The Moth Story

Lured towards light she flutters and soars, then lands
upon tree bark that shields a rising sap.
Replete with life she halts, clutching bark with graceful pause
while fresh sap flows behind the surface she clings to..
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

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.

I started some sketchbook studies and began to feel this moth a metaphor somehow related to Howard.

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

I Googled Polyphemus to discover that the moth was named for Polyphemus who plays a pivotal role in Homer’s Odyssey.  That was a revelation because 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 the sphere, placing its head slightly below the vanishing point, allowing its striations to follow.  Within this formation, I did another watercolor painting.

I thought the moth metaphor had run its course, but another one lit on a tree as if in upward flight.  The metaphor was taking on new layers of meaning, calling for another painting.

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, as I had first seen her on my porch screen.