June 26th, 2020


A few days ago, at the peak of the monsoon that shrouded my birthday, I went to my garden to refill the birdbath and found a tiny, silvery moth floating on its surface. Thinking it hindered by wet wings, I slipped a leaf beneath to offer a bit of traction, but the moth seemed beyond rescue and so I let be, first making these photos in the late afternoon sun.

That night, fierce rain toppled the tall cornflowers and prevented, for once, the elder woodchuck and teenaged deer from eating the rest. In the morning I checked on the moth, which I’d determined was a Lesser Maple Spanworm Moth, or Macaria pustularia.

The larvae feed on the leaves of maple, but also birch, a single specimen of which we planted nearby last year. This moth had overwintered in a pale pink egg, perhaps on our tree, then hatched a few weeks ago and spent a spell metamorphosing, seemingly for naught: it was dead.


I gingerly carried it, floating in that leaf, to my studio, along with an armful of salvaged cornflowers. Slipping the moth onto a piece of paper to dry, I pondered the totemic shades of this creature of the night (yes, I just wrote that, I’m 51, what of it?!), of things hidden, dreams and intuition.

It was not an easeful birthday, and every day since, I’ve felt evermore essential, returned to myself. I considered the nature of the solstice new moon floating through the same spot in the sky as it had when I was born—this time sliding between the earth and sun, momentarily eclipsing the light.


As a single wing dried, it came away from the paper, all crushed velvet and pumpkin-colored rings, a Victorian piano shawl complete with silken tassels. I left to fetch my camera, and when I returned, my heart leapt in my chest as the moth sprung from the dead, bravely flipping one-eighty to land on its feet, leaving its old self behind in a shadow of fairy dust.

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