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THE MONTANA SILKMOTH
A story of hyalophoria cecropia

The Montana Mothman by Parris Ja Young on Time on the Planet Stories
 

by Parris Ja Young
June 16, 2020

One day I was checking the condition of my favorite chokecherry bush. Were there bag worms (isn't that a horrible name) to remove? Would the berries be fat and dark? I looked down at the tiny leaves upshooting around the big bush and saw a cup of blue glowing light.

In a cartoon, this is cool, but in reality it's a miracle
I bent low to examine. Chokecherry leaves were drawn together to make a kind of chalice, a goblet stitched together with silk. Sunlight through the leaves was shining directly on the silk, creating a beautiful, pale blue light. It positively glowed. 
I looked closer still and, inside the chalice, a giant caterpillar rested. It was bigger than my thumb. Bright green, it also had very large spots of bright yellow and red. On some spots and all along its back were long black glistening spikes. I learned later that these spikes are venomous. Beautiful and, to me, alien. So, of course, I gently gathered him/her and took it home.

 
The Montana Mothman by Parris Ja Young on Time on the Planet Stories
 

Inside the caterpillar cage (I just happened to have one), the huge caterpillar was not helpless. I touched it with a pencil tip and the worm slapped its spiked side against the wood with a clack. Cute, but tough as a biker chick, or an early Montana settler.

The disturbed caterpillar ate its own chalice and tried to escape. I picked more chokecherry leaves for the unhappy critter, but it did not eat much.

Then it began to spin itself into a cocoon. I watched a long time, but the cocoon seemed inert. I put the cage on a top shelf...and forgot about it. Well, occasionally I did spray the cocoon gently with water.

~~

Late the next spring, I remembered that cocoon. I rushed in and found the leaves in the cage brown and dried. The cocoon itself was black with smoke from the woodstove (every surface in your home will slowly blacken with soot from a woodstove, especially the cooler places).

The cocoon looked dead. I was so sorry for interfering.

 
The Montana Silkmoth cocoon featured as a story on Time on the Planet

  I took it to the sink and gently washed it off. Then, I took the cocoon, still attached to the dead and dried twig, and set it outside on a shelf near the door. For two days, I looked after it, and on the third day a most amazing thing happened:

A huge moth --  wide as the palm of my hand -- was now pulsing beside the cocoon.

I thought my baby had been born!

But, inspecting more closely ... to my greater amazement, I discovered that the cocoon had not opened! This giant moth was someone new and it was waiting on what was to come out of that cocoon.

“She's singing him out!” I told my woman, Robie.

I don't know why I suddenly ascribed gender to these beautiful actors: the moth -- with its dull colors on one side and bright on the other -- and the blackened cocoon.

Intuition...?

I pose it was Kokopelli* music; the rhythm of pheromones on the beat of DNA, coruscant with the melodic notes of love.

If you have ever met someone whose chemistry exactly reflected yours, you know what I mean. She was singing him out of the cocoon.

~~




co·rus·cant

/kəˈrəskənt/
adjective literary


    glittering; sparkling






As the afternoon wore on, I checked on them often. And when he finally emerged, I felt the full consequences of my interference. One wing was perfect; the other observably misshapen.

But his lover did not falter. She continued to sing, and he began to fan his wings to bring them to life.
Robie and I were like two children, gaping. My woman probed at the healthy moth and it squirted a copious amount of some yellowish liquid at her. I dipped a finger in the lotion and carefully tasted it, expecting some toxin or acidic substances. It was neutral. Not tasty. Not distasteful. That moth had a squirt range of maybe three feet.

Then a robin, that lovely ravenous predator (turdis migratorus), glimpsed the moths. I saw her rise out of the lawn to come swooping in from 20-25 feet away. Oh no, I thought, somewhat paralyzed: what a horrible end to this love story!

 
Common Robin goes up against a Montana Silkmoth in a story on Time on the Planet
 

The protector moth must have seen the robin at the same time. She swelled up, spread her wings and advanced a few steps toward the robin. Tiny litte moth steps, but there was no misunderstanding the aggressive and threatening movement. The robin veered away.

How smart is that insect? How broad and keen her senses? The bluff is a highly developed behavior, and the cross-species bluff is even more highly evolved. Amazing!

We watched until we became bored. The newly hatched male was taking a long time to pump up with his wing power. I built a paper house over the couple – a shelter, but one easily escaped – and went about my day.


~~
Not long afterwards I checked to find both moths had flown.

I took pictures, but don't know where they are now. I still have the broken cocoon and the dried branch someplace at home.

That's my story of the Montana Silkmoth.....


BUT.....




* Here's a note:
Every living being on earth is an organ of one thing: DNA. It pitches in to maintain life just as every cell and organ in your body pitches in to keep you going.

Some forms of DNA eat other forms alive, some eat the freshly dead, some eat the long dead, some eat minerals, some make light into food. Each one, to some degree, directs its own evolution. Root hairs and rhizomes and mychorrhiza … egads! Trees and fungus cooperating!

It's all a system to keep LIFE going and growing. Even the #@!# Coronavirus is part of this. Humans, dare I say it, have not been so greatly beneficial to this living web. We don't know our place. It would be easy for me to say humans are expendable, but I have loved some humans and I would hate to see them wink out. That would be such a sad, sad day.



And my noisy moral:

Be kind to yourself, to each of your cells; stay clean, eat wisely, think of the ENTIRE cycle when you eat (do something useful with your excretions!), treat the mayfly with as much love as you treat your cat or dog or goats or milk cow or the deer in the field. Treat the people around you with respect …

And if you or a loved one should get the Coronavirus, use Western Medicine ... strengthened with the knowledge that you can speak to your cells; encourage them to stand strong, to hang in there, to regain health. Some of us will die, but let us not let anyone go without our attention, respect, and full efforts to heal.

###




About Parris Ja Young
Parris lives in Western Montana and once hoped to live life as Kokopelli, a Native American cultural figure that he has painted with brilliant color....

Painting of Kokopelli, Native American Fertility Icon, by Parris Ja Young

* Kokopelli Music
A fertility deity, Kokopelli is usually a humpbacked flute player.
 

 
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