Ric Cheyney is an agrarian misanthrope, writer, critic, songsmith and woodland gardener. A book of his selected writings, In Praise Of Nahum Tate, (ISBN 978-1-83859-070-3) can be ordered through your local bookseller. See website for more info.
You wait 64 years for a poplar hawk moth, then two turn up together.
Personally, I’ve always been a butterfly man. Moths are of the body: intensely physical, zombie-eyed at night, they flap and batter about, devoid of finer feeling. Butterflies are of the soul: delicate, sun-powered, their effete demeanour is literally flighty, balletic, other-worldly.
So I was shocked to discover this pair of poplar hawk moths in my garden.
For a start, I had no idea this species existed. And to subsequently learn that it is probably our most common hawk moth only served to remind me how deeply ignorance can persist into old age.
And then, just look at them: the delicate mimicry of dry dead leaves, the crinkled, brittle-looking fragility of their wings. These moths are decidedly of the soul. They’ve been made up by Roger Dean for an old Yes album cover. Their wings are sails made of leaf-cloth to carry their barkish bodies over oceans of adventure to the grail of.....er.....well, poplar trees, I suppose.
I am and shall remain, basically, a butterfly man. But the poplar hawk moth has prompted me to re-examine my prejudices more than a little.
Tales from Poplar- Graphic Oceans © Ric Cheyney 2017
Human pride is always riding for a fall. We have called ourselves the Crown Of Creation, the dominant species, the top of the food chain, but life-forms ranging from microscopic viruses to planet-hugging mushrooms could challenge that perceived supremacy. And sometimes Mother Earth herself steps in to remind us that she will be around long after she has buried every boast.
If a category-five storm tours your neighbourhood slowly enough, you will acquire true humility. The sea, as any lifeboat volunteer will tell you, does not even know your name. And the powers that keep everything spinning, well, they cannot be properly imagined.
The tsunami that wrecked the Fukushima nuclear power plant was triggered by an earthquake that knocked our home planet four inches off her own axis. It shortened the distance between Japan and the USA by eight whole feet.
She is Mother Earth. Don’t mess with her. Instead, get out there, grab a lungful of clean fresh air, give humble thanks, and marvel at her magnificence.
Hubris and Humility © Ric Cheyney