September 10, 2002

Gossamer Days

I thought at first that I had seen a heavenly invasion that calm mid-September day as I walked up toward the house from the woods. The sun, shining brilliantly in the dry air of early autumn, had dropped just below the top of the tulip poplars. With my eyes barely in the shadow of the dense foliage, I saw in the sun's rays dozens of dazzling specks that might have been slowly westward-moving satellites; or very high-flying reconnaissance aircraft. Something from another world, perhaps?

This unexpected visitation spooked me a little, and I watched, uncertain what it was that I was seeing. Then, a speck with a tail floated by! And another, with an even longer undulating silver thread streaming behind the mote of light, a tail that appeared to be of fantastic length, shining from within-a floating fiber-optic strand visible a quarter mile away. They came in waves, moving passively in the currents of an invisible sea while flying things-beetles perhaps-swam frantically against the currents. All were being swept along westward, out of view.

The silent procession overhead continued for some while, until the sun's setting toward the horizon shut out the lights of the shining wings and webs. There was no one but the cat to tell of this amazing thing, this revelation that I had received most accidentally, or certainly unsought and unexpected. Wondering how universal my 'private vision' of the floating spiders might be, I came upon what is called the "Spider Letter", written by a twelve year old Jonathan Edwards to a judge, a friend of his father's, in 1723. It was as if young Jonathan had been peering over my shoulder, as he described precisely what I had seen:

[. . . ] In a very calm and serene day in the aforementioned time of year (late August to late September) standing at some distance between the end of a house or some other opaque body, so as just to hide the disk of the sun and keep off his dazzling rays, and looking along close by the side of it, I have seen vast multitudes of little shining webs and glistening strings, brightly reflecting the sunbeams, and some of them of a great length, and at such a height that one would think that they were tacked to the vault of the heavens . . . making a very pleasing as well as surprising appearance. It is wonderful at what a distance these webs may plainly be seen in such a position to the sunbeams. . .some at a great distance appear several thousands of times as big as they ought...there appears at the end of these webs spiders sailing in the air with them, doubtless with an abundance of pleasure, though not so much as I have beheld them and shewd them to others. And since I have seen these things I have been very conversant with spiders.

A revelation of radiant webs like prayers floating unseen above for fifty autumns has made me conversant with floating spiders. Perhaps they are angels. What wonders hide beneath my boots or hover in air just above my skin I can only wonder. Look up. Miracles must be everywhere.

Posted by fred1st at September 10, 2002 04:52 PM | TrackBack

Well said, Fred.

Posted by: sainteros at September 11, 2002 12:14 AM

Got here from Carnival or the Vanities #1. Excellent post and imagery. Your's in #1 in my book!

Posted by: Dave Worley at September 25, 2002 01:07 PM

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