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© Dianne Mize, 2013


The story began a couple of months after Howard's death when a Polyphemus moth perched on the porch screen, laid her eggs and then died.  I had seen her many times before, had watched her and photographed her, but experiencing this last sequence of her life touched me deeply. Her image lingered with me for days.


The Moth Story

I Googled Polyphemus to learn the moth was named for Polyphemus who plays a pivotal role in Homer's "Odyssey."  That was a revelation:  Homer was Howard's most favorite sage.

Reading further, I found that moths tend to use celestial navigation.  Just for fun I used the celestial navigation principle to draw a sphere within which repeated lines vanished to a single point, like the navel of an orange.  Then I drew an outstretched view of the moth within that sphere, placing its head slightly below the vanishing point, allow its striations to follow. Within this formation, I did another watercolor painting.

Finally, I started some sketchbook studies of her and began to feel this moth a metaphor somehow relating to Howard. 

I began to realize these studies and paintings were playing a major role in my coming to terms with Howard's death.  I decided to end the series with a painting of the mother moth giving birth then dying.   

I thought that the moth metaphor had run its course, but I would be proven wrong.  Another alighted on a tree as if in upward flight.  The metaphor was taking on new layers of meaning, calling for another painting

The Mother Moth

Lured towards light she flutters and soars, then lands

upon the tree bark that shields a rising sap.

Replete with life she halts, clutching the bark with graceful pause

while tree sap flows behind the surface to which she clings.

Her sojourn ending she lays her eggs,

batches of tiny bubbles cradled outside her body's curve.

There her body lingers as she takes her final breath.

Pale green leaves sprout from barren twigs linked to limbs

joined to the long, toward trunk of that old tree in our yard.

Roots reach outward barely beneath the earth’s crust--roots that feed

life-giving sap to nascent foliage, destined itself to fall to the ground

in late autumn, long after the mother moth gave birth and died.

                                                                   Dianne Mize, 2010

I began to backtrack to earlier days when I had first noticed the moth.  I had photographed her lit on a tree trunk where she took flight just seconds afterwards.  I did several studies from this moment, then did the first watercolor painting.

"Like Icarus"    14" x 14"   Watercolor

“Polyphemus “    20" x 22"  Watercolor on Paper

"Ascending"      20" x 28"    Watercolor on Cold Pressed Paper

"Alpha Omega"    20" x 28"   Watercolor on Cold Press Paper

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