This story begins long ago. I was one of those kids that used to put milk out for the neighborhood strays in hopes that one would decide to stay.
My brother used to bring home stray baby birds, he and my mother would nurse them back to health. And my sister who loved animals was severely allergic to fur so our Animal Family were feathered or reptilian.
Through the years I have run into quite a few people who as children used to put milk or other things out for the cats or other animals that they loved that lived near to where they lived.
I begin with this because most kids speak to and understand the animals. It is in growing up, going through adolescence, our rights of passage to the next phase of human life that people sometimes forget how to communicate with the natural world.
This is why I begin my story of explanation with a spider. Many humans fear the spider who eats mosquitoes, and other insects that humans find bothersome. The Native Americans would say that Spider is powerful medicine, I would agree.
And the majority of spiders in Ontario where I grew up and have spent most of my life are not poisonous and do not hurt people so there is no reason for me to be afraid of spiders.
However many years ago I found myself with the opportunity of my dreams. Zalman Yanovsky, former guitarist for The Loving Spoonful and his wife Rose Richardson, both now in spirit offered me an apartment to live in attached to their house in the country with my own studio out in the forest. It was a hobby farm with cats and dogs, peacocks, guinea fowl, sheep chickens/roosters. And a barn where the big Spiders lived.
I was invited over for dinner where we proceeded to have a wonderful dinner, the animals sat with us and got to lick the plates which made me feel like I had found some of my people. And then Zalman said okay we ‘re going to go down to the barn and I’m going to tell you about the sheep.
Zalman explained to me how to feed and water and let the sheep in and out . We would be taking turns I would be responsible two days a week for giving them breakfast, water, letting them out and then bringing them back into the barn before night time. And if they went away I was in charge. So how joyful, I think I may have seen a big spider, a big hairy spider and I asked about them.
And Zalman said there are spiders in the barn, they don’t really bother you but in the morning if you come down before the sun has shone down onto their webs in the barn they will be dangling down, so if it is rainy they might be dangling longer than usual. “ We just put a jacket over our head and get to it. Once you start moving around they will disappear. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME’
And Zalman said listen if you really want to do this and live out here you will have to get used to the spiders, you need to go home and think about it. It is a commitment and you will have to get used to the spiders, they do live in the barn.
Actually I was kind of hoping he’d say “ If you see a big spider just come and get me and I’ll get rid of it for you”
Yeah thinking about it, some help I’d be taking care of the animals if every time I saw a spider I had to run and get someone for help, that was most definitely a city girl thought.
Okay this was my dream come true, a Studio out in the country with animals to live amongst and paint. I new Tyrone, my cat was going to love this but I would have to commit to loosing my fear of spiders because I couldn’t live in fear of the barn, that is where the wonderful sheep were and I loved the sheep.
I remember going home that night, and Rose and Zalman insisted I take a few days to think it over, I had until Thursday.
I new I was going to do it, but I remember going home, and pacing, being so excited about a dream come true and also thinking about one of my greatest fears, the spider, I was going to have to learn to deal. I remember thinking if Rose and Zalman can do it I can do it to. That has always been one of my great thoughts: “ If someone else can do it, that means it is doable and I can do it to, my Mother taught me that.
So I paced and thought about the spiders and I thought about all of the other animals and the Beautiful studio out in the country, it’s own separate building in the middle of the forest with a little dirt path and skylight windows that ran down half the wall, a huge space, that would be all mine to paint in, my own studio just to paint in and all of the animals running about and I thought who cares about the spiders.
And Rose and Zalman had a system in place. If it was a rainy day or they came down early they would use the side entrance to the barn, a normal door. As soon as you opened the door there was a coat hook and there was a big jacket hanging on one of the pegs that you could then put over your head and go through the other entrance or go through the barn and give the sheep breakfast and let them out.
The three years I lived at the farm changed my life in such a beautiful and incredible way, thank you wise spider.
By the time I left the farm I respected the spiders.