rather than shower or groom, I looked wholly unpresentable. I killed the alarm; groggily dragged my feet into the bathroom (white walls cast gray), shut the door, and glanced toward the window -- and there it was.

I'm not sufficiently versed in psychology to understand why certain familiar things at certain times become invested with the startling appearance of the uncanny. The thing on the windowpane was only a spider -- a fat, black thing the size of a dime with stubby legs -- but for a dilated half-second it looked wholly unrecognizable. I only wish I could describe how it seemed to me at that moment. The sight of it simply didn't add up. It was like one of those peculiar instances when you look at a simple one-syllable word and the letters and their significations unexpectedly uncouple, and the word becomes a bizarre, nonsensical thing that shouldn't mean what it does. It was as though this were the first spider I had ever seen in my life.

Against the clear glass it seemed suspended in space; a dark aberration supernaturally eclipsing the pale, coma-gray of the neighborhood beyond. A perfectly symmetrical and starlike life, so radically divorced from myself, my work, my daily considerations and experiences. It was an object of which I could have never dreamed on my own -- the phenomenon of a form behind the facade of the physical; the realization of a primordial idea beyond my capacity to understand.

When I moved in to examine it more closely, its buttonhole eyes (six of them!) perceived my looming shadow. It stirred its legs cautiously -- eight limbss working in adroit composure, coordinated by a brain the size of a breadcrumb. It was no more able to comprehend the massive presence approaching it than I could account for its marvelous and mysterious living body on the window on this gray January morning of my life. And I felt it impossible, miraculous, that such a thing should exist, should share its being in this world with me and my own...

Then it ended, and thing was only a spider again, and I had to shave, shower, and get out the door before I was late. By the time I had dried off and dressed, the spider had wandered away.

All terrestrial circumstances, no matter how seemingly banal, have their profoundest underpinnings in the wild and strange.

When I came home that afternoon, I stayed out of bed.

ADDENDUM: After typing this up, I thought of a piece from one of Jack Collom's books. I'm afraid I do the piece and the poet a disservice by presenting the stanzas in a linear format, but Blogger doesn't give me much alternative.


Nature is more obvious
in the jagged ghetto
than in the suburbs -- but the suburbs
are larded with it.

Nature is
more obvious in Basquiat than
in Wordsworth--but Wordsworth
is full of it.

The very sidewalk
of Nature; all
stinks are wraiths of Nature;
the fear of Nature is

the dismissal of Nature is like
the whisk
of a tail
over a horse's ass.


  1. I have felt like this before, but it wasn't triggered by anything in particular that I can remember. In essence it was more a sudden awakening of being aware that I existed and just being in complete and total of awe the world around me, leaving me in a state of focus that rendered me nearly useless in all other regards. Fortunately this happened at work when I had a job where it wasn't a big deal to just go and disappear for a while.

    As a person who majored in psychology (but only just) the best explanation I can give you is that when a human mind has been in an extended period of endured stress or perhaps depression, even if only a minor case of either, there can be instances where the mind's control and understanding of apparent reality can "be loosed" for a brief time until it reasserts itself. Sort of akin to a panic attack without the sheer manic state or noticeable physical effects...Or something like that. Don't take my word as gospel on that.

    Side note: I'm sure you're aware of Rhete's game "Press Space To Win" over at Newgrounds.

    Well a couple days ago there came a youtube video taking one of the negative reviews and zazzing it up for amazing comedic effect. You've probably already seen this too but just in case I just had to share it:

    Or search youtube: Dot Dot Dot

  2. Jesus loves you

    and spiders


  3. He's still hangin' out in the bathroom! I see him once every other day or so. I hope has enough to eat.