Gray Wall Jumper Jumping Spider Pencil Sketch p27

Gray Wall Jumper Jumping Spider p27

Gray Wall Jumper Pencil Sketch (Jumping Spider)

Growing up I was lucky. My parents were into animals and nature. Behind our house we had a huge woodlot to explore, and the other side of the street led to a big field, and past that was a pine forest. The family library was full of field guides, including Peterson’s Field Guide to the Eastern Birds, as well as ones for Wildflowers, Trees and Shrubs, Insect and Rocks and Minerals and more. Those books saw a lot of use. As a child I shared my Dad’s enthusiasm for all sorts of animals like porcupines, the occasional fox and all sorts of birds, but his interest in wildflowers completely baffled me.

My brothers and I would often be brought along on long walks through the hills of southwestern New York. Sometimes we were willing co-adventurers bribed along by the promise of a bottle of Coca Cola, which was a very rare treat in our house. Other times I think we were in forced exile to give my mom a well-deserved break from the escapades of three boys. On many walks we came home only with sore legs without seeing much of interest. On other hikes we’d find something of interest like a garter snake in mid-meal with green frog hanging from its mouth. Often my Dad would stop and look for Purple Gentians, Fringed Polygala or Red Trillium in a place he had discovered them a few years before. That is pretty good for a guy that grew up in a one bedroom apartment in northern Manhattan. Waiting for him while he looked for those flowers sometimes took what seemed to be an eternity.

I remember sitting once on a fallen tree on the ridge of a hill with my brothers. My Dad was off looking for Trailing Arbutis or some other “white whale.” We were taking turns looking through my Dad’s binoculars. While waiting for a peek, I started to peel back some loose bark on the log and discovered a handful of massive grubs of some sort of beetle. They were as large as my thumb. I still don’t know exactly what those were. Dad eventually found his specimen, came back and got a glimpse of the goliath grubs that were writhing around to avoid having the sunlight hit their semi-transparent, soft bodies. He was thoroughly disgusted. Now, it’s hard to gross out a surgeon who was regularly up to his elbows in intestines and enjoyed regaling us with what happened in the operating room in exquisite detail… during dinner. But when it came to insects and spiders, Dad isn’t much of a fan.

While I eventually shared his appreciation of wildflowers, my Dad has never warmed up to the critters that creep and crawl that I find so interesting. This summer I showed him a bunch of photos of wasps and spiders, and he asked why my wife lets me in the house. Another comment he made was “How can you sleep knowing those things are in your yard?!?” Oh well, he isn’t alone. Many people aren’t overly fond of arthropods, but I really find them captivating, especially jumping spiders. They seem to be very cat-like, and some seem downright cute with their big eyes.

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