An Artist Looks at a Writing Spider With a Different Point of View

Even though it was long ago I can still picture the lady. She was bent over and wrinkled. Her skin looked like aged leather. She had a cane that had been carved from a stick that was also bent and twisted from growing with a vine wrapped around it. I was a five-year-old boy growing up in the rural south and I was busy watching, noticing, and learning about the wonders around me.

It is a vivid memory. I was crouched down staring at a most peculiar spider which was spinning a most peculiar web when I heard the old lady’s most peculiar voice as she said, “Don’t point at it.”

“What?” I asked as my hand began moving up to point at the spider. My hand was gently pushed aside by the lady’s cane.

“That’s a writing spider,” she said. “If you point at her she will write your name in the web and you will die.”

Writing spider weaving its web

Writing spider weaving its web

That’s all I remember about that particular conversation but I filed the information in my mind under the category of “things not to do.” At that age, that particular category was not over-crowded. I was brave, terribly brave, and I was much more interested in finding things to do than in finding things not to do. I was definitely not interested in dying because I pointed at a writing spider. I had pirates to sword fight with and dragons to slay. I had paint to spill and track all over the hardwood floors and I had a charred stick that I had rescued from a trash fire that I would use to practice my writing lessons on my grandmother’s white carpet. Yes, I was busy. I had no time to be pointing at spiders.

Thirty years flew by and I was walking around one day with my son, J.R. There was a basic difference in J.R. and I in that I looked at things with the literal leanings of a writer and he was an artist. Actually, J.R., at the age of five, was already an accomplished artist and I have found out over the years that an artist looks at things with a different point of view. As we walked along that day I saw a writing spider. I told J.R. to put his hands in his pockets. He did. Then I told him about pointing at a writing spider. I passed on what the old lady had told me when I was about his age. And, believe me, I made sure he didn’t point at that spider. I didn’t want him to die from a spider pointing while I was in charge—what would I tell his mother?

Then, thirty more years went by like a bat out of hell and J.R. is now recognized as an accomplished artist and he has a home of his own. He also has a new daughter. I like to visit him every now and then. I was visiting him yesterday when he told me about his new pet. It was a writing spider that was building a web on the glass door leading to the deck. He crouched down to study the web and to see how it was developing.

"Isn't she beautiful?" he asked, showing me his pet writing spider

“Isn’t she beautiful?” he asked, showing me his pet writing spider

“I’ve been feeding it and watching it,” he said. “I’ve always wanted a pet writing spider. My wife is not impressed or excited about it.”

He thought for a moment and looked over at me. “You know, Dad, I never told you because I didn’t want you to worry but after you told me about writing spiders, I wasn’t all that much afraid of dying, I just wanted to see a spider write my name. I used to point at them all the time and I never died and they never once wrote my name in the web. But I still like to watch.”

I cringed as, with a devil-may-care attitude, he pointed directly at the writing spider

I cringed as, with a devil-may-care attitude, he pointed directly at the writing spider


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I paint pictures with words.

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