All At Once

The weatherman says that the air will be no warmer than 45 degrees Fahrenheit and that it will rain most of the day.

But in our house, spring has arrived.

About two months ago, my dad came in carrying two matted leaves.  “I brought you something,” he said, grinning.  Knowing (and sharing) my family’s facetious sense of humor, I assumed the dry and crackly objects had stuck to his coat as he came in the house.

“Thanks,” I replied, moving toward the trash can.

“Don’t throw it away,” my mother interjected.  “It’s a cocoon.”

There, wedged ever so precariously between the two leaves was a brownish coil perfectly camouflaged, except for the faintest hints of white webbing.  I searched for a wide-lipped jar to house our newest neighbor and had to hope the Vlasic pickle jar would be big enough for our mummified friend.

For two months, the brown leaves in silence sat on the kitchen window seat.  Some days, I’d wonder if the cocoon would ever open.  Would it be a beautiful butterfly?  Or perhaps it would be some sort of un-winged, pestering grub like the kind that move into our mailbox from time to time.  Some days, the cocoon was no more than a fixture on our window seat, a companion to the expired seed packages, ceramic candle-cover, and coupons.  But one day—yesterday to be exact—it was spring in our house.  And I came home to find something big and brown with wings and six legs leaning against the side of the pickle jar.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Time is so deceptive.  We wait for things, building up hopes and fears.  And when spring comes, we find life is entirely different than we expected.

We didn’t have a butterfly.  We didn’t have a grub.  Inside our Vlasic pickle jar was some variety of Saturniid moth.  I named him Galdalf as he resembled the large moth who helps the imprisoned wizard in The Fellowship of the Ring.

We researched moths last night, looking at the pictures of Polyphemus, Cecropia, and Luna moths.  Gandalf didn’t seem to fit any of the pictures.  His wings looked brittle and patterned with alternating shades of brown.  The eyes on his wings were dark, not white like a Cecropia moth.  He definitely was no luna.  And his shading didn’t meet the criteria for a Polyphemus.  He was brown and too big for the pickle jar.  And that was all we knew.  That’s okay, I thought.  He’s a Gandalf moth.

Gandalf grew stronger overnight.  When I reached the window seat, he was upside down, clinging to the top edge of the jar. We went outside and gently unscrewed the lid.  Gandalf slid out stiff.  He stood upright, his wings perpendicular to the railing, and promptly fell over.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

He really looked pathetic.  I, in my ignorance of moths, feared he had died already.  We chanced a touch to his frail body and saw a glimpse of his wings, much more colorful than the drab brown we had seen before.  The wings were a soft brown with tinges of beige and the palest of purples—perhaps he was a Polyphemus.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The time was to leave for work approached.  But at the last moment, we decided he stood out too much with his dark wings against the beige railing.  After all, we wanted to give him some sort of head-start against the wild and fierce starlings that haunt our neighborhood.  I took two leaves and tried to scoot him onto one with the other.  His furry (or hairy as the case may be) feet clung to the rough leaf edge as I set him in a pile of brown leaves where he was better camouflaged.  He stretched his wings once again.  And then we left.

I hope he has flown away by the time I get home from work.  He waited a long time to get wings.  He stayed still, outwardly dormant in the dry husk of a cocoon while inside he was metamorphosed from his stubby green legs and stocky body into a rust-colored, flying Gandalf moth.  We humans are so impatient.  We want change now.  Why couldn’t he go straight from plump, multi-legged pupa into a winged polyphemus moth?  But instead, he moved in stages, without hurry or rush.  He changed in dormancy.  Perhaps, waiting is not such a bad thing after all.

*written 3/29/13

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