The Moth Story
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.