[Tweeters] Sewing the Sowing Sky

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sat Aug 9 21:05:04 PDT 2014

Another brilliant and breezy summer day here in Port Townsend. After sanding window frames on the house, I sat around and watched what was going by in the afternoon.

Again I was entertained by big Darner dragonflies moving easily through the breeze; some were our Washington State's official insect, the Green Darner, but also some 'blue one's' that I haven't identified yet. Anyway, its enjoyable watching their general zig-zagging flight, with the occasional ultra abrupt jaw-dropping move at such high speed it's hard to follow.
In the Myths and Tall Tales Department, these big insects with the needle-like body were supposed to be capable of sewing your mouth, ears or eyes shut - particularly if you weren't being a good boy or girl. I suppose these ideas came from the same people that claim bats will make nests in your hair. Whatever.
If Darners were sewing the sky, like darning a big hole in a giant windsock , they needed a bit of yarn, because a lot of breeze was coming through despite all their flights. It wasn't stopping the drifting thistle seeds, that's for sure.
Whoever came up with the saying "light as thistledown" sure knew what they were saying, because the stuff is an astounding telltale of every invisible nuance of the breeze - making the invisible visible. This fluff can show you the remarkable fluctuations of the air flowing by in what author Theodor Schwenk referred to as the "sensitive chaos". If you assume the NW breeze is just going simply by, the thistledown will show you that the air movement can be incredibly complex - broken up by trees, buildings, hedges - and just general large and small scale flow chaos. A flying bird must know a lot about the subject too, just by getting around.
Backtracking NW one day, I discovered the source of all this thistledown - a vacant lot several blocks away covered with Canada Thistle sowing it's seed. Alas, this non-native thistle is considered a noxious weed, and it can really ghettoize a productive field. Yet this obnoxious plant does mark the wind beautifully with its fluff.
I imagine that a time-lapse film of dispersing thistle seeds could really be an incredible "wind show" as the thistledown goes with the flow, this way and that. At times the thistledown blowing through the yard here has made such incredible direction and speed changes, that it was darn near like a Darner move - the Dragonflies were interested too ; I've seen several zoom up to check out the zippy stuff.
By the way , Theodor Schwenk wrote a book titled "Sensitive Chaos: the creation of flowing forms in water and air" back in 1965. A beautiful and interesting book about how and why water and air flows the way it does, and thereby influences our world. Outta print, but you can get it online. I had a copy decades ago and loaned it out where it drifted off to the land of loaned books, never to be seen again.
Jeff Gibsonwatching the wind inPort Townsend Wa

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