Thursday, October 25, 2012

Feathers and Wings

There are wings on the floor, dozens of them. I grab the broom and sweep them, quickly and unceremoniously, out the door. The miller moth migration had come through our house and garden and my studio. I never really mind that they choose to pay us a visit during their journey. Like thunderstorm season and the season of hot dry days and grape popsicles, miller moth season was a regular part of my childhood.

I enjoyed catching the moths in my cupped hands, letting them crawl around in the small cave I had created for them out of my fingers, and feeling their wings as they tried to fly away. Out of all the insects I loved, these were my favorites. Daddy-long-legs might be easier to catch and Lady bugs were prettier by far, but when the miller moths came through, there were hundreds of them, thousands of them! They were everywhere!

Not all my family shares my enthusiasm for the insect world. In some cases, I agree with them. I've had a few run ins with stink bugs and earwigs make me cringe. I was relaxing in the bath one evening when I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It was a beetle, dog paddling towards my right ear. It's amazing how quickly one can go from being totally relaxed to jumping up, as stiff as a board, out of the water. I can't imagine how the beetle felt.

One thing we all enjoy are spider webs. Most years we will have a cat's head spider build a beautifully designed orb web in our shed. One year, the web was over a foot in diameter. Every morning and evening we would go and check on the web. “He's got a wasp,” my son would report. Catching a meal often left gaping holes in the spider's handiwork. We would be in awe the next morning when we found the web repaired as if nothing had happened.

Lately, we've inadvertently provided an entire spider habitat. Our daughter left her winter boots on the front patio and there is now a lovely funnel web going down into one of them. As far as I can tell, it's a little brown barn spider in there. He'll have to move out before winter, but for now, it's a cozy place to live.

Fortunately, I'm not bothered by all our insect visitors because my studio seems to be one of their favorite places to hang out. The miller moths especially loved it, evidenced by the number of wings left on the floor. Perhaps some of them were partying a little too much?

As I sweep the wings out the door and into the yard which already has chicken feathers and goose feathers strewn about, I startle my geese and they fly off the stumps that serve as the studio's front porch. My geese often keep me company while I'm in the studio. Barnyard geese cannot fly. They think they can, however, and they sometimes even get airborne for as much as six or seven feet, though never more than a foot off the ground. The younger ones try now and then, running as fast as they can downhill, and flapping their wings. I haven't the heart to tell them it won't work.

When I was younger, you see, I knew how to fly. For some reason, it had to be a secret, although I'm not sure why. Perhaps because others wouldn't understand. I never went too high. It was more like hovering, really. I would go along, about six inches above the ground, never thinking anything about it. When I was older, I realized it had only been a dream, but as a young child, dreams are just as real as anything we do while we're awake, and I knew, quietly and confidently, I could fly anytime I wanted.

The studio is swept and the broom hanging on the nail by the door. I walk back to the house, walking on tattered wings and feathers shed by molting geese. Miller moth season is over and soon again will start the season of visits from our grandchildren. Someday, I'll have to teach them how to catch moths in their hands and make caves for them with their fingers. We'll find the spider webs and see if we can see the funny cat's head spider, hiding in the corner. They'll find lady bugs, roly-polys, caterpillars, and probably a few stink bugs, too.

Maybe someday, I'll even tell them about flying.

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