The arrival of autumn always leaves me a little blue. We closed up the pool in early September, just before the first leaves began falling from the trees. Our blissful days in the sun, floating on rafts and relaxing while listening to tropical music, were all just memories now. The birds had begun their migration, and only a few tattered butterflies could still be found enjoying the last of the blooming field flowers. The woodlands seemed more quiet these days. I found it all just a bit depressing.
It was not that everything was dismal though. My tomatoes and bell peppers seemed to be making a comeback due to the autumn rains and cooler temperatures. Daisy deer and her doe fawn, Spirit, were around a lot, feeding frequently on deer chow and nibbling corn. They both were packing on pounds lately and their winter coats were filling in, giving them a healthy, woolly look. They seemed more playful too. A couple of evenings ago, I caught Daisy gyrating her head in a silly way at Spirit (what we always refer to as doing the “crazy head”), and before long they were running and gamboling in play. Perhaps the cooler weather had them feeling frisky.
Late one afternoon, while walking alongside Daisy deer, with Spirit trailing behind, I saw a blob of what looked like spider webbing, floating in the air. It was calm out that day with not a puff of breeze, and the sun was beaming from the west. With the sun as a back-light, the webbing looked quite brilliant! But, alas, I had no camera with me and missed photographing the oddity.
Then, lo and behold, a few days later a friend mentioned seeing “gossamer” lately. He explained that often in autumn, on warm, windless days, one can see gossamer, or spider webbing, floating in the air. So that was it! I now remembered hearing of gossamer long ago, when I was a child in school! The only detail I could recall, however, was the phrase “on gossamer wings”. Perhaps it came from a poem or something.
So, when I got home, I Googled the term “gossamer” and came up with the description “spider ballooning”. Yes, this was exactly what I was seeing lately. I read too, that gossamer can actually be anything light and delicate floating about, like wings of butterflies or dragonflies. Perhaps that is what is meant by the term, “on gossamer wings”. This was the time of year spiderlings took flight to areas unknown, by extruding several threads of silk and literally “kiting” themselves into the warm air. Some may only land several yards away, while the fortunate ones end up miles from their place of origin.
In the coming weeks, I took note on the calm, sunny days, of the gossamer activity in the woodlands. I found late afternoon best for photographing the webbing that floated in the sky, but it was certainly a bit of trouble. Spotting a moving trail of fluff in a clear blue sky was the easy part. But following these small, moving objects that seemed to just disappear at times from the camera lens, made them difficult to capture. And, even if I did manage a photo of the gossamer with my zoom lens, I was too often sorely disappointed when I downloaded and viewed the images on my computer screen. Unfortunately, the camera rarely did justice to capturing the white cotton-like substance as it changed form, gliding along in the air currents. Determined to get this right, though, I kept practicing.
Fortunately, each week provided at least one day of seeing gossamer floating gently in the warm afternoon air. I would sit for an hour or more on the slope, watching the webbing change form and quickly, but gently, float on its way to an unknown destination. Sometimes, one followed another, while some connected with other strings. A few spiraled downward, while others lifted higher and higher. As the white webbing floated high above me, I wondered how this phenomenon had managed to escape me all of my life? Why had I never noticed this before?
As I often do when I notice something new in nature, I ponder the lesson that might be offered by the experience. Following Daisy deer around for the last year, I have become more aware of the little critters and insects that inhabit our woodlands. I am careful where I step, and I have learned to appreciate the presence of all creatures in my world.
So today, lazing on the grass of the slope and looking upward, I marvel at these little spiderlings, setting out on their own. I imagine how wonderful it would be if we, too, could just shoot a web into a little kite and be free to float in the warm air to an unknown destination? I thought about the tenacity and instinct that must motivate something so small to set off on such a journey, not knowing the outcome. How many times had I not followed my gut instinct because I did not have a plan, was not quite prepared, or was unsure of the outcome? Why could I not be more carefree and spontaneous about exploring my world and flying by the seat of my pants, if even for just a day?
Autumn does not have to serve as a marker of a grander season coming to a close, or as a reminder of the harsh conditions of winter looming around the corner. No, with its frosty mornings and warm afternoons, leaves of red and gold, and the gossamer on the wing, the fall season stands on its own. So, take the advice of a frisky deer or brave little spiderling… find your gossamer and do a little cruising about… enjoy the beautiful color and scenery that only autumn can bring!
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…