The Spider Season

The first one was waiting in the kitchen, pre-dawn. The cats ran down the hall ahead of me, their wriggly, wiry little bodies ever-joyful to start a new day. Little Kitty and Petey dropped to their bellies and began batting the thing back and forth, like some feline version of air hockey. Without my glasses, the creature was a blur, but I managed to scoop her up in an empty Bonne Maman jam jar and escort her to the safety of a patio lavender plant.

I’m afraid I wasn’t as benevolent a few days later when I came upon another lounging in relative ease behind a sofa throw pillow. The vacuum hose was already in hand, the motor drowning out the “Fuck Me” I let loose in startled horror. I emptied the canister, full of cat hair and sand, into the compost. I’m sure she’s fine.

And then the next day, I turned around in the shower to wait out the requisite one minute of conditioner soak-in and encountered one the size of a small island nation nestled in a fold of the shower curtain. Cue Psycho‘s mad violins. I couldn’t be bothered to rinse or even turn off the faucet. I stepped dripping into the hallway, saying in my most calm, stern, General-at-Battle voice, “Andrew. I need you to come here immediately.” I disavow all knowledge of what happened next. Really, I’m trying to put the entire horror show behind me.

Yes. It’s Spider Season. You may have noticed how the light has changed in recent days, deepening into its late summer denim blue and burnished gold. Summer delivered her hottest days over the weekend, but early mornings hold a freshness that has me reaching for my favorite, stretched-out-beyond-hope cardi-hoodie.

Another season is passing into the next. When I look back at my journal of two seasons ago, mid-March, I read with wistful melancholy my assumption that by late June, summer, this would be behind us. This is now nearly nine months old, if I count back to that January day when I was asked at the clinic’s reception if I’d traveled to China in the past two weeks.

 

I’m taking a precious few days off, the first day job PTO in over a year.

I’m not going anywhere. Oh, believe me. I’d love to. I haven’t been more than 50 miles from home since last fall. I dream of road trips, of numbing flights. I dream of Ireland, Iceland, Iberia. But now is not the time, not for me. I will remain close, tend to my garden. To my sweetheart.

Last June I rented an AirBnB and hid away, alone, to accrue some serious word mileage on my novel. I thought by the same time next year, I’d have a polished draft in to my agent.

Just like I thought all of this would be behind us by now.

Didn’t happen.

But I do have a novel in revision. And days of peace to do the work.

Why yes. That is a glass of rosé in a jam jar, on my desk.

Yesterday, after three 10-hour butt-in-chair days, I finished Draft 4, Revision 3 of The Deep Coil (as a point of reference, by the time my novels reach the bookstore shelf, they’ve been through upwards of 30 revisions. Not sure why I think any of this is anything other than complete madness.)

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know I’m not much of an outliner or plotter — completely counter to my Virgo tendencies in most other aspects of life. I write from character and trust the plot will catch up. This current revision was to bring those two elements into alignment, a structural revision to weave the heart (the internal journey, my protagonist’s arc) and the head (the external conflicts, aka, the plot) together into the web of story.

Art is fire plus algebra – Jorge Luis Borges

Although I’m a pantser, I’m a big believer that we’re hard-wired for story, that, as Lisa Cron states in her fantastic 2012 book, Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence: “there is an implicit framework that must underlie a story in order for that passion, that fire, to ignite the reader’s brain. Stories without it go unread, stories with it are capable of knocking the socks off someone who’s barefoot.”

In the revision just completed, I searched for that implicit framework, the inevitability of my protagonist’s actions and reactions based on who she is, how her past has shaped her belief systems, and what she believes she wants at the point we meet her, and how that, and she, change through the course of the story.

Even though the revision revealed structural weaknesses, ankle-snapping plot holes, and myriad scenes to be written, the story’s foundation is there, solid and sound and ready to be built upon.

I woke to the sound of rain this morning, blessed, cool, healing rain. On this autumnal teaser of a day I set aside triumph at the completion of another revision and turn to Page One, Chapter One, to begin Draft 5, Revision 4.

Weave On, Writers. Attention aux Araignées.

9 thoughts on “The Spider Season

  1. Hi Julie,
    When my husband and I were out canvassing in 2018– he was running for District Judge here in Montana–we came across an older woman in the road in front of her house. There was something strange going on– and then we figured out that she was having a panic attack. There had been a spider in her bathtub for 3 days and she hadn’t used the bathroom since.
    “Could you….?” she asked. Yup. While my husband went in and slayed the dragon– sorry, spider–I kept my arm around her shoulders to keep her away from the bathroom, which she kept drifting towards with accompanying upticks in anxiety. When it was all done, we went back outside to find her dog sitting in the passenger seat of our car–we had left a door open–looking quite satisfied after eating all the dog biscuits we had stashed in there.

    I don’t love spiders, but I am the chief spider relocator at my house–my hockey player son is terrified. But now every time I see one, I think of that lady and her dog.

    Good luck with the new novel!!!
    Lea

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lea, what a story! That poor, poor woman. And bless your husband’s heart for going to the rescue!
      I will suck it up and get through most things- the cats have brought dead rats and birds into the house and I’ll manage the disposal. I’ll relocate spiders if I’m home alone and there’s nothing else to be done. But when I can, I ask for help! And live things, rodents really, I just can’t. I’m waiting for someone to present us with a snake from the garden. Fortunately, slugs and spiders and garter snakes are really our only creepy-crawlies here.

      Like

  2. I hope that’s not the same jar….
    Here’s my suggestion: Fill a good-sized spray bottle with water. Add 10 drops of dish liquid. Add 10 drops each of peppermint essential oil and lemon essential oil. Spray in corners, crevices, openings in the woodwork in every room, and definitely spray the shower curtain and liner and behind sofa cushions every five days. Life’s too short! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. THANK YOU! I’m on my way into town with these on my list! I’m very excited to try this out- I want those good spiders to stay in the yard and forest where they are happiest (and I’m happiest).

      Of course now I’m giving the shower curtain a thorough shake before every shower, and the throw cushions a good fluffing

      Like

  3. “Ankle-snapping plot holes” – OMG I’m stealing that one. I hope you don’t mind. It’s too brilliant not to. I’m glad you’re getting a little uninterrupted revision time in.

    I too wish we were “done with that” – ALL of THAT (all the terrible things 2020 has wrought: The Rona, meth gators, murder hornets, firenados, to name just a few, along with the remnants of November 2016 still swamping up our government. November. November. Oh please, November, don’t bring more 2020. Please.).

    I digress. Congratulations on your current revision. Take a breath. Pat yourself on the back. Have a drink. Enjoy the moment. And please, send some of that glorious rain down our way. We sure could use it right now given we’re on day who-the-hell-knows-how-many-days-it’s-been-when-it’s-this-effing-hot of this wretched heat wave. Some end in sight, in the next few days – below 95 anyway – huzzah! – but we could do with some moisture on the ground too.

    Anywho – happy revising, lady! Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wishing you gentle, soaking rains. It’s heartbreaking to the devastating fires at any time, but now, when there is so much suffering on every front, it must just seem almost too much to bear.

      A big heartswell this week tuning into the DNC. I felt hope this week for the first time in a very long time. We just have to believe AND VOTE that this particular nightmare will be over soon.

      So so good to hear from you. I send you love and words and breath and peace. Yes! Steal away 🙂 Love you!

      Julie

      Liked by 1 person

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