One woman, lots of paint and hundreds of tiles. If you're here because you found a painted tile, it's yours to keep.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Delia & Moth

Delia is a very odd girl.

She feels connected to the universe when she’s outdoors in the sunlight with the birds and butterflies and hummingbirds. But late at night when she can no longer see her winged friends and darkness settles in, her anxiety and insecurities arrive to haunt her. Each night, she hopes to dream of falling asleep in the sun, in a field filled with wildflowers and the winged creatures who thrive on them. “Where do the butterflies go at night?” she wonders as she closes her eyes.

But Delia’s a big girl, not so much in stature ... just fiercely independent. So come sundown, she assures herself that morning and all that accompanies it will return. In her barren room with the old wood floors, she sips merlot and in the light of a big fat patchouli candle, strums her guitar and makes up songs about things that make her smile, or things that make her sad. If she runs out of words, she goes to the general store and wanders around to find things she needs.

On one such Tuesday, as she returned home from shopping, she realized she was not alone. A winged creature of the night had accompanied her through the back door and into her tiny kitchen. It was one of those little moths that dance around her porch light on summer nights.

But inside her kitchen, the winged creature of the night seemed much larger, and she felt afraid. Logically, she knew she was far bigger than the moth, yet she had an illogical fear of him flying right into her head, and completely freaking her out.

Not wanting to kill him, at least not without considering the options, she stepped outside the kitchen and nervously observed for awhile, wondering what, if anything, to do. She realized eventually that the moth wasn’t as much of a threat as she initially thought. She was not his target. He had but one goal -- flying into the overhead lights, which were very, very hot … again and again and again. Each time he flew there, the heat of the light knocked him back to the counter, or the floor or into a pile of dishes in the drainer, only to emerge again and head straight back into the light that Delia realized might eventually scorch his tortured soul.

But there was nothing she could do to stop this cycle. She understood that cycle, and occasionally participated in similar cycles, but only in very measured ways that she knew would not destroy her. Delia had developed a healthy respect for light and particularly for fire, the most intense form of light. In other words, she knew how awesome it was, yet was keenly aware of its power to destroy her.

Her mother taught her this at a very young age, when Delia became fascinated with the glow of a backyard fire. Delia had never seen anything so beautiful. She wanted to be very close to it, to become one with it. But her very wise mother slapped her hand – probably the only time she had ever done so – and warned “No, no!” and something along the lines of “Hot!” and “Fire!” and “Danger!” Definitely danger. “You can watch it, and appreciate it from over here,” she explained to Delia, “but never, ever get too close to it, or you will get very, very hurt.”

Delia understood, but her attraction to the fire never diminished. As a teen, sitting in a lawn chair at some random KOA campground after most everyone had gone to sleep, Delia recalls listening to the crackle of a gorgeous, heartwarming fire on an otherwise silent night. Even from a distance, as it glowed and flickered and sent embers skyward, it somehow shed meaning on her life and made her feel connected to the universe in ways she didn’t typically feel connected to anything.

She still loves a good fire, as well as the sun, the glow of a living room lamp, the candles she burned through the night, lightning bugs, lava lamps, her year-round holiday tree with the blue fading lights, fireworks … but especially fire, the deepest and brightest of the lights … and the most dangerous. All the other things just represent fire, but what does the fire represent? It is beautiful, for sure, but it consumes and burns and leaves behind only ashes.

Delia gets that now. When she was younger and finally living on her own, she had danced too close to the fire on many occasions, convinced she could withstand the heat, that she was invincible. But she learned that her mom was right. We must retain a healthy respect for fire, keep a safe distance from it. That’s what Delia told herself now ... except on the rare occasions when she became disoriented and forgot about her resolve not to play with fire again. Oddly, it was during those times that she felt most alive. But that very feeling of being so alive reminded her that she now had something to lose, and this made her feel restless and conflicted. That’s when her clarity would return and her resolve to stay away from fire would grow stronger again

But while watching this impassioned moth flying around her little kitchen, so intensely focused on the light, a part of Delia felt jealous about the sheer excitement she knew he must be feeling as he circled in on a light so compelling to him, that in that moment he forgot all else and risked everything just to reach it … Delia admired his courage and devotion yet a part of her wished she could drag him away from the light, talk him down from the craziness that she worried would not end well. But she knew this was a personal journey, one he must take independently in order to gain his own healthy respect for light, and fire.

There was an art to keeping a safe distance from fires and Delia had nearly perfected it now. She still remembers that last cold winter night when she tried to get warm by the fire, but got too close and suffered burns. worse than her previous ones. Fires, on cold nights, always draw you closer. The trick is knowing how close is too close. Now before thinking about taking another step forward, Delia touches her scar and remembers all the reasons not to go there. Danger. She wondered how her moth friend would fare, how many scars or broken wings it might take him to learn life’s harder lessons.

Leaving him to it, she retreated to her front porch, sipped her wine, and strummed her guitar, making up songs about moths, flames, pointless games and wings burned, lessons learned, fear earned … things like that. Eventually, she retreated inside and returned to the kitchen to check on her winged friend. Finding him nowhere, she returned to her spot in the living room, beside her fat candle in a glass, and there he was, gently floating in a sea of hot wax. By the glow of the candle, Delia could see every inch of his wings in a way she could not before. He looked incredibly gorgeous, even prettier than a butterfly. And now he was one with the light he seems to have been struggling to find his entire life.

She quietly strummed for awhile, before leaning towards the candle and looking again at this amazingly perfect spotted creature: “You are so very brave ... much, much braver than most of us,” she whispered. “And I will forever admire you. But please, please, please,” she begged, “can you come back just once to reveal how it feels to completely abandon yourself to the flame?”

If you’ve arrived at the end of this story honestly, please know that no moths were injured in the course of researching this tale. However, there was a flying, intensely buzzing insect that flew repeatedly into the lights in my kitchen on a recent night, and in a moment of sheer panic, I killed him … with a magazine … shortly after he had fallen to the floor for about the fourth time. Despite that he would have killed himself eventually, I deeply regret the incident, and I made up this story later that evening.

Also, for the record, I don’t know how to play guitar, but if I did, I’d probably make up songs about courageous moths. While I have a few friends who are currently risking it all to pursue their various passions in life (partly because they lost their jobs), I tend to take more calculated risks. … But because math is not my strong point, I often have trouble calculating risks and simply avoid them altogether.

But I have calculated a theory (because while my math skills are lacking, I'm pretty good at making stuff up to compensate for what I don't know). My theory is that many people don't risk it all to pursue dreams, because their dreams are so big and so perfect, and reality could never measure up ... when it doesn't, it feels like a failure and kills the dream ... and sometimes keeping a dream alive is more important than reality. In the end, it's the dreams that keep us going, isn't it?

Fortunately for me, my dreams aren't huge.
Even if I won the lottery tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t travel much, or buy a fancy car or a big boat … I’d just live in an old farmhouse on a nice plot of land in a town small enough to ride my bike around. I’d hide tiles and write stories and novels, and I’d practice playing guitar and try to learn to sing (in a more tolerable way) ... I’d read good books and grow vegetables and garden and cook and walk a lot … for miles and miles everyday. Sometimes I’d invite other people from around town to come and sit on the front porch and play music, or cards, and maybe drink some wine and eat some food and talk about life. I like to keep it simple.

Dropped Delia and moth at Starbucks at Davie Boulevard and Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale (just south of the tunnel) ... They're in the ladies room.


At 6:01 PM, Blogger Restaurant Gal said...



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