“She’s doing it again,” Mrs. Cockroach is saying to her friend Old Mrs. Spider. “You know? The giant? She’s been blowing on me and telling me to live somewhere else. Like, I’d leave a good home?”
Old Mrs. Spider looks up from her weaving. “Yes,” she says in a weary voice. “But you know she’s not a giant. She’s just a normal human being, well, overweight, as I understand humans measure their bodies. And if she’s going to blow on us and ask us to live somewhere else, well…..I think she needs to brush her teeth.”
Mrs. Cockroach chuckles. “Indeed. We insects, maybe with the exceptions of fleas and termites, we don’t have bad breath. Blood-breath and wood-breath are sour! I was sitting on the wall in her bathroom, keeping an eye on things and telling the termites to get away from the window, and she just walks up. Doesn’t she know we insects and arachnids are protecting her house?”
Old Mrs. Spider tucks a stray thread into her pattern and turns away from her web. “Well, those old spells have worked for a long, long time, you know. I can remember….” She shakes her head. “But today the whole world’s gone wrong.”
“That’s for sure,” says Mrs. Cockroach. They hear a noise outside the back door and go to investigate, as is their duty.
What they find are the Queen Ant and her people. They’re doing close-order drills and making moving pictures on the path behind the house. When the two indoor insects tell the Queen Ant about the blowing and speaking coming from the giant—no, the human owner of the house—the Queen Ant just laughs. “Hahaha, that never did work with us, ya know. We can’t be bothered with humans. We’re artistes. And besides that, if we go inside the house, it’s just because we’re hungry and we smell whatever she’s feeding the cat. That’s some good food!”
“Now see here,” says Mrs. Cockroach, “there’s no need to be a smarty-pants. So to speak, as ants don’t wear pants. But, gee, look at the rhyme….”
She would say more about rhymes and artistes, but Old Mrs. Spider looks at the yard around them. It used to be a garden, but then the city began spraying something nasty, and then some other giant human began spraying something nastier on the garden and pretty soon, well it wasn’t a productive garden anymore. “They’re committing insecticide,” Old Mrs. Spider says.
“That’s right!” Mrs. Cockroach exclaims, and even the Queen Ant waves her antennae in agreement. “They have homicide—that’s killing men—that ‘cide’ part comes from one of their old languages and means cut down and kill, and now it’s insecticide—cutting us down and killing us.” She cuts off the growing lecture. “Don’t they realize the damage they’re doing?”
“You and your etymology,” the Queen Ant mutters. “I never thought school was that much fun. But you sure have a point. We’re parts of the Web of Life, every one of us, other tiny folks like us and big folks like those huge gray ones that mostly live in Africa. And everybody in between.”
“Yes,” says Mrs. Cockroach. “We’re the smart ones. But when do humans bother to listen to us? Remember what that cricket said to that wooden boy?”
“Always let your conscience be your guide!” the ants yell in a chorus. “And, Mrs. Cockroach, you’re what they call a bookworm!” She nods, and the chorus goes on. “Happiness is a butterfly. The fireflies keep the stars in their patterns. The lord of the flies may conquer a lion. Humans that use the internet have the attention spans of grasshoppers.” Everyone laughs at this one. “Relatives are scorpions. And just remember the story about poor old Gregor Samsa who turned into an insect and then—”
“Enough of that!” Old Mrs. Spider stops them. “Mankind—and it was the men, not the women—decided we were their enemies. They love to have enemies. Enemies give them reasons to feel superior. Sometimes they even invent enemies. And yes, we arachnids and you insects are all in danger. Our homes are in danger. Our livelihoods are in danger.”
Just then a bee comes buzzing by and settles on a bedraggled flower nearby. “Not much pollen these days,” the bee complains. “More bad news for the Queen.” He looks down at the gathering in the path. “Oh, hello, down there. I can tell you’re engaged in an important conversation.”
“We’re talking about the troubles we’re all facing,” says Mrs. Cockroach, waving him down to settle among them.
“You think you’ve got troubles!” he says with a loud buzz. “They’re sprayin’ stuff that’s killin’ us, and it gets in their food, too. It’s just not right. We’re all related, you know. The Great One At The Beginning made us all, little folks like us and big folks like them. The First Queen…She loves us all. She gave us work to do, and now…well, the giants are wrecking everything.” He looks around. Everyone in the circle is nodding.
“I’m thinking it’s time for us to visit Grandmother Spider,” Old Mrs. Spider says. “Do you all agree?” When everyone nods again, she turns back to her web, sticks two of her hands in, plucks a handful of threads, and pulls on them.”
And they are all facing a bigger web. It’s the biggest web on the planet, possibly in the universe. Sitting in the center is She Who Holds The Knowledge. Grandmother Spider. She has heard the morning’s conversation. She raises two of Her hands in blessing to Her visitors and listens for a few minutes as they explain why they are all so concerned about the actions of the humans. And then She speaks.
“There was a great man who worked to save the forests. Here is what he wrote.” She weaves in her great web for a minute, then steps aside so Her visitors can read it.
Whenever we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.
“His name was John Muir, and he was correct,” says Grandmother Spider. “We’re all kin. We must preserve the Great Web of Life. We must find a way to persuade all the giants to listen and believe. If the Web is torn, we will all be destroyed.”
Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic. Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations. When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the Neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.