Wednesday, July 30, 2008

La Luna.

This morning I saw a luna moth. A huge thing, as big as my hand, and a soft, pale green. A green that reminded me of the bathroom in my childhood home. It was the green of my Nana's kitchen in Front Royal - formica countertops, 1950's dinette set, mugs hanging from hooks on the walls. Soft brown, furry dots that looked like eyes were on each wing, and its body was as fuzzy and white as a Q-tip. Or a puff of milkweed. Huge antennae grew from its head - pale yellow feathers for seeking out things. It was so delicate and beautiful that I could only stare and stare. Its eyes stared back at me, and it lay as still as if it had already been pinned and preserved under glass and placed in some Victorian gentleman's wood-paneled den for all time.

My morning had begun with me prying myself from the bed in the pre-dawn hours, determined after many weeks of slacking to start my running program again. Seeing that luna moth felt like a reward. I huffed and puffed down our lane, house music pumping in my ears to wake me up, the faint sound of the morning birds breaking through as well as the faint thump of my feet on the pavement. As I struggled, panting for breath, I had a quick memory of my friends in high school mentioning how they had seen my mother running in the early morning hours before school, and had a quick feeling of "Well, I'm carrying on that tradition I guess." I kept running, past the horse pastures, past the tiny, white-steepled Baptist church, the mist rising up, the sun rising over the hills. I passed a gravestone in the small churchyard - rose-colored and engraved with the word, "Momma" in curly script. Fake flowers surrounded it, pink and purple, red and blue.

And then I saw the moth. All thoughts of how much I was struggling and how my shins hurt faded away like morning mist. I stopped dead in my tracks, almost falling over myself. One second I was thinking, "That blade of grass looks weird," the next it's, "Is that a LUNA MOTH!?!?!?! Holy crap!"

Luna moths are very rare to spot, and almost always only come out at night. I'm no expert on bugs, mind you. All my knowledge comes from Barbara Kingsolver's book, Prodigal Summer. In the book the main character, Lusa, is a bug expert and studies moths in particular. She happens to see the elusive luna late one night when she's feeling hopeless. It appears to her, motionless and still, perched on a screen door. Lusa sees it as an omen of hope. That things have simply got to get better.

I saw it as this too. As I said before, it seemed like a reward for forcing myself to start running again. But it also felt hopeful. Not sure if this came from the fact I had read the book, or that I just needed a sign, or what. But it did seem awfully hopeful to see so majestic a thing so early in the morning. It felt like a discovery. It made me gasp.

As I ran back, I recalled how my cousins and I used to gather fireflies on summer evenings at my Nana's house. And eat s'mores. Such a damn cliche, but we did, almost every summer when I was a child. We had old Mason jars and would run around the back yard catching them, studying them for a while, then releasing them into the night air. Stop to eat a s'more, then run around again, catching light. Every time we caught one, it felt like a new discovery, like no one on earth had ever done this before. Seeing the luna moth this morning felt like that.

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Monday, July 21, 2008


The past month has been a whirlwind. I've traveled, gone to numerous restaurants, had people over, gone to cookouts, heard the most amazing stories, and all the while collected stories for myself. I write notes down in a book, like, "I must write about that," and it never seems to come to fruition. I've taken pictures, I've talked and talked and talked, but something has just prevented me from actually sitting down and putting fingers to keys.

I think it's because of summertime. Yeah, any excuse right? But for me, when the cicadas start screaming it's time to slow down. The hair goes back in a ponytail never to be revealed for another six months when the humidity dies, and the sandals come out to the sadness of all other shoes in your closet. Things calm the fuck down. Things slow to a snail's pace when the cicadas yell.

I started a new job two weeks ago which hasn't helped (more excuses). My slow days of looking for work, potchkeying around the house, and walking Lois have been replaced by filing, typing, copying, and filling out TPS reports. But I did get a chance to walk Lois this weekend and the scream of the cicadas reminded me that it is in fact, summer. As we swam through the midday soup, she panting like crazy and me sweating and sweating, I was strangely happy. I was reminded of all my other summers, suffering in our un-air-conditioned house. Spraying myself with water, using a wet rag on the back of my neck, eating popsicles, anything to help me forget how hot it was. I remember meandering down Floyd Avenue in the Fan, or Grove Avenue, or Stuart Avenue. The cicadas were calling and the ginkgo was just beginning to stink. Sultry summer nights in college when you were poor and your entertainment was walking about in the summer heat because your apartment didn't have air conditioning, and the one fan you did have just didn't cut it. The smell of the alley out your bedroom window would drive you into the street where you would smoke and smoke and try to forget how freaking hot you were.

I know for many people the arrival of the cicadas is definitely not heralded. Fingernails on a chalkboard, for hours and hours and hours. Yeah, I admit on some evenings I'm glad the air conditioner is running when I'm trying to fall asleep. But when I'm in the kitchen preparing tomorrow's lunch, and all the windows are open wide in the vain hope that some semblance of a breeze will be caught and will waft its way into our house, I am again strangely happy. All the lights are off to keep the heat down and just the overhead kitchen light illuminates my hands as they cut cucumbers for tomorrow's salad. The cicadas call and call and call. And I'm happy. Happy for the slowdown, happy for their joyful noise.

When we lived in the city, it was much farther to the north so the little guys weren't as loud. No humidity to speak of and some nights it got downright cold. Any night noise like crickets or cicadas were often drowned out by sirens, gunshots or the bus. But here they are loud, proud, and unapologetic. It's like they're saying, "Why are you rushing about so much? Don’t you see it's hot as Hades? Grab some iced tea and a book and slow the fuck down!"

Or something like that.

And anyway, I know I'm being overly nostalgic. I mean, they just started their cacophony this week. I'm not naive enough to think that by the end of the summer I won't be running outside at some point, fist to the sky, shouting, "Oh for the love of God won’t you just SHUT UP!?!?!" But I bet I also miss them when they go…

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