THE MOTHS are here.
The vines that twine around the trellis fronting our home are favorites of the human and feline occupants.
For most of the year, there’s shade and a coronet of flowers and birds, which the cats heartily approve of.
In summer, the caterpillars show up. The leaves disappear. There’s never a week when pieces of the laundry have to be washed again to remove the brown stains that bloom from the odd rain that tumbles from the bare ribs of the stripped vines.
The leaves return with the rain.
In the fecundity that springs like panic around us, no one remembers the caterpillars.
Then the moths show up.
They cling to the screen of doors and windows. They cluster like leaves, curled and tossed by the wind whistling these past days.
The moths like, best of all, the white-washed walls, where they are easy distractions for the cats.
Stepping over slashed and ragged corpses during rain-washed mornings, I’ve wondered how much fun it is to play with creatures that never fight back.
It is almost as mysterious as the moths’ preference for open, exposed surfaces that mark them for death so soon after they exit from a cocoon.
Then I read that moths are not drawn to the whiteness but something else about the walls.
When an imago steps out of the cocoon, it rests on the empty shell to wait for its wings to expand and strengthen.
If the cocoon has fallen to the ground, the imago looks for any vertical surface nearby, such as a wall or fence, for this necessary rest.
I wanted to share this information with my companions at home. They believe that moths are souls of loved ones dropping by for a visit.
One of them, Yaya, makes a rollcall of all our dead when she stops before the wall of moths. With the cats watching on, their tails flicking like a metronome, she waves her hands and raises her voice to get the moths lifting off. She does not want those claws disrespecting our relatives.
According to a guide for hand-raising these insects, butterflies and moths must not be disturbed after eclosion or emergence. If a moth prematurely ejects the meconium or liquid used to inflate its wings, it will be crippled for life.
Even after a few hours, the time needed to harden the wings, some moths still cannot fly far. When too heavy or too soft, wings are not of much use.
How do I tell this fact to someone who believes moths, reincarnations of souls, should not be playthings of, all things, cats?
Or that an imago lives and dies for only one thing: to reproduce another in its likeness?
Flight and sex. Death and metamorphosis. Perfection and death.
Only a moth’s wing to tell the difference.
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*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Aug. 8, 2010 issue of “Matamata”