December 2017. Note: New Year’s got me thinking about animals that can regenerate their limbs. In particular, spiders. Spiders periodically molt, which means they shed their current exoskeleton and develop a new exoskeleton. This is an opportunity for the spider to make improvements, such as a bigger exoskeleton and the replacement of any lost limbs.

For many humans on our calendar system, the start of the New Year is an artificial molting. Many resolutions do not inherently require a January 1st start date. We can start making choices that are healthier, wiser, etc. on other days of the year, and many do. But there is something psychologically empowering about the start of the New Year on our calendar. It’s a symbolic new start, and that can make us feel that we actually have meaningful room to change and grow, even if the circumstances of our lives (or our selves) have felt inflexible. Knowing a spider can regrow its very legs, our own regeneration seems less impossible.

Why then is the photograph that has emerged so unsettling to me, just as spiders themselves are? Instead of a profusion gentle pastel colors, celebrating the joyous possibility of regeneration, this self/spider-portrait is driven by shadow and intensity. It would be easy to say this was simply an accident. Paintings do seem to take their own direction, morphing beyond what was originally intended, but I tend to think there is meaning in that morphing, that when done with concentration, it may be unexpected but is not random.