Archive for April, 2015

Today, Earth Day, is my dad’s birthday as well. It’s easy to remember, because it’s appropriate. One of many memorable things about Dad is his love of earthworms. He liked to teach children about them, and children love to learn about worms. Case in point: Mark (little Mark) came home from school yesterday with a sheet of paper on which he had written some facts about worms.

“they have segmins. they poop drt to mack mor rich.”

He’s able to explain that rather more eloquently in conversation, and has been for years thanks to his Grandma and the composting worms she keeps in her garage or basement, depending on the season. Little Mark is well on his way to being as great a lover of worms as his Grandpa Mark.

I like worms just fine, but I tend more towards a love of caterpillars, and butterflies, and moths. I got that from my dad too, but more indirectly. There are so many things I miss about him; one of my most bitter thoughts is that he’ll never give me another book. In twenty-three years he gave me a remarkably large number of the books that have been important to me, from books I ended up dissertating about to books I’ve reread countless times for sheer pleasure. On the top of that list is “A Girl of the Limberlost,” by Gene Stratton-Porter. (Mom, apologies if you actually gave it to me – now I can’t actually remember!)

If you’ve never read “A Girl of the Limberlost” – I’m not surprised. I don’t think I’ve met anyone outside of my immediate family who has. It’s an old-fashioned novel in a lot of ways, and the world it’s about doesn’t exist anymore. The girl of the title, Elnora Comstock, lives on the edge of the Limberlost Swamp in Indiana, and collects butterflies and moths and other bits of nature to pay her way through school. I’ve read that book so many times. There’s no literary character I’ve so unswervingly admired, for my whole reading life. Elnora is good, and I wished so many times that I could be her.

Stratton-Porter was a naturalist as well as a novelist, and she describes nature with incredible detail and passion. It’s due to her, and Elnora, that I have always, always, wanted to see a Luna moth. It’s due to her vivid description that I know what a Luna moth looks like, even though I had never seen one – until yesterday.

Yesterday afternoon I picked Mark up from school, and as we were walking to our car, there, on the grass by the sidewalk, was a Luna moth.

I kind of freaked out. The moth appeared to be dead – not moving, wings a bit tattered. We brought it home, and I proceeded to tell Mark to “BE CAREFUL!” every time he touched its antennae, or blew to make its wings move. Seth could not understand why I was being a crazy person about the moth, because he just doesn’t know about Elnora Comstock and the Limberlost. It’s okay, I don’t blame him. But I wanted to keep and preserve and stare at that moth for the rest of my life.

Until it turned out to be not dead. First it twitched an antenna. Then its wings began to vibrate. And then without warning it flew around the living room. There was shrieking, and frantic turning off of lights so it wouldn’t hurt itself flying at them, and we managed to get it outside. It didn’t move much after that – it was clearly at the end of its life. So Mark and I watched it for a while longer, and I took pictures, and we put some sugar down in front of it just in case, and then I went in to make dinner. When I came back out to check on it, it was gone.

Thanks for visiting, Luna moth. You couldn’t have come at a better time; I needed a reminder that the beautiful things of this world are not all gone.

“Elnora handed her mother a handsome black-walnut frame a foot and a half wide by two long. It finished a small shallow glass-covered box of birch bark, to the bottom of which clung a big night moth with delicate pale green wings and long exquisite trailers. A more beautiful thing would have been difficult to imagine.”

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