Signs of Spring: The Moth

Last night, the first moth of the year landed on my window, a soft thump followed by that insatiably fluttering for lamplight. These past days I’ve been savoring firsts, stopped in my tracks while out on my walks to listen to the first red-winged blackbird squall of the year, or to look up at the first black vultures roosted in trees for the night, or to walk slowly beside the guardrail in order to trail a few steps behind the small muskrat swimming alongside the silty bare bush bank of the pond that shed its ice in the past week. But I don’t recall noticing before this year the first moth to land on my window, surely testing the limits of the cold still preserving banks of white snow like reverse shadows in the woods. Window moths, in my experience, travel in hordes, but this one arrived alone, so I opened my window to welcome this harbinger into my cozy lit study. It landed on my desk, filled with such energy even as it stilled its wings that it seemed to be shivering at ten times human speed. I studied the ash gray shadings of its wings, a pattern as indistinct as smudgy soot, and decided that I’d never be able to identify moths, as challenged as I already am by butterflies with far bolder features. I watched this creature crawl about for an inch or two, hauling its wings like a stiff gown, then rise into short bursts of flight onto my computer or windowsill, powered by a papery spinning motor of wings that tickled but scared me off as I attempted, ever so hesitantly, to cup this visitor in my hands. Then it landed smack dab on the center of my computer screen, drawn perhaps by the white cloud light stitched with black type. Casting aside any pretense of scientific objectivity, I felt blessed by its gesture, as if this moth had come to approve to my efforts, seated alone at my computer at 10 o’clock on a Friday night to be with my writing. What can you say to an animal like that, except I’m glad to be sharing this planet with you. For a moment, I considered letting the moth stay overnight, my new mascot from the wilds, but knew that its motions would be too distracting to let my mind slip back into that imaginative quietude needed to write. Plus, the moth had its own life to live outdoors. So, emptying my pen holder cup, I trapped it, careful not to pin or damage its wings, then opened my window again and poured it out into the darkness. Moments later it was back at the window. But my thoughts sank back into the words on my screen. In time I finished, read in bed for a while, turned off the lights. This morning, as I sit down to write under the overcast of a new day and remember the moth that I’d already forgotten, I stir with the yearning for another first of the season, a feeling that in the six types of human love and affection categorized by the ancient Greeks would be added as a seventh, biophilia.

This entry was posted in Nature Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.