California Oak Moths in Oakland

California Oak Moth in Oakland

One of my precious urban-wild encounters since Shelter in Place.

[This image was edited with contrast, whites, and black point enhanced, and exposure brought up on the moth.]

We live in an area dense with humanoids, so, socially distancing on the sidewalk forced a quick turn through a stand of trees. We came upon an unexpected bloom of California oak moths so thick it was like a snowfall of wings draping each oak. Just a few moments earlier, we were alongside a small street protest, and the sounds still permeated this grove.

There’s a family of Barn Owls fledging their babies not far away, in a tree in the middle of a main thoroughfare, with two lanes of traffic and a high rise marking the owlets’ flight path. A pair of ravens dances in courtship outside our window in the evenings, beneath the pulsing of overhead choppers. It’s a strange juxtaposition, both reassuring and disquieting: the constancy of nature, in its regular rhythms, against the necessary tumult of our own evolution.

I wonder what their experience is of us during these times, and whether they feel the collective energy of struggle and transformation, terrestrial, rumbling, below them. The pair of nesting pigeons who know me seem to recognize me even with my face mask. They waddle over without a hint of trepidation, even with half of my face swathed in different colors of cotton, so their recognition of us must be more than what they see in our faces.

In the grove, the moths fluttered in my hair and landed on my jacket, christening me a tree for just those moments. Looking into the sun, dropping behind the oaks, I saw this face looking back at me … a male oak moth, identifiable by the plumose/feathery antennae. These antennae are so sensitive, they pick up pheromones I can’t perceive. So, how can I know what they hear and feel of the world, outside of my own crude and blunt senses? That’s how I see myself, meandering through these blooms. A comparatively blunt being, still inching my way to the understanding that guides the connections outside my own.

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