Watching a spider's line moving dreamily in the breeze, from a chair on the back porch about 10 feet away from it. The line runs between a chair in the backyard and a nearby fern, about 4-5 feet long and approximately 3 feet off the ground throughout.

The line softly lofts up and down in the air, as if breathing.

As it undulates, parts of it catch the sunlight. There is a silvery sliver of light that appears to run back and forth along the line, as that part of the line moving in the air which is at just the right angle to my line of vision catches the sunlight and reflects it toward me. From my seat, the line is invisible except as it reflects the sunlight, which slides up and down the line "marking" its presence as it moves. Even close up the line is almost invisible to the naked and concentrating eye, except where it reflects the light.

Fascinated, I focus intently, though after a little time this narrow focus hurts and my eyes and mind wander.

But I keep coming back.... The texture of this reflected, moving light seems resilient and resinous like the spider's line itself, as if the line were made out of shafts of sunlight spun extremely finely. But usually only a small part of the line, a sliver, reflects back to me in a given moment, and as the line moves this sliver appears to move back and forth linked to the movement of the spider's line up and down in the air.

It is a little like watching a pulse of light moving along a fibre-optic line, except that this light dances back and forth, sometimes (when the wind picks up) moving just a little to the left and then to the right, sometimes moving much more rapidly first in one direction and then another, scanning a good part of the entire length of the line. And like a pendulum, it seems to move more rapidly the farther it "travels" when the spider-line moves sharply in the wind. Also, if I focus all my attention I notice that its apparent "length" varies slightly and continuously, as if it is being pulled out like a semi-liquid resin or taffy and then compressed again as it moves.

How could the spider have made this line? Flying horizonally using the loft of a breeze? But 4-5 feet? I can't really imagine even a very light spider being able to fly this far or this accurately, yet I also can't imagine any other way to construct it: their are no other connecting lines. The spider must have just launched out toward the fern from the chair's top, or vice versa, sort of like a hot-air balloon is launched, except that it relied entirely on the buoyancy of the air to sustain the flight.

It's impossible to tell which was the line was originally "drawn"; in fact, it's very hard to see where it's attached to both these objects without a magnifying glass. And what position do spider's get into when they are airborn? How do they judge the air conditions beforehand? (This flight was clearly plotted and planned.) Is this line the anchor-line for a web to be constructed? (If so, there's nothing there yet.) Or just a way of getting from one place to another, a glowing trail marking the path left behind?
Ryko:

sound from a point of light (Japanese)
Angles of incidence 
		angles of refraction 

	angles of incidents 
		angels of reflection
compare:

an inchworm dropping down
from a hanging branch on its spun line
its head is within a inch or so
of grasses on the ground as
it twists gently in the breeze.


Jonathan Edwards' early notebooks


[8-8-93]

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