One day I was rummaging through my garden shed in search of a certain hoe, when, upon moving a rake that hadn’t been shifted in a season, I upset a family of nesting rats. In a burst of scuttling claws and leathery tails the vermin dashed between my feet and up the shed walls where one paused, clinging guiltily and looking back at me with black, rat-eyes as if to ask, “It’s okay that we’re here, isn’t it?” It wasn’t. I took matters into my own hands and deployed a series of old-fashioned rattraps. These were gruesomely effective, but I eventually grew tired of cleaning up rat carcasses, and worse, the carnage only seemed to encourage further migration to my shed. I decided some professionals were needed.

I don’t know who it was that came that day, but the little black boxes they placed in my shed and crawl space for $500 proved as useless as they were expensive. I admit I was suspicious when one team member turned to the other and said with practiced alarm, “Tom. You should see all the spiders down here.”

They were apparently hoping I’d pay for spider removal, which, since our home and yard aren’t encased in a glass dome and spiders had never posed a threat greater than creepiness, seemed like an impermanent solution for a problem that didn’t exist. They warned me of spider bites to my children. I said we’d risk it.

It’s years later, and I now own—or I should say, cohabitate with—a cat who would love nothing more than to rid my yard of a rat infestation. Fortunately, he has not yet had the chance. But I wish he could do something about these spiders. Hardly a day has gone by this summer when, in my travels around my yard, I haven’t gotten a face full of web, and then… is that a spider going down my neck? Oh, Jesus someone get it off!

There are times when I feel as though these spiders and their webs are trying to tell me something, and if I am honest, that something is, “Pay attention.” What must be paid attention to is likely hanging directly in front of my face and not hidden behind rakes or in crawl spaces.

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