Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Whirled-wide webs

This thumb of land that sticks out into the Gulf-Stream-warmed Atlantic has been wrapped in morning mist for a month. It can be rather depressing to wake up day after day in fog, but it has one benefit: The mist bejewels the spider webs, making them gorgeously and ubiquitously visible. Every gorse bush is slung with balconies of sparkling gossamer. My car is so exquisitely draped with orb webs that I hesitate to open a door. The spiders were there all along, of course, industriously inconspicuous, but now their labors become apparent. The garden glistens in dewy silk.

Where the hose is coiled beneath the tap, four beautifully-crafted orbs compete for whatever insects bumble by. At the center of one orb, its maker, a creature whose body is no bigger than a pinhead, presides in a web ten-inches wide. All that filament would seem to be more voluminous than the spider itself. How did it manage to extrude so much silk in the course of a night?

I've written about spiders and their silk before, so I won't repeat the science here. I will simply exult in the gift of fog that turns an otherwise dreary morning into a glittering Oz.