It’s on those dewy mornings when the sun is just rising over the treetops that I can see, even from a distance, just how many spiderwebs there really are. They reach between the electrical lines lining Route 22. They take up space in the bare branches where the leaves used to be. Spider silk drapes from one dahlia stem to the next like clotheslines in tenement alleys.
On rainy mornings like this, it’s only what at first appears to be a leaf or feather floating in space that makes me want to look closer.
Then I see the web that I didn’t before.
I’m reading Ed Yong’s book An Immense World about how different animals perceive their world through their own unique senses. This is called Umwelt, a term contributed to zoologist Jakob von Uexkull in 1909.
When I read that Albatrosses create a map of the landscape under the ocean using their sense of smell, it rocked my world. What is it like to smell a map into existence?
Spiders know when an insect lands in their web from the vibration. Fire-chaser beetles, thrive in the charred landscape left by forest fires and can feel the heat of them from miles away. Many birds see colors we humans can’t even imagine. (All those little brown birds that I have such a hard time telling apart, don’t look brown to each other).
All of this has meaning for me because it reminds me of how much I don’t know. Of everything I can’t see that is right in front of me. And of everything else that I might be aware of if, like the butterfly, I could taste with my feet or “sense the faint breeze produced by a charging spider” like a cricket can.
It can be distressing, all this unknowing. But mostly I find it hopeful.
It makes me believe in possibilities I can’t even imagine. Not only for my own life but for the planet and all the varied life forms on it.
I took this picture of the waxing moon one afternoon last month. I have to remind myself that the stars are still in the sky even if I can’t see them.