Prayer for the moth, but also for the spider

O someone come save this moth outside our window, flapping for two hours and longer. Its spread wings are the size of an outstretched hand, its body as solid as a man’s thick thumb.

For hours we have been watching it, our own hands tight in our laps. We did not even notice the spider web stretched outside our front window until the moth was trapped inside it. Wings beat like a bird’s against the glass, and we think surely, no web can hold this. But hours pass and the moth still fights to free itself, we still sit in the living room, watching it fail from the comfort of our couch.

We root for the moth, and if it can hear us, it must think, what assholes. To remain spectators, to not rise and help. But we have learned somewhere that moths are fragile, that their wings will brush apart in our hands, that we should let nature take its course.

Lord, there is also the spider to consider. A fraction of the moth’s size, it spins as quickly as the wings thrash, trying to swaddle the moth into death. The spider darts closer, rapt and needy, leaps back when the moth announces itself again: No, not yet, I am not finished. The wings are windfall and wind, possibility of feast or of disaster. The spider is so exhausted, it will need to eat. And if the moth escapes, and leaves the web in ruins? We cheer for the moth, Lord, and beseech you to aid it. But then we think of the spider.

And then we think of ourselves, sitting in our living room, cheering. The television is off, cell phones set aside. How pure this is, this kind of entertainment. One might almost think we were the kind of people who knew the names of trees, who could identify this breed of moth, this species of spider. Who would not watch this like a nature documentary or a thriller, Moth/ra vs. Spider. Who would not pat themselves on the back for not growing bored, not calling up an Internet video of the exact same thing happening to some other moth, some other spider. We stay focused, at least, on the creatures at hand.

Years later I look them up; I scan through pictures, Latin names, looking for a set of enormous, white, flailing wings. Antheraea polyphemus, perhaps, a nocturnal moth drawn to brightness. It was all our fault, the porchlamp we kept so casually lit—not for safety, just to welcome ourselves home. We were spendthrifts of light, and a clever spider made its web inside our vanity. We lured this moth to its suffering. We needed it to escape so we were escaped from blame.

Does this offend you, Lord? Is this one more thing for which we must ask your forgiveness? And will it be forthcoming, if you had no mercy for the moth, nor the spider, nor someday for us, O invisible, almighty, and eternal God?

Because that moth is years dead now, whatever happened in the hours after we finally went to sleep. The spider also, gone to dust. And we, who emerged that next morning to find the moth gone but also the spider, the web a ragged remnant moving in the breeze the screen door made on its hinges: we are all still among the living. All of these your mysteries and your works, O Lord, the answerless empty web and the years since and the sunshine in which we left the house that morning. We left in sunshine, we returned in sunshine, to the sturdy house and the screen door that made a breeze that moved the web. Let us live in such a house all the days of our lives.

And please, Lord, let not those days, nor the strength of our house, depend on our worthiness to inhabit them. Let the wings that beat the window be only your angels, and let them not find us wanting. Grant grace to the moth, but also to the spider, and also to the watchers, their faces peeking from the windows of their sturdy house.

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