June 21, 2010

Luna moth: hello, good-bye

Last weekend was our family's 24th annual Birthday Bash, a reunion built to collectively celebrate the many summer birthdays among members of our clan. Mike and I host the bash at our New Hampshire cottage, and lobsters-for-all is our birthday gift.

Our cottage is on a seven-mile-long, spring-fed lake in New Hampshire's Monadnock region, in the state's southwest corner. It's a beautiful part of the state, with outdoor opportunities galore and postcard-perfect New England towns. And, when you've had your fill of gorgeous green spaces and quiet clapboard beauty, you've got Keene, a small, funky, live-and-let-live city with cool shops and restaurants and America's widest Main Street. (Jumanji was filmed here, and Main Street is the venue for the animal stampede...)

Some special guests crashed this year's bash: three electric green, saucer-sized luna moths. In the 27 years we've owned this property, I've seen luna moths there only once before. (Adam's been going to the cottage with his fraternity brothers and says he sees lunas "all the time," but I'm thinking that's the Bud Light talking.)

The moths, whose lifespan is a single week, were our guests of honor. They settled themselves for their last days on Earth at our house's busiest place, on the siding next to and the stoop just in front of the front door.

We were 17 partying people of all ages, from three states, eager to catch up with each other and enjoy a weekend in the sun. But we were mindful of our special guests. That they picked our place to live out their short lives filled us with awe.

"Careful, everyone! A luna moth has now moved onto the porch flooring, by the doormat! Be careful! Luna moth is RIGHT NEAR THE DOOR when you come in or out!" As the moths shifted position during their stay on our stoop and siding we made sure everyone knew to look out for them.

Then they died. Two disappeared to die unseen, but the biggest one expired as we watched, moving from his vertical hold on the siding to a flat step. My brother-in-law, Chris, took on the job of moth monitoring, and he knew exactly when the exquisite creature passed away.

"He's dead," said Chris.

Chris put our luna moth on one of the white Chinet plates I'd used to serve the bash food. Chris walked around the yard and made sure everyone saw the luna on the plate; he'd been a friend, and this was his wake.

Mike got an old pickle jar he'd used to hold nails from the garage and carefully put the luna inside.