July 18, 2011


I’m not the first to have recognized that certain characteristics are shared between insects and people. Henry David Thoreau in “Walden” recounts a struggle between an army of red and black ants which he compares to human conflicts that go as far back as the Trojan War.  

There is much to admire about ants. They are models of industry. But if I were to live as an insect, it would be as a trap door spider. I discovered one in my garden the other day as I wandered among my flower beds. My shoe had damaged the portal of its habitat and so it was forced to make repairs.

(photo: PerthNow)

Fascinated, I watched as its mandibles and front legs worked furiously to rebuild the wall around the entrance before it wedged a small stone into place. It completed its task in so short a time that, curious, I destroyed the mound again to see what would happen. The spider appeared as before and shaped the soft dirt into another cone, expending so much energy, I could almost hear the insect grumbling. Still fascinated, I caved in the walls a third time. Seeing the creature’s frenzy as it reemerged, however, I took pity on it and walked away, leaving it to its work.

Sitting under the shade of my birch tree, I reflected on that spider’s life and the human condition.  Both species, it seemed to me, struggle to build walls against calamity. But sometimes, tragedy strikes so hard or repeatedly, that it throws we humans on our backs so that we neither know nor care how to get up again. At these times, let us remember the trap door spider. We are no less that it. We, too, can repair that which will make us whole again.