Love in theTime of Spiders

Late summer. The first cool nights. They want to come in the house. They will keep trying until they are dead.

I've been terrified of spiders for as long as I can remember. Literally. One of my earliest memories is of being afraid of the spiders in the window well of the basement bathroom when I was 3 years old. In my defense, they were black widows. From the age of 5 on, my childhood was spent in an enormous house that was an absolute leggy wonderland. I could handle the ubiquitous yellowy-white house spiders. But the ones with hair (eek!) or red markings on their bellies (seriously! in the house!) were unbearable to me.

Every fall, my dad would give us the black widow lecture (be on the lookout for them -- I just found one ______ [fill in the blank]), including the tale about the woman who had the black widow fall in her hair. This leads me to believe that my fear of spiders may be genetic. The fact that my father either (a) believed or (b) got a thrill from retelling that story makes me suspicious that perhaps he killed them because he was a man . . .
but inside he was squealing like a little girl.

I have not used our backyard hose once this summer (it's in the spidery corner) because Russ failed to spray at the appropriate time and NOW . . . it being late summer and all . . . draw your own conclusions.
There's a story there and it may involve the words "if you really loved me . . ."

Instead I have carried the dog's water down to his kennel from the kitchen every day. Silly?

Okay. But I told you I'm really afraid of spiders.

I was reminded of the spider-in-the-hair story recently in a Sherman Alexie poem, "The Summer of Black Widows." He tells of the spiders carrying stories in their stomachs.

I loved this idea of opening doors slowly, listening for stories. . .
Or peeking into windows, looking for stories. . .
Searching the lines of faces, hoping for stories . . .

My pieces have been referred to as "Visual Stories."

I like this description, and I hope it's true. During an interview with the curator of the Rochester Art Center, she asked me if all my pieces were in "the narrative style." At that point I was terribly nervous and I fumbled around to find an answer that would sound like I knew something about art. But later I realized that the best answer was just yes. Definitely yes.
Because I love stories.

For instance, there's a story in this piece, entitled "Don't Be Fooled."

The story is about this. I'll let you imagine the story.

I found a marvelous 1936 sticker book designed to give children a glimpse of the stories of other children around the world.

Inside the characters are blank except for outlines. The setting of the characters is drawn in. This reminded me of the way we see people. We see where they are now. We see their outline. But sometimes we forget that we're also usually seeing the blank.

And everywhere there's a blank, there's a story to fill it.

Sometimes we only get to put in a few stickers.

We should try to find as many of the stickers as we can. When we open doors we must always be listening for stories.

(but let's hope we only find stories.)


Hannah Francis said...

okay, you are an amazing artist and do not stop this career, but why the (excuse the language) hell did you give up writing?! You were a prodigy at the age of five and something like that obviously doesn't just go away. I am excited to read your blog every day, not just because I am homesick, but because it is always a good piece of writing that feeds my soul. I spend alot of time feeding my body--but it is nowhere near as satisfying as reading your writing--even if it is just a silly blog.

Jessie said...

COOPER!!! Oh how I miss his big chocolatey self! I miss how he would be so excited to see me that his whole back end would wag - not just his tail! (it made me feel so special) I do not have enough doggie friends out here.

Oh, and the rest of your post was good too. :)

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