Luna Moth

Susan Wilson


HE SLEEPS ON THE COUCH in the loft. He has a room with lovely awning windows, a queen size bed and a private bath. He prefers the couch. Since he was two. I presume he feels safer there, closer to his parents. Upstairs tucked into a corner room must seem very far away when you are only two, or three or four. The loft is open and noisy; full of light and life.

Most mornings I wait for him. Wait to hear his small feet begin to hit the hickory steps. Yellow blanket square pushed tight to his face, where his pointer finger crooks across his nose pushing the blanket up and down, then step number one… left foot… right foot. Step number two… left… right. Repeat sixteen times; the steps quickening as the kitchen floor grows closer. Today he is sleeping late, so I decide to give him a nudge. I want him to sleep because growing boys need sleep. I want him awake because he is my third, my last, and I know how quickly he will grow. I am greedy. Motherhood, an occupation destined to become obsolete.

The loft opens to an upper porch. Green leaves and morning sunlight broaden the space giving its intimate confines infinite borders. Turning the corner, I glance out the doors and then look again. Wide and hugged to the glass, pale lime-green with a wingspan over four inches. Lepidoptera Order. Four eyes returning my stare on wings edged in royal purple. Family Saturniidae. I draw closer to the glass. Long tapered wing tails flutter; meant to confuse predator bats into believing that the end is really the beginning. Actias luna. A stunning product of nature; a Luna moth.

I expect my close inspection to startle it, for it to quickly take flight and disappear into sunlit leaves. It does not. It stays pressed to the glass, all those eyes never once blinking.

Female Luna moths lay eggs on the undersides of leaves; trying to protect them, to keep them hidden. Ten to twelve days later the eggs hatch into tiny caterpillars which then eat incessantly for three weeks. Bright green with tiny orange spots, the caterpillar loves the leaves of hickory and sweet gum and paper birch. After binge-eating it spins a cocoon, lives inside another three weeks before emerging as a moth. The wings, tucked in tight and secure, inflate with blood, gradually unfurling, growing longer, deeper, stronger. Expanded, harder and mature. The long graceful wingtips twist and entwine revealing unexpected elegance. In its moth incarnation the Luna has no mouth, no digestive system, and never eats after leaving the cocoon. Living at most a week, it lives only to reproduce, to give life to another.

Partial to the night and the light of a namesake moon for guidance, artificial lights can confuse the Luna. Perhaps this one is puzzled by the lights from inside, perhaps this one is too old, too weak to move on. I wake my son so he too can see something so rarely seen. The Luna remains still on the glass. Waiting. We sit on the couch, his head in my lap; the yellow blanket square that always looks dirty, that he rarely lets me wash, that one day I will choose to never wash again, moves slowly up and down while his eyes do the same.  The Luna remains, watching, already obsolete. My son drifts back to sleep. My stunning product of nature cocooned a bit longer. Soon he will rise and eat and play. Grow taller and stronger so slowly it will be over before I’m aware. So quickly it will be over before I am aware. Before I am left to watch him through the glass.


Return to Fall Issue Volume 11.1




Susan Wilson lives and writes in North Carolina. Her creative nonfiction has received multiple awards and appears in various anthologies. Four men and a dog love her unconditionally.