I was watching a home improvement/decorate-one-room-in-your-house-different kind of show last week, and at the end, the husband of the duo that had their kitchen redone described a chandelier above the new dining table as “gossamer”.
I sat and tilted my head at that, and blinked. It had been a long time since I had heard that word used, and I have always loved that word. I always took the definition of it to mean light, airy, delicate, or filmy. I know it to be a type of fabric, and was originally a type of hat in Britain but…
To hear an old fuddy-duddy man describe a lighting fixture with such a different adjective made it stand out all the more. True, it fit the fixture, it had feathers on it (seriously, it was hideous, but yes, gossamer-like in its presence) but that particular word was not expected in the least.
I rolled the word over all day in my head, thinking of other things that I could attribute to it, what it meant, why I loved it. It is one of the words I rarely use, and love to use at the same time, being such a specific adjective, only used for certain things, and not always appropriate. One would never describe a horse’s mane or tail as gossamer, or the feel of leaves in the water from a brook floating past your hands. These, although melodic in their senses, are not especially gossamer.
Things that came to my mind as I went about my day were feathers, fairy wings, and all matter ethereal and folksy, those see through tops that had the huge sleeves on them that we all wore a few years ago… I used to think they were gossamer, but that could tie itself back to the wing comparison I suppose. I pictures a dancing woman at Woodstock in the 70’s, her hair straight as a pin, her top billowy and sheer, her abandonment into happiness all too apparent.
I thought of spider webs floating in the breeze from an open barn door, smoothly undulating with a rise and fall so gentle that although dusty and inherently nasty to touch, was beautiful in its own right, and had the impression of silken softness. I imagined wisps of white in the sky trailing along, like Mare’s tails (A type of cloud), and the thinnest of silk scarves worn by women with saris and those awesome jingly anklets flying through the air as they danced about. I thought of Spring, and all the blossoms and pollen floating in the air with sunlight etching a pattern like gentle snow in winter does as you walk through it.
Gossamer brings to mind anything soft, filmy, tenuous. To touch it, it may disintegrate, a fleeting brush of magic across your fingertips as it floats away, almost invisible, but there if you look closely. The young heart in me can picture the pastel colours and sparkling fairy dust with sunlight making the entire world so brilliant that it is a make-believe smorgasbord of childhood dreams and hopes. The grown-up heart in me can see the sheer drape of a wedding veil, the soft flow of see-through fabric over skin, dropping invisibly to the ground in some commercial describing shaving cream or lotion.
All in all, I was entranced with the word, and found myself wishing for something gossamer to float past so I could revel in the senses that it would awaken, the softness and sweetness of a lingering touch on my skin. I longed for Spring, or the vision of light filmy fabrics draped on curtain rods to blow in the ocean breeze, the white sand providing the perfect getaway backdrop. I watched the movie Legend, to capture what I thought was a true picture of a fairy world where the word would fit as every day language. I wanted to hear the swish of delicate wings…
In the end, it fueled my creativity after a hiatus of writing brought on by a two-week cold virus and a sick child. I needed to feel the lightness it brought after heavy coughs, sweaters, and noses.
It is one of the words on my “favorite” list again, I missed it without realizing I had.