There has been a miracle of life this holiday season in my little cabin cave in the snowy woods!
When it first got cold I was stuck in town on the wrong side of the unfrozen river. Usually it only takes a couple weeks for the river to freeze, but this year was strangely warm and it took a long time and then a week of forty below before I could get home. When I finally did get home I lit a big fire in my big wood stove in my little cabin and set about thawing things out. You see, the walls and the furniture hold on to the cold much longer than the air, so one good night of sweating it out ensures books that don’t harbor frost and a bed that isn’t icey to climb into.
As night fell I lit the oil lamp and cozied up to it with a book and a cup of tea. This is the good life. Soon I heard a noise and noticed a winged one with one wing frozen into the melting ice on the window. They flapped frantically trying to get unstuck. I shrugged and moved the lamp closer to them, figuring they weren’t long for this world. It wasn’t long before my reading was interrupted by more noises and I looked up to see a moth throwing their self at the light. Luckily the flame has a glass thingy around it, but I didn’t want this moth who had been frozen and come back to life to die in the fire, so I turned the light off and sat staring into the dark.
The moth landed on my shoulder. I decided to name the moth Moth, not that the Moth would give a shit about a name, but I needed something to call them. After a while I became incredibly itchingly curious about whether Moth was still on me, and where, so I turned on my head light. Moth was on my arm, drunk with the cold away from the light. I helped Moth onto a little piece of paper and put them down. In the morning they were still there. Lifeless. Poor Moth.
That night I again built up the fire in the stove (well, just a tiny bit, it was twenty above outside!) and lit the oil lamp, and Moth came back to life!
I looked through all my books and tried to understand dormancy and identify moth. How is it possible for all of Moth’s little cells to freeze into little crystals at forty below and then come to life a week later? What the heck kind of moth is Moth anyways? It turns out Moth is a butterfly. Lymphalidae Polygonia, or a green comma. See how the end of Moth’s antennae are bulb shaped? That’s how you know that Moth is a butterfly and not a moth.
As it cooled down and I turned the lamp way down, Moth looked for a good place to go back to sleep and freeze again. The perfect place turned out to be between the fly swatter and the window. It’s sheltered from falling things, and perhaps spaces like this sometimes hold a tiny bit of heat. Just before I turned the lamp out for the night I was suprised to hear fluttering wings and see Moth joined by another Lymphalidae Polygonia. Moth has a partner! They’re snuggling now behind the fly swatter, sharing body heat maybe.