November 3, 2014

November's Gossamer Day

On a warm, blue-skied, mid-November day with gentle breezes stirring, thousands of young spiders launch themselves on silken threads above Great Meadows.  Sailing up over the cattails and buttonbushes, some are carried high on the thermals, over the Concord River and out of sight.  Others arrive to festoon the marshes with their gossamer parafoils, which catch the low afternoon sunlight.

The Middle English word gossamer means 'goose summer,' that time around St. Martin's Day (November 11) when the weather briefly warms, the geese are fat for eating, and silken threads drape the land.  The French call these delicate spinnings Fils de la Vierge and in Germany it's Spinnfaden. 

In temperate regions across the world, young spiders take to the autumn sky, surprising, baffling, and delighting observers with their floating filaments and silk-draped landscapes. 

At Great Meadows, this annual spider migration is conjoined with the annual flocking of the marshes with cattail fluff.  The autumn-whipped winds shake bales of downy cattail seeds into the air and all this fuzz catches on the newly draped gossamer, flocking the landscape like a 1960's Hallmark card.

On November 13, 2013, these gossamer events coincided on the day of the full moon and caught me in their spell as I walked the evening trail.

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