Stars and Spider Webs

A sky full of stars … This was my consolation for not being able to sleep the other night. When I went to the kitchen for a glass of water, I looked out the window and saw a very black sky, and so many shining specks and misty dustings.

Even out in the open space above the river in Paris, you’d never see clear stars like that. The Paris sky at night is milky. It is too lit up by streetlights even at 3 a.m. to allow the stars to really glitter.

That night of stars was a couple of days ago, in a short interlude of fine weather. Now the rain has returned – and this morning the view through that window is of a very large spider web.

The light is just bright enough for me to see needling lines of rain against a dark green background of pittosporum leaves, and the great fragile wheel of web, glistening with tiny drops. In a slight breeze, the lowest section droops, and becomes scalloped …

It’s such an ordinary sight here. And mostly the webs are a nuisance, strung up all through the garden so that I’m constantly walking into them and getting a sticky hairnet. Or worse, a close encounter with an outraged spider.

But when early morning sunlight glows along the silken lines, or when the frail net catches raindrops and swells out in the slightest gust of air as this one is doing, all that nonchalant architecture is beautiful.

In Paris, I didn’t see spider webs, either. What’s been done to all the insects there? I used to wonder. Has the whole city been bombed with pesticide?

Of course, Paris offers other exquisite surprises. One thing the city does breathtakingly well, is dress itself in light. Even on the bitterly cold winter days when we arrived last February, there was a soft, velvety glow as if the old limestone buildings and the modern concrete constructions were just the right dusty white to reflect back into the narrow spaces above the streets what little sun there was.

And at night, even without bright stars, the city is luminous. Car lights, traffic lights, police lights, lit-up monuments and apartment blocks – and so much of it also making coloured yellow and red and blue lozenges in the river until the bateaux mouches come by, blinding everything with their searchlights.

The Eiffel Tower, honeycombed in the distance as soon as it’s dark, may be kitsch – but I loved it. On the hour, every hour, it went into a frenzy of sparkling, like a nightclub dancer shimmying in a sequined shift. It was wonderful during the winter months –I only had to walk five minutes from our studio to Ile St-Louis, and I could see it.

As the daylight hours lengthened, though, even the simple glowing honeycomb of the tower was harder to catch. By then, after six months in the City of Light, I should have grown blasé about it. But in fact I missed the nightly transformation.

Spider webs, a sky full of stars … just simple pleasures here at Lake Macquarie. And in Paris? What else was there? More of that another time!

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