|Posted by Angela Cannon-Crothers on October 29, 2011 at 3:35 PM|
Outside with Angie -- September Strands
September is spider webs. Every morning long silver strandsreach from roof edge to doorway; perfectly designed nets are strung across theporch railings and in the woods small discs shimmer between tree branches. Themost active and talented webmakers this time of year are the orb weavingArgiope, or garden spider-- a large yellow and black spider whose females growthree to five inches in length. Each night the Argiope devours all strands ofher spiral web from the previous day and then spins a new spectacular piece ofwork to catch her evening dinner. As the month progresses she will feel theclose of the season, the hurriedness to finish all that is left to be done, layan egg, and die. The egg will hatch over 1,000 spiderlings who overwinter intheir snug egg sac, waiting till spring to balloon away into the world ongossamer threads.
September is sunflowers slumping their shoulders, heads offalling yellow hair bent as if in prayer, preparing seeds our winter songbirdscan enjoy. In September the curtain is raised; the unveiling of chlorophyllpigments of orange carotene, red anthocyanin and yellow xanthophylls in leavestake center stage. September is Monarch butterflies and troops of green darnerdragonflies gathering, preparing to migrate before a first frost drops cricketsin the fields like stones -- leaving us a sudden silence.
We live in a region where climate and season dictate theinstincts and changes in the natural world, but how much does season and climateaffect us? Are we not all engaged in this last flamboyant act? Seasonally thegrapes round and ripen and pie stands appear along the roadsides. The Fire Godlures me into hauling and stacking wood for a charismatic mystery and warmth Iwill be smitten by. Tomatoes are stewed and canned, the last of the basil ispicked, and chickens culled. We are shaped by the season, the shortening ofdays -- strands of the natural world that pull with a powerful tug. But doesthe web feel the pluck of climate change here?
I spiraled back to McCarthy, Alaska this summer (anengrossing writing workshop back in the town I lived in after finishingcollege) and basked in sweet balsam poplar scented air surrounded by ice cappedpeaks and rivers leaping like the backs of whales. I used to hike the Kennicottand Root Glaciers when I lived there, and although I was deliriously happy toget my crampon-footed -boots back onto that ice, I didn’t fail to notice thelarge tarn lake that wasn’t there before and the receding of this living,breathing being of ice and rock. But that’s what glaciers do – they change –change the landscape and their own forms, right?
One poetess there who spent five years teaching Inuitchildren above the Arctic Circle talked about the melting permafrost, aboutpolar bears coming into the village looking for food, about entire communitieslosing their homes due to climate change. All around me writers wondered how tohelp the call to action, how to help stop our rapid change in the planetarythermostat. I grappled with the enormity of such a task and then sat and justtook in the sublime that was still here around this little frontier town. I sawhow the cabins there had changed – solar panels on roofs now (not that therewas any other source of power), a community garden (free for the pickin’s), andsignage to remind everyone how precious their stream source of clean drinking waterwas to them (a water hole I visited like a ritual at the end of each day on myway back to my tent). Driving inMcCarthy was practically forbidden (just getting a permit for a car in thevillage was pricey) but there was a shuttle van. I saw that small, simple solutions, strandupon strand, might add up.
September, like our lives, strides forward with acceleratingspeed and blinding busyness. Should we not all rush to finish with all thisgrowth and production? And then I see the bright yellow side-striped spider,eight long legs nearly orange, just waiting. The labyrinth she strung across mypasture fence last night is one of her last acts of beauty before the seasonends. It reminds me how connected all life is with its environment, itsseasons, and its climate. I wonder what webs we might weave that could reflectsuch perfect grace if we truly took to heart the old saying attributed to ChiefSeattle, about how whatever we do to the web affects the web of life, thestrands of which we are all part of.