Friday, December 4, 2009

Spider Alchemy

Day 3 of Gwen Bell’s December blogging challenge:  Best Article '09



The earth is sacred.  I remember this when I'm standing on the street at dawn under a Bradford pear tree bursting with birdsong as the sky slowly turns from silver to peach or I'm watching a rose bloom in the snow.

But what about when I'm running late for someplace, talking on my cell phone in the back of a fossil fueled cab?  Do I remember then?  When my life seems to be speeding out in front of me, racing away from the natural world, sometimes a dramatic reminder of the profound beauty and alchemical power our earth possesses can bring me back into a state of wonder.

This really exists:  Golden silk threads that are 5 to 6 times stronger than steel and as soft as cashmere, created by large spiders in Madagascar.  The shimmering golden silk would make Rumpelstiltskin proud.  Scientists have been trying to emulate the material for use in NASA, and have failed to be able to do it thus far. 

Fishermen in Madagascar have been using the thread to weave simple nets for centuries, but the silk webbing is too time consuming to extract (painlessly and harmlessly) from the spiders to consider using it commercially. 

Still, two European men became obsessed with the idea of weaving with this spider silk and, with local women doing most of the real labor, they spent 5 years creating a large tapestry, which is now on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City until February ‘10. 

The men spent half a million dollars of their own money to do it.  They were called crazy.  Maybe they are.  But it is a crazy that I understand.  To me, the tapestry is like a visual poem, a ballad from and to the earth.  It is singing, ‘Look how amazing the earth is, the creatures of the earth!  Just look!’  It takes my breath away.

Here's the link to the fascinating New York Times article that inspired me trek to the museum and then wade through all of those old dioramas to see it for myself.    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/23/arts/design/23spiders.html

1 comment:

helga said...

Beautiful tapestry. Amazing feat of human & nature collaboration. The trick is as you said how to stay present, centered, mindful & aware in those when we're in a rush & everything else seems to disappear.