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The Moth Inventory

by Grove

I had no idea how much they could teach me.


Yes, moths.

Not that I am happy to see them. Actually, I have taken to killing them as fast as I can. With my bare hand if necessary. I do try to honor all life forms, but I kill moths in my home. Even though I am grateful to them. Yes, the peaceful earth mother in her kitchen can become a vengeful murderess. Oh, well. These things happen. Sometimes being a kitchen witch involves killing.

But what did I learn from these moths?

I learned that moths can eat their way through plastic and cardboard. I threw out an old box of tofu scrambler (the contemporary vegetarian equivalent of the hamburger helper that I grew up on) because moths had entered there. Screw-top jars, while useful against cockroaches, are no defense against moths, because larvae can wriggle their way in there.

I called a friend who insisted she would buy me new rice; that this potential act of solidarity with starving people wasn't particularly useful.

I learned that I am not alone, that in households and granaries all over the world moths find and eat grain. This idea led me to contemplate picking the pale, wiggling, hungry larvae out of my rice and cooking the rest, as I am sure impoverished women around the globe must do to feed hungry children. But my privileged nausea won out here. I called a friend who insisted she would buy me new rice; that this potential act of solidarity with starving people wasn't particularly useful. I gave in and threw the rice and larvae into the compost.

I learned that in my pantry seaweed accumulates uneaten, and that herbed vinegars can become antique. I did like the clarity I established. Only canned goods or oils in my lower cabinet, only things moths ignore. But this cleaning and my intensifying rampages against the fluttering grey creatures didn't convince the moths to leave.

And there was the research into "healthy" deterrents, like the environmentally correct moth traps. Environmentally correct for me, still deadly to the moths. Two kinds of these traps are sold, one for grain moths and one for wool moths. Now my moths started in the kitchen eating grains, and eventually migrated to my wools. Or maybe wool eating moths moved in after the grain ones died out. I don't know. There are many different kinds of moths and anything is possible. True confession: after one try, these traps lost out to my nostalgia for the smell of moth balls; I now have those potentially brain melting balls (and flakes!) in my closet.

I let my larder have empty space in it, and I affirmed the abundance available to me at my local food co-op.

I replaced worn rubber rings on my sealing jars, got rid of split peas that had bleached white in the sun — I mean my pantry got current. No longer a warehouse against starvation, I let my larder have empty space in it, and I affirmed the abundance available to me at my local food co-op. My refrigerator too got overhauled; my freezer needed more room to hold almonds and some fine wool scarves, the sheep's wool I'd collected on a trip to the outer Hebrides, strands of yarn from various rituals, etc. If you freeze things for 3 weeks or so, they say you interrupt the moth's life cycle. I found myself putting herbed sleeping pillows and the lavender eye sacks into the deep freeze. But the moths kept coming, now invading my bedroom.

I eventually found their true home in my kitchen when I inventoried my spices. It was a spell I had cast, an abundance spell with almonds and pine needles and cinnamon in a ruby red glass jar on my stove. Feng Shui suggests I am lucky to have my hearth (read: stove) in the spiritual center of my home. I treat my stove like an altar. And leave things there. The remains of this spell, that had long since done its work, was the epicenter of the moths' life in my home. Or maybe the spell was still working, bringing me abundance...of moths! Out it went. Into the compost.

But by now, there were moths fluttering in my bedroom, so alright, alright already, more mothproofing in there. I began pulling out my wool sweaters, inspecting them, and hanging them out in the sun. Every single one of them. My sweaters filled the clothesline. It was nice to see my colors of reds and pinks, blues and greens, grays and black. But counting them was a shock. I never would have guessed that I owned more than twenty sweaters. That I could wear a different one to work every day for a month. That I had this accumulation that didn't even feel like abundance, that was actually more like clutter. Prior to this inventory I had thought I might need a new sweater. Ha! What I needed was to let go of my excess and enjoy the abundance I have. I did finally find what I was looking for: one of the last sweaters revealed the white papery housing that would have soon released new hungry larvae, ready to munch on my sweaters. My sweaters were saved from holes, at least for the time being.

On my spiritual path, I pay attention to concrete things. Like moths and sweaters.

Now in some spiritual traditions, one is required to do things like inventory one's faults, go to confession, perhaps to contemplate sin. On my spiritual path, I pay attention to concrete things. Like moths and sweaters. The moths showed me places I hadn't paid attention in my home, places where energy had stagnated, where I was holding on, not letting go. Letting go is a fine art, an art of opening the hand and trusting the Goddess, the universe, the life. It can be hard, particularly because I don't see my own clutching clearly. One saying goes "I've never let go of anything that didn't have claw marks in it!" The moths helped me see places where I was holding on, accumulating due to inertia, and also due to fear. The quantities I had stored actually reflected fear and poverty, not security and abundance. Security involves trusting that I can meet future needs in the future, that what I need will be available to me then. Seems kind of risky to me still, but it beats having all the excess baggage in my home, and moths for roommates. My thinking and lifestyle were affirming a lack of abundance; the stuff was not about food or pleasure, it was more an attempt to protect myself from future needs. And defending myself against the future makes it harder to live fully in this day.

I am learning to recognize help that comes from unexpected sources. Thanks to the moths, the very ones I have ranted against and killed, I now have much better flow in my home. My food shopping strategy has shifted towards more fresh foods, and I no longer keep such large quantities of staples. And my sweaters—I have passed on some of them to friends and to the local recycling center, and I wear my favorites, rather than saving them for a special occasion. What is more special than this very day? I acknowledge more the abundance that I have in my life right now; I take guidance where it comes. Moths, I thank you.

Grove is a Bostonian witch, who lately is trying to catch the moths in her home alive and put them outside instead of killing them.