Even in August, its green and lush at Meadowcreek. The soil is moist under the mulch in the garden. But most places are getting dry. Fresh green growth only shows where we’ve been irrigating the gardens.
One species always brightens the August gardens no matter how dry it is. It’s called the golden garden spider. It’s huge with yellow stripes and dots on a black background. Like most people, I don’t like spiders. In the house I kill them. This one I never knock down. I just work around it.
It doesn’t even try to establish itself in areas of the garden where we work. So we just enjoy it. Some residents at Meadowcreek don’t kill any spiders. One even let a tarantula stay in her house this summer. That’s going a little too far for me, I don’t even let our dog in the house.
If you’re visiting Meadowcreek, rest assured that we keep spiders, snakes, dogs, and tarantulas out of the dorms and visitors’ houses. The dogs and cats we keep outside due to occasional visitors’ allergies; the others due some people’s fear of them.
We do try to work on irrational fears at Meadowcreek. The horse rescue operation at Meadowcreek has to reduce fears developed in mistreated horses. Horses can develop fears of everything from noises to buckets to blankets. All these fears can be eliminated through gradual exposure to the object or noise. This systematic desensitization assures the animal that there is nothing to fear.
Many children in aseptic America are taught to fear insects. Often their mother is afraid of insects and passes the fear on to her children from infancy. It is so ingrained that some even think fear of spiders is instinctual. Some researchers contend this instinct stems from the encounters human ancestors had in an environment dominated by reptiles. At Meadowcreek, we don’t think instinct has much to do with it. Seven month old babies don’t show fear of spiders and snakes. If there is any instinctual fear of spiders and snakes, it can be overcome.
My grandfather taught me how black snakes ate mice and rats and to leave them alone. He had a nest of them in the foundation of his house and was perfectly happy to have them there. He was one of the first Conservation Agents in Missouri and specialized in helping kids enjoy nature.
Humans can be desensitized just like horses. It doesn’t take too long before even the prissiest, most urbanized girl is pulling apart insects and even touching snakes. Junior high girls will often play up their fears to get attention around boys, so doing the desensitization in single sex groups is easier at that age.
It’s best to desensitize at a younger age anyway. Why let any child go for years living in fear of insects? She’ll never be able to appreciate the wonders of nature if she’s fearful of bugs.
Fear is something we try to eradicate at Meadowcreek. If you are fearful of something you are enslaved by it. It controls you. It limits you. It keeps you from fulfilling your potential.
Fear also seems to attract aggression. Fearful people seem to be attacked more by what they are fearful of. Calm beekeepers seldom get stung. Fearful observers get it instead.
The only snakes I’ve ever found at Meadowcreek were speckled king snakes. Impervious to snake poison, this species kills poisonous snakes by constriction. We’re glad to have plenty of them. I’ve been with others when they’ve found a variety of snakes. Once I was walking with a woman who was afraid of snakes and we saw about a dozen snakes of various types. Animals recognize fear.
So we try to help people appreciate nature and get rid of most fears. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Ironically, those who have the least fears in nature sometimes have extreme fears of things like fluoride in water, gluten in bread, insecticides, chlorox for cleaning mold, chemicals of any sort.
Some fears are certainly understandable. There are too many harmful chemicals in processed food. Disliking them is justified, but fear of them is not. Fear is always debilitating. Fear never helps solve problems. So, identify your fears and get rid of them. Turn them, through desensitization, into things you dislike. And then, if they are innocuous, you might even come to like them.
No reason to go so far as to keep a tarantula in your house. You can go too far in reducing your fears. More on that some other time.
Learn more about this topic in Chapter 3 of our book.