Life didn’t go as planned one morning this week.
Too much running around, along with a neat and new “art fair” in town in the afternoon, made for a rather inefficient day. Plus, Rebecca had a meeting about two hours from here and pulled in near dark, so getting the gear up and ready for our annual butchering the chickens “day” simply didn’t happen. Oh, we were up early and eager, then looked at one another and made an almost unspoken consensus before Rebecca verbalized an obvious truth, “I don’t think we’re ready, or can be ready, in time to get much done.”
A fine reprieve, for from the moment I rolled from bed I had my eye on our prairie, for we awoke to a dense fog. On one of our last beautifully dense fogs I had a meeting in Redwood Falls and cursed myself on the entire drive down. I love fog, although not driving through them. One of my favorite fogs in my lifetime was in the Sand Hills of Nebraska, a day when the rolling dunes of fenced grass became a dreamy landscape. I’ve long lost my boxes of Kodachrome slides, though I can recall many of the images. One in particular was of a white horse by a willow, both in front of a distant red barn just visible in the mist, all dreamily captured in muted and mellow grayness.
By the time of our decision the sun had risen to give our prairie a glistening sheen. Partly from the remnant moisture from a brief shower from the night before, and party from a dense dew. With the scheduled pressure off, I took my camera to wade into the dampness where the grasses and forbs mostly towered over me. We have an amazing growth in our prairie.
We also have good color in our prairie this year. Last year we grew weary of the constant quilt of yellow. Oh there were occasional peeks of purple, and a persistent white prairie clover here and there, yet the dominant color was yellow.
This year, though, we have no complaints. Lavender bee balm pokes throughout, and so do many other colorful blossoms. While my focus has been on finding interesting individual plants, and in particular photogenic composition of parts of those plants, as well as the quality and color of light, these past few days my attention has been drawn to an overall colorful palate of our prairie.
This was where I was mentally on this morning when I began to notice the threading of our prairie. It all began innocently enough, for as I walked through the partially regrown path Rebecca had mowed through our grassy jungle I found gateway after gateway blocking my progress. I found that these creatively spun spider webs would collapse beautifully, opening just like a gate, if you pulled on a strand off to one side. This was no less amazing than the immense number of webs and threads spun throughout. Single strands were drawn between leaves of one plant to another, and in other places, more ingenious geometric forces were obviously at work. At one point I turned, and with the back light from the sun and the definition provided by the beads of dew, I realized I was literally surrounded by what must be millions of spiders, all hopeful of capturing an unaware gnat or mosquito.
While it is fun to watch the acrobatic flight of the many swallows we have flying over the prairie on any given summer evening, we were equally amazed one day late last summer when Rebecca noticed the thousands of dragonflies buzzing over the canopy of the prairie. Perhaps we should add those amazing spiders … all obviously much too shy to show themselves on this cool, damp summer morning.
Continuing down the path, I kept making photos here and there of various flowers, and as I did I realized I simply couldn’t take a picture that didn’t include some spiderous threading somewhere in the image. So I began to play with the light and dew, using the threads as parts of the composition. A little further along I came upon two of those iconic full spun webs, which with the dew and the light from the rising sun, sparkled like a jeweled necklace awaiting the adorning of the neck and bosom of a fortunate maiden!
Later I climbed our septic mound for the height and shot a few frames I hoped would more clearly define the immensity of the threading and webbing I had discovered on my foray.
When I came into the house, I suggested that I had learned how grassy prairies were held together over the eons. It wasn’t the bison herds, nor the vast jungle of rooting from the prairie grasses and forbs, nor the lightning fires refurbished those matted slopes. No, for it was plainly obvious the entire biome from the High Plains to the towering and forested Appalachian Mountains, from Saskatchewan flats to the piney hills of Texas, had been sewn together by an incredible group of shy Arachnids.
Indeed, it had been my good fortune to have just witnessed the vast threading of the prairie, stitching together that vast quilt of grasses and native flowers beneath the deep, blue skies!