Wednesday 16 July 2008

An Old Lady in the Garden

Last night, as I was sitting in the garden in the gloaming, a large, dark moth flew past me a couple of times, so close I felt the breath of its wings (as I did with a particularly bold Silver-Washed Fritillary on Monday). From its size and darkness and the way it flew, I identified it, fairly confidently, as an Old Lady moth. How did this encounter play from the moth's point of view? What was I to the Old Lady? a thing in the way, I suppose, occupying space, reflecting what little light there was, emitting body heat and wine fumes.
There's an extraordinary moment in John Updike's novel Marry Me (his best?) where Gerry takes his wife Ruth to a seafood restaurant to tell her he's in love with their friend Sally. He breaks the news and 'when she failed to respond, he asked urgently, 'Who else could it be?'
A fly alighted on her lips and its tingling imposition startled her; she saw herself as she was to the fly - a living mountain, a volcano breathing the stench of shellfish.'
That is a truly startling switch of point of view , vividly conveying the sudden dislocation of Ruth's world.. Mine, happily, was just an idle garden thought.

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