Friday, April 30, 2010
The Monsters Under the Dock
They eat small fish and tadpoles, as well as insects. They move with lightning speed, and can illicit the expletive "Holy sh**!" from the bravest and strongest of men. There are people who have summered on lakes all their lives and have never seen one, because these monsters are skittish. Fortunately. They are dock spiders.
More correctly known as fishing spiders, the adults can be about the size of a splayed hand! I can verify that since I have seen them. The first time was as a young wife enjoying a romantic holiday at a Muskoka lodge. My husband and I were canoeing in the calm of late afternoon, absorbing the sublime beauty of the lake and the thrusting granite cliff that sparkled in the sunshine. He said, “Wow, look at that spider!” pointing to the rock wall mere inches from our canoe. I’ve always been afraid, although not phobic, about spiders, so I was immediately on the alert. I didn’t see it at first because it was SO big. But I finally did, shrieked, and nearly tipped the canoe. I’m sure I would have won a regatta race in my haste to get as far away as possible.
It was at least thirty years before I saw another one. Some lakes, or at least areas of them, seem to be more popular with these critters. They like calm water and wood, and often live under docks, which is how they acquired their nickname. They can submerge themselves underwater for 10 to 15 minutes when frightened, and can even "swim"!
If you’d like a laugh, have a look at this brief video of me at a Muskoka resort - after I had seen a huge mother dock spider guarding her egg sac - about the only time that they don’t skitter away immediately upon hearing noise or feeling the vibration of interlopers on their docks. I’d also seen a few sunning themselves on the lovely rocks where I am perched in this clip, as I had kayaked by the previous day.
My reference to a dock spider in The Summer Before The Storm is definitely symbolic.