In the Midwest, where the land gets flat and becomes prairie, at night the darkness and landscape begin to look like the same plane. Something magical happens when this occurs–moths, lightning bugs, stars and the trails of airplanes become a mysterious light show; a trick of the darkness and low ambient light. The night looks,sometimes, like one of those Lite-Brite sets from childhood. The further one gets from the city and the street lights–the more magical this looks.
I’m always hypnotized by the dance of moths and bugs around lights or fires. . .what I came to think of, as a kid, as “strange angels.”
People who live on the coasts will often derisively refer to the midwest as a “flyover,” robbing themselves of a chance to experience the mysteries of the landscape here, and the magic therein. It’s a shame.
In Indiana and Ohio there is a creature called the Crecopia moth that is born without a mouth. In its entire life, (a mere matter of hours) it never eats. It lives just long enough to breed and then it dies. But while it is alive, it is one of the more beautiful things on this earth. And I guess being alive long enough to bust a nut is better than not breeding at all.
I think moths are beautiful. they are also as destructive as hell. They eat paper and cloth and sometimes other moths. Yet they come in these other-worldly dresses and sometimes echo other natural forms. Atlas Moths are huge and beautiful and look like they were made from Arican or Indian cloth. Luna Moths are a shimmering pale green, like celestial candy. Hawk moths are an ominous and lethally lovely pattern of splotches and autumnal colors–greys, umbers, yellows and rusts that are intoxicating.
I tend to return to moths from time to time as a subject, particularly when describing a place. They are so much part of my childhood–the big, beautiful buckeye moths that used to scare me as a kid. . .the tiny white, powdery ghost moths that seemed so ephemeral and fleeting. In the autumn, I’d find them dead on the widow sill from the season’s first freeze and I would be reminded that every still thing is the mirror of another, and also of the Unamuno quote that states, “We die of cold and not of darkness.”
I used to think they were attracted to the light, when in fact it was heat they were seeking in order to stay alive, like us; just trying to stay in the world while dancing their tenuous dance with mortality in the light.