Skip to main content

Fire in the Webs

It's still quite difficult to blog; I'm used to sitting down for two or three hours when the writing fit is on me, and my spine objects to anything over ten minutes. So I'll keep this short and sweet...

I celebrated my Solstice with a day off from my job--and I'm so glad I am openly requesting religious holidays at last. On my day off, I watched the sun come up through the line of white pines at the edge of the former pasture (now woodlot) behind our house. Then I put on hiking boots with cleats, and using a ski pole in lieu of my cane, I made the rounds of our quince and apple trees, with a libation of hard cider.

That afternoon, I wandered three miles along woods roads and the ridge path, out to the pine tree with the bee hive in it. I didn't offer the bees anything--as far as I could see or hear, they were all asleep--but as I turned to hike home again, I noticed the oddest thing:

Spiderwebs.

It was perhaps twenty degrees outside, with brilliant sun, warm against the trunks of the oaks and hemlocks. I noticed small birds, chickadees and other nimble things, hopping up and down the ridges of bark, and even hanging from the undersides of branches, pecking at invisible somethings. Insects? Spiders?

In any case, there they were, improbably enough: glinting in hair-thin lines of fire, dozens upon dozens of fine threads of spiderweb, running through the branches of the understory. If I turned my head even a fraction of a degree to the right or left, they were so fine they disappeared entirely. Only with the help of the blazing sunlight could I see them at all.

Spiders, alert, awake, and spinning their webs on the shortest day of the year.

When I returned home, I did some research online, and learned that, indeed, there are several species of spider that do awaken and even clamber about on the surface of the snow in the dead of winter. And some web spinning species, unthinkably, hatch out in early winter, living on what little they can find until the spring returns.

One site claimed that to find a spiderweb on Christmas Day is good luck. I have decided that finding the webs of infinitesimally small spiders at midwinter is more than good luck: it is a sign of the stubbornness and persistence of life. As much as the return of the sun, the inventiveness and intrepidity of even the smallest of lives is something to admire, and try to find in ourselves.

Bright blessings, all.

Comments

kevin roberts said…
It's the smallest things that have the greatest strength, the little things that can be unmade so easily.

What are the pioneers of any ecological succession? What lodges in the cracks of the just-cooled lava flows and takes root?

The littlest things.
Mary Ellen said…
What a great image of life's stubbornness and beauty. I'm sorry to hear (from recent posts) of your back injury. May you heal soon and completely.
Thanks, Mary Ellen. I am definitely on the mend. I expect to leave off using the cane entirely within a few weeks, though I expect I'll have to limit my time sitting or in a car for rather longer.

I've been reading the most wonderful book on forest ecology, _Reading the Landscape_ by Tom Wessels. Despite having lived in New England almost all my life, I keep discovering new small and vital things about this landscape that blow my mind: the degree of management of the New England forests by Native Americans through fire. (Are ticks more of a problem now because, unlike Native Americans, we do not use this tool to limit the duff on the forest floor? Does hemlock predominate over hickory for that same reason?) Or the fact that the seeds of the birch are too small to contain within them enough nourishment for a birch sapling to take root save where the duff is gone--as after a fire. So when I see a birch tree in a deep wood carpeted with leaves, I can know that, barring fire, it will not have any children near it; and I can date the age of the wood by the age of such a tree.

And, of course, on another level, there's just wonder. Something new every day, now that I can look on the woods with both the eyes of an adult and the eyes (I hope) of my childhood.
Huzzah!

Grandmother Spider, stealing fire from the sun on Solstice Day!

Blessed Be!
Liz Opp said…
Beautiful post, Cat. Glad I took the time to read it.

Blessings,
Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Popular posts from this blog

Confronting Racism, Yankee Pagan Style

I am a Yankee.  Right down to my Pagan soul.

My understanding of what it means to be a Pagan is to try to live in right relationship with the gods, the land, and the people, including the ancestors.  My gods are those that are comfortable in New England’s woods and hills.  My land is this rocky landscape of New England.  And my people and my ancestors–on Mom’s side, at least–are New Englanders: sea captains and dairy farmers, teachers and laborers.  Whatever granite is in this place or in my ancestors lives on in me and in my Pagan practice.


And that granite is why I am so driven to speak out against racism.
To help me explain what I mean, I’m going to go ahead and borrow an ancestor: my friend Kirk White‘s father.
A Yankee like a Rock Kirk’s ancestors, like mine, were among the first Englishmen to arrive in North America.  Like mine, this landscape was where they found their home.  And like me, my friend Kirk and his family before him has loved New England–Vermont in his c…

Bears Eat My Lettuce

I love where I live;  since moving to our new home four years ago, I've been able to build a relationship with a piece of land for the first time since I was a child.  It's everything a dirt-worshipping Pagan could ask for.  I have a garden, and I grow much of my own food, and that is as much a spiritual delight as a taste treat.  And I have woods again as neighbors: glacial boulders, white pines and black birches, owls and white-tailed deer.

And bears.

And the bears eat my lettuce.



I'm not kidding about that.  Oh, it's winter now, and the bears are huddled up in their dens.  But this past spring, I grew lettuce.  Award winning, gorgeous lettuce: three different kinds!  They were nourished to extraordinary size and succulence by the cool, wet weather we had, and each night, I would gather just a few outer leaves, knowing that careful tending would mean tasty salads for months.

And then, over the course of three days, the bears ate every single one of my lettuce plants…

The Saturday Farm

I love Saturdays.

I have come to think of the work that I do on Saturdays as "farming."  Now, I know it isn't farming--not really.  We have a medium-sized vegetable garden and two dogs, and that's not a farm, by any stretch of the imagination. 

But I keep thinking of a comment Joel Salatin made in Yes Magazine once, about how Americans have become used to thinking of our homes as centers of consumption, but how once, thinking of your home as a center of production (typically, a farm, for most of us for most of our history) was the norm.

And between trying to live with less plastic junk and trying to eat more sustainably and locally, Saturdays at home have become very productive days.  And that productivity--the willingness to substitute patience, skill, and thrift for consumption--I've come to think of as a species of farming.  (My apologies to actual farmers, whose work I increasingly appreciate.  But thinking in this way works for me, somehow.)

First thing this…