I see a lot of things on the way to the trash bins at the side of the house. The largest bin is blue and holds paper and plastics for recycling. Next comes the container for yard-waste, green and aromatic after two years of vegetable fermentation (the noisome marinade on the bottom is black). Then there’s the smaller gray bin for old-fashioned trash. All are made of plastic (recyclable, I trust). Monday morning I saw something on the side of the gray bin near the ground and mistook it for a wood chip. It was a moth of mottled brown, about two and half inches long. Rather drab, I thought, but I don’t know enough about moths and decided to take a closer look.
It climbed onto my finger and I carried him to the glass doors leading to the kitchen so my younger sons could see him. The 9-year-old thought I was holding a cockroach but lost interest when he saw it was a homely moth. When I touched the insect’s back it spread its brown forewings and revealed another self. The hindwings are the color of a pumpkin, orange cut with a hint of rusty brown. I thought of dry brown maple leaves in autumn reversing chronology and turning ostentatiously orange. In “Moths at Nightfall” (from Time’s Covenant, 2007) Eric Ormsby describes moths as having “madras wings, graced / With a dusty haze of pollen.”
I looked through a couple of guides, print and electronic, and concluded I had been visited by a male yellow underwing, Noctua pronuba, a Eurasian species named by Linnaeus in 1758. I kept him on my desk under an inverted glass until the cat tried to knock it over. Only after I released him did I remember he arrived two hours after the arrival of the summer solstice, though the morning was damp, cold and gray.