While I was out west, most of my possessions, including my car, remained in Georgia. So when it came time to head to Wisconsin to begin my graduate assistantship, I had to first fly back to the Georgia coast and then road trip north. The first night (I stretched out the trip to a week, visiting old friends and former homes) I stayed in a Motel 6 in Charleston, West Virginia. When I checked in the man behind the counter handed me a form on which to fill in my address, and I hesitated. Should I put my address in Georgia, which I had just vacated? My address in Wisconsin, where I had never actually been yet? My parents’ address in Arizona, where I have never actually lived, only visited? It can get disconcerting to not have a permanent home.
The next morning I got up and carried my luggage down to my car in preparation for checking out. As I stepped into the parking lot something on the ground caught my eye. It was definitely not something I’d expect to find in a motel parking lot in a fairly urban place – a Saturniid moth the size of my hand, dead. Being the huge nerd that I am I scooped it up and carried it back to my room to take a photo. I was thankful to have the elevator to myself on the trip up, because I imagine I would have gotten some odd looks from strangers, a young woman in an elevator with an enormous dead insect in her hands.
Later I used my computer to identify it specifically as a Polyphemus moth, Antheraea polyphemus. Long-time readers may be familiar with my ongoing fascination with moths (click on the “moth” tag in the cloud in the sidebar for evidence), and encounters with the huge, colorful, seldom-seen Saturniids, the family that also includes such spectaculars as Lunas, Emperors and Prometheas, always seem fraught with magic and meaning. I’d never seen a Polyphemus before, and what were the chances of finding a creature with such personal significance to me in a Motel 6 parking lot on the edge of a fairly substantial city? The edge of the nearest Appalachian mountain was just on the other side of the freeway, but still. Most of the time I am a rational, objective-minded person, giving little credence to signs and portents and the idea of fate, and yet… it’s hard not to interpret something like this as a good omen.