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In Pursuit of the Unobtainable

January 12, 2012

I am haunted by moths.

All summer and autumn long they find me.  Every time I enter my bedroom after sunset I am greeted by moths fluttering against the outside of my bedroom window; clinging to the screen; drawn by the promise of the warmth and light inside.  They fling themselves against my window pane casting lopsided shadows on my walls; their wings a perpetual thrumming against the glass.

Once my light gets turned off, most of them are leave; drawn off by the promise of other luminaries; real or imagined, but some remain.  Some continue to cling to the screen even with the absence of the light within.  They caught a glimpse of it; they know it’s there.  They’ll wait thank you very much, even if it means ignoring the greatest luminary of all that floats over their heads, turning a world of dark and shadow into a silvery fairyland.

Needless to say, with such a great gathering of moths at my bedroom window, the outside panes have become a favorite haunt of spiders and other nighttime predators for whom an energetic, single-minded moth would be a welcomed meal, and every so often morning will break to show a hapless specimen caught fast in a spider’s web; fluttering feebly as its lifeblood is drained to provide a meal for another creature.

Here where I live, January is one of the coldest times of the year.  The moths are long gone; the spiders have crept off in search of more hospitable climates (probably my basement, but I’d rather not think about that at the moment).  But last night I flipped on the bedroom light and was startled by a moth’s fluttering shadow against my wall.  On closer inspection I found that it was just the husk of a moth; what was left of its body and wings; caught in the tattered remnants of a long deserted spider’s web; the fluttering caused by the whipping of an unrelenting northern wind; wings still beating against the hard reality that kept the moth from its goal.  And without warning I found myself in tears.

This poor moth wanted nothing more than to reach the light.  For days; weeks maybe, it had gone from light to light; from window to window; searching for the answer to its driving question:  “Where is the light that was meant for me? Where is the light that will welcome me home?”  And yet, time after time, it was met with the solid reality of an impermeable barrier between itself and the light it had found itself drawn to; the artificial brightness that had blinded it to everything else; that promised the world, but would not – could not – follow through. Like thousands of others of its kind it had expended itself in a desperate attempt to reach its goal; even if that goal was unrealistic at best; an illusion of welcoming warmth; a mirage of belonging.

And all the time it had ignored that greatest of luminaries; the source of its instinct; a light source that gave freely and equally to all that turned their faces up to her; dispelling shadows and turning even the drabbest landscape into a silvery realm of enchantment.  Ignored her free gifts and giving up who they really were; their inheritance as children of the night; to pursue the starkly fake brightness of those artificial lights.

And I cry for the life she could have led; flying free in the open air, with the cool silvery light of the moon on her wingtips; the life she gave up in order to pursue a dream with no substance; a dream whose unobtainable promises blinded her to the beauty and meaning that was right before her eyes.

And so I opened up my window and swept the cobweb from the outside of my pane; letting the wind whip the remains of both web and moth out into the night; into the moonlit night of hope where what is, what was, and what will be have not yet been set in stone, and the dreams of another summer’s night with all its attendant possiblities, is  still waiting to be born.

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