‘Eumorpha typhon’. One of these hawk moths showed up in our courtyard yesterday. Picking it up, gently, tenderly, I was struck by the size and the velveteen softness of its body, and all the shades of vermillion and brown it wore. It had been clinging to a stucco wall, near to the ground, and appeared to be injured or dying. Its wings looked underdeveloped, as though they had never properly unfurled. A couple of its legs were active; others were folded in tight, unmoving. The moth extended its tongue, once, and it was very, very long.
I was very affected that it wasn’t ‘thriving’. I walk by beggars every day here in Mexico, often the same people who have been panhandling at the same corners for years. I admit to being rarely affected by their begging. It seems to come with the territory, and most of them have food and water nearby.
But this struggling hawk moth, it got to me. We are in the driest part of the year here, and most everything in nature looks shut down or in heavy conservation mode. Except for the birds. The birds are raucous in the morning, and they are raucous at night. Many are mating in mid-air or joining long lines of kin as they fly to one watering hole in the morning, and another in the evening, day after day after day.
I looked up the Latin for eumorpha typhon. It was here that I found a way to connect the unexpected appearance of this rarity to the events unfolding in my life: an impending stay in the US to attend to one son’s healing, a lengthy separation from my husband and youngest son, and more. ‘Eumorpha typhon’ means ‘well-formed whirlwind’ and whirlwind is precisely the state we are in.
I know I could construct a set of deeper, more expanded symbols out of my encounter with this moth. Don’t most of us do that at one time or another, when we are searching for meaning or for a way to explain the pockets of chaos or doldrums our lives fall into. Instead, I find I am grateful that this bug arrested me, and in that pause I was able to get quiet, and look deep, and see the beauty of a thing as it was winding down the days of its life.