Growing up in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, I developed a dislike for moths. They were tiny, hairy, grayish-brown insects that destroyed our clothes and feasted on our rice grains and beans. They did their work in secret, in the dark. To keep them away, we placed foul-scented naphthalene mothballs in our chest of drawers, wardrobes, and cupboards.
Imagine my surprise when I learned in school that moths and butterflies belong to the same family called Lepidoptera. Next to the beautiful and brightly colored butterfly, the moth is the ugly cousin. And, as life would have it, the species of ugly cousins outnumber their attractive relatives by almost ten to one.
When I moved to the tropical rainforest region of Northwest Guyana, to teach at the secondary school in Mabaruma, I discovered a whole new world of moths I never knew existed. Up to that time, I had harbored prejudice towards thousands of species of moths based on the noxious behavior of a few.
The building where I lived was located in a clearing near a river at the foot of a hill. We had no electricity. At nights from six to ten o’clock, the presbytery at the top of the hill provided electricity generated by a gasoline generator. In the dark night, as I did my school work, my desk lamp attracted every form of winged night creature, especially the moth.
After overcoming my initial annoyance at the intrusion, I developed a fascination for the moths. My nightly visitors ranged in size from 0.3 inch to 4.5 inches in wing span. While the majority of them had varied brown tones and black markings, there were also moths of pink, orange, yellow, and green hues. Many of them were triangular in overall shape, but other shapes abound. One of my visitors that stayed until the early morning was particularly deceptive in appearance. When I bent down to pick up what appeared to be a dried brown leaf lying on the floor, the moth flew away.
Without a camera with a flash (common in those days) and poor photographic skills, I began drawing the moths and coloring them with crayons. My plan at the time (never realized) was to create a painting of moths based on their shapes and colors. The moth depicted in the drawing below was the largest and most beautiful of the species that visited my room. My now faded crayon drawing has failed to capture its beauty and rich colors.
Moth – Northwest Region – Guyana (Drawing by Rosaliene Bacchus)
The year I lived in Mabaruma turned out to be a dark period in my life. That July, when I relinquished my post as Acting Headmistress to return to Georgetown, I inadvertently ended my teaching career.
Life in not only filled with sunshine and butterflies. There are also dark nights. Yet, in the darkest night, if we let our inner light shine through, there is beauty to behold and lessons to learn.