We were rushing into school on a typical day when I saw a spot of green on the asphalt.
Closer inspection revealed the spot of green to be an adult luna moth. She was lying directly in the path where schoolbuses would soon be passing by. I scooped her up into my hands gently. She didn't resist at all.
I have always loved Luna Moths. I even used an image of one on the cover of my book, The Absence of Anyone Else. But I'd never, ever, held one in my hands.
My son was enthralled. The Luna was still alive, but barely, and I explained to my son that it would most likely die. It had been bitterly cold the night before, which could have affected her, but also most large moths, like Lunas, have relatively short life spans and females will die soon after laying eggs.
The Luna was so weak. She barely moved when I transferred her from my hand to my son's in order that he could hold her. Her wings had suffered some damage, and the only sign of life she issued at all was an occasional wriggling of a leg or two. She was safe with us, however, and she seemed to know this.
My son is enrolled in a Montessori program, and his class is currently studying insects. We put the Luna into a container for butterflies and my son took it to his classroom, where it would be placed in an appropriate viewing area for the children. As an artist, however, I wanted to keep the Luna's remains as a visual reference for a painting. I've painted Luna moths before, but always from a photograph, never from a life study. I told my son's teacher I'd pick the moth up at the end of the day.
When I arrived, the teacher informed me our Luna had not moved at all during the day, but the children had enjoyed watching it and the class had talked about Luna moths and thier life cycles. So imagine my surprise when, back in my classroom, the moth suddenly seemed to undergo a complete transformation! I was packing up my supplies when my son cried, "Mama, look! She's flying!"
And she was. Or trying to, at least, as she was still confined by the container she was in. I was amazed. And excited. We brought her home right away, and carried her out into the nearby woods. I gently let her rest on my son's hand, hoping she'd take flight from there, knowing it would bring him great joy.
After a few minutes, however, it was clear this wasn't to be. Worried that perhaps I'd misinterpreted the suddenly burst of life the Luna had demonstated, I placed my hand on his. As if on cue, she walked slowly across my fingers and rested in the center of my palm. I held my hand up, high, and she slowly fanned her wings. Then she lifted up, taking flight. She dipped and dived a moment or two, hovering about us, and then dissappeared off beyond the trees. Her wings, though damaged, were strong. She flew high, and away. She would live another day, she would lay her eggs, all would be as it was meant to be.
There's a very old adage that states 'when the student is ready, the teacher will appear'. It just doesn't say what form or shape that teacher will take. When I found the Luna that morning, I was convinced she was dying. I never imagined she would fly from the palm of my hand later in the afternoon. But I know now that she flew from my hand, not my son's, because although I wanted him to have the experience, it was me that needed the lesson she offered.
It is easy, sometimes, to assume a thing is at an end, when the reality is, it simply needs time, as the Luna needed time, so that it can grow stronger, take flight, and become all it is meant to be. I didn't realize it before, but I needed to see this happen in order to believe that it could.
Life is an amazing series of adventures. We are always learning. A teacher appeared that morning in the form of a gentle winged insect, an insect I loved, one that I had painted many times and even used an image of on the cover of my book.
She had a lesson to teach me...and yes, I was ready.
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