I am making turning eggs in a skillet, spits of oil stinging my bare chest, when a tickle at my feet grabs my attention and I am surprised to see that I am not alone. A moth has hitched a ride on my right foot, and is contented enough that a few mild kicks do nothing to shoo him away. So, I get a closer look.
He’s a black cutworm, and the fourth I’ve seen this week. They’re native to the Gulf, but a smattering of tornadoes last week brought them up by the thousands. Now, they flutter about the Great Plains like itinerant preachers looking for an audience. If my experiences are any indication, they won’t get far. They’ve all seemed rather like this fellow on my foot: slow to react, disoriented, perhaps suicidal. I found one in my bedroom several nights back who singed his wings to embers against my lamp while I was on the phone with a friend, mesmerized.
The common belief that moths are trying to fly toward the moon is not quite true, but researchers are torn on what exactly it is they are trying to do. The general consensus is that the moon acts for them in much the same way as the North Star worked for ancient mariners. The difference being that a moth can actually calibrate his internal compass for the earth’s nightly rotation and the phases of the moon. Some fanciful entomologists have even hypothesized that moths have a geomagnetic compass hardwired to the moon and, in this way, follow its whims like the tide.
This theory accounts for the moth that charred its wings against my lamp. The moth appears to fly towards the moon because it’s not actually expecting to get to the moon. When artificial light – counterfeit moons – come into play, its guiding light turns deadly. And no matter how much it burns, how much light gets stuffed into its eyes, how much its wings flare into a fine, oozing flame – crisping, blackening, and disappearing altogether – the moth continues to smash itself into the light bulb, never suspecting that this thing is not, in fact, the moon.
Not by a long shot.
I take my stowaway between my thumb and forefinger and set him on the floor, near a musty corner. Morning sun pours in through an open window and laps at his legs. A blue flame twists from the oven. The humming white glow of my computer screen. Lights abound, but if any of them hold any interest for the moth, he doesn’t show it, but instead heaves his mottled body – looking positively furry on close inspection – into the calming blackness under the stove. It’s a short trip – shorter than the breadth of my hand – but my eggs have burned brown before he’s out of sight.
This from a creature who only recently flew half the country in a matter of days.
I scramble the brown eggs with half a zucchini and a green pepper and boil water for coffee. Last night, an utter stranger asked me if I was angry with God and I told him that I was not, just everything that comes with Him. He said that it’s very easy to confuse godly things for God, and but I don’t think that’s true. But then, I wouldn’t think it’s easy to confuse a lamp for the moon.