Spiders In The Bath

Each morning I begin my day sitting on the toilet watching the spiders in my bath tub.

There is much to be learned here. Watching spiders.

There are always two spiders. Yesterday morning I was shocked to see that there were three.  But then I noticed that one of the trio was lying on its back. Which is not normal behaviour for a spider. Unless you are a dead spider. Which this one was. Sad loss. But, somehow, from somewhere, another spider had come to take its place. As if there is some Universal Law that there must always be two spiders in the bath. Two living spiders. One is not enough. Three, too many. Two, just right. That appears to be the Law.

This morning, I noticed that the dead spider had mysteriously disappeared.

Spider cannibalism? Or had there been a little spider funeral during the night? Had other spiders from neighbouring bath tubs gathered to pay their last respects then taken the spider corpse down the plug hole and away for a decent burial?

I don’t know. It’s not like I sit on the toilet all day, watching spiders. I would like to but, after a while, you lose the feeling in your legs.

What I have noticed is that spiders are, as has been previously observed by others, persistent creatures. But, unlike Robert the Bruce, I am not inspired by their tenacity. Rather, I cannot help but see it as a warning:

Spiders are persistent creatures. Always busy. Over time they have built an elaborate system of web within our bath tub. Delicate strings criss cross the enamel creating a barely visible but beautiful staircase from floor to rim. At first, I assumed that the purpose of this creation was to provide a means of escape. I jumped to the conclusion that the spiders would want to exit the plain white confines of the tub. That the web staircase was their route to freedom. To the splendours and opportunities available to them in the big wide world beyond the bathroom. No longer trapped in a sterile white prison where food was scarce and life hard, they would be able to find a better life where they could hunt freely and prey was abundant. I assumed that the spiders were busy building webs for freedom.

But this appears not to be the case.

The spiders seem happy to stay in the tub. Their webs never extend beyond the rim. They appear to be building webs for the sake of being busy. They show no desire to explore beyond. They seem to have accepted the bath tub as the limits of their universe. And what a strange universe that must be. A world of white. Without colour. Everything smooth and faultless. Perfect. I suppose it might seem comforting in its uniformity. I suppose that enough food must make its way into the tub to sustain two spiders. Maybe that is enough for them. Maybe they are not even aware that there is a world beyond the tub. Maybe boring white uniformity is just preferable to whatever lurks down the plug-hole.

I guess that I will never understand the spiders.

Me, I have always felt an irresistible draw to peer over the edge of the tub. Never been happy with a world that is clean, white and flawless. I have spent more time than I should have exploring down plug-holes. I have never understood why people spend all their lives spinning webs but never even trying to escape the tub. Busy just for the sake of being busy. Never stopping to question why they are working so hard. Never asking what for. Just to have a bigger house, a faster car? Sorry, but that is just not enough for me. Because, once you have glimpsed the world beyond the tub – all that world of colours and possibilities – it is impossible to be satisfied with a life of bland uniformity.

What am I talking about? Well, try this:

Take all your clothes off. Get naked. Go outside. Find a patch of wet grass. Lie down. Close your eyes. Gentle hum until your belly reverberates. Feel garden spiders crawl across your face. Relax. Enjoy the sensation. There is nothing to be afraid of. Allow yourself to be held by the Earth. Go on. Try it. It feels nice.

Or, if that’s too much, just take off your shoes and socks, go outside and walk barefoot on the grass. Notice how it feels. Enjoy the sensation. And, if you can’t even do that …. well, enjoy the bath tub.

I will never quite understand the spiders in the bath. But, I like watching them. And I prefer a shower to bathing. So, I guess I will let them be.

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