When we first moved to this house, moths visited the bathrooms every night through the summer and early fall. We kept the screenless window open for ventilation, and they flew towards the globe light bulbs above the mirror, spinning in circles around and around and landing on the tile to slurp spilled bathwater. I crawled after them with a camera and a macro lens, setting up lights and speaking gently to them. A different, new species appeared almost every night.

I've read that moths navigate by lunar pull, a sense for the position of lights and bodies beyond the atmosphere that goes beyond what our eyes can tell us. They get confused when lights are too close, and their long, careful inscription of the night turn into frantic tight circles when they breach humanity's fear of the dark. The lights here disrupt them. Things we need to survive disrupt things we can't understand. We have a right to be here, too.

I found Clarence after days of seeing bug dirt scattered under the geranium pot, and I wasn't ready to glimpse a white bristly worm in the corner of my eye while watering the tomatoes. I've never understood my aversion to looking at caterpillars enough to learn how to overcome it, so I startled and so did Clarence.

Maybe it's giving him a name and making him a friend; maybe it's missing the moth visiting the bathroom. After that first summer here, we rarely saw moths again. After a bit of a cooldown, I went to inspect Clarence again, and he reared up and shook at me until I retreated again. I wonder if that tactic works as well for the robins circling the porch as it does for me.

01 July 2014 23:14

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