First of all, let me start by saying all pets are welcome in my studio. Common and exotic alike.
And I am proud to say I conquered a fear today of an exotic type. Here's a little back story first...
Ever since I was a little girl (probably around 5 or so), when I put a rain boot on and my foot found a large fuzzy rock in the bottom that turned out to be a big black spider, I have been petrified to the core of them. I mean, this thing was the size of a house. C'mon, to a kid it seemed that way! Needless to say, I turn all of my shoes upside down and shake them out before I put them on now. Even the smallest spider sends me climbing on the furniture. (Remember the Dumbo cartoon when Timothy the mouse enters the circle of elephants and they all turn tail screaming completely terrified of him [check it out if you need a refresher, about 2 minutes and 30 seconds in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CzRgEAZkN0]? Yeah, that's me with spiders.)Zeek the Tarantula
Well, after many years of being ridiculously afraid, I made it a point to bring a spider to the studio for a portrait session. I know what you're thinking, she's nuts. Perhaps you're right. But I am tired of being fearful of something so small. Ok, granted some are extremely poisonous and could land you in the hospital. But let's face it so could driving your car. Now, I'm not saying go out and do the most dangerous things you can think of, let's be real. But with proper precautions, education, and care even the most venomous spiders, snakes, etc., are handled. But I digress from the main point.
This fear of spiders is silly. The majority we have in the Northeast are fairly harmless to us, so what makes them so scary? Is it because they have so many legs? That they scurry quickly from under the furniture or from out of our shoes? That we never know where they are lurking? That they can drop from the ceiling at any point? That they are associated with Halloween and getting the webs caught in your hair just gives you the willies? I don't know. All of the above maybe. Seems kind of ridiculous doesn't it? Enough is enough for me.Yes, I did it!That's my hand holding Zeek the tarantula.
Today, a Brazilian Salmon Birdeater tarantula, named Zeek, came in with his owner, Sarah. Before shooting we set Zeek down in his portable terrarium and, knowing nothing about tarantulas, I proceeded to ask Sarah a variety of questions about him. Zeek's species is considered "new world". The "old world" tarantulas are more aggressive and colorful. While the "new world" are more docile and neutral toned. When Zeek is full grown (he's only about 2 1/2 now), his legs will be about 8" long each. As it was, he was the size of my palm now. He also has several defense mechanisms; his fangs, the little barbs on his feet that release toxins, and his hairs which is kind of shakes and throws at you when he's feeling nervous that could also cause a mild reaction.
I was completely fascinated by the amount of knowledge Sarah had about the tarantulas and that she was willing to share it with me. It's amazing how once you learn more about a subject (big, hairy, scary eight-legged creatures, in this case), the less frightening they become. I knew that at the end of the shoot I wanted to hold him and really face the fear I've had since childhood. And, I did it. I thought he would feel rough but he felt like velvet. I felt the little barbs on his feet too as he gripped my hand, but the only reaction I had was my skin was a little itchy for a while. His movements were soft and graceful. Yes, I'm describing a spider as elegant and quite beautiful. Honestly, I would do it again in a minute.
To be able to face and overcome something you're deathly afraid of is an amazing and euphoric feeling. A bit of an adrenaline rush too of course.
The moral of the story? Life is too short to live in fear. Liberate yourself from your fears.