Leap Year Love Birds

29 February 2016

Love nest:

On an Edwardian postcard

Love Birds

‘In Leap Year, longing for a cosy nest/I ask you, will you be my very best’

Image at http://www.etsy.com/listing/268026709/leap-year-postcard-set-love-birds

Love net:

By tradition, in 19th century Britain and Ireland, women could propose marriage to men on leap year’s day…

PostcardLeapYearBeCarefulClara1908Image at wikipedia.org

Leap Year Poem:

Thirty days hath September,

April, June and November.

All the rest have thirty-one,

Excepting February alone,

And that has twenty-eight days clear

And twenty-nine in each leap year.

by Mother Goose


Image at wikipedia.org


Nightflights in Mussoorie

Moths migrate along mountains:

Death's-head Hawkmoth in Mussoorie

Death’s-head Hawkmoth in Mussoorie

Photo by Peter Smetacek

Markers of climate change:

Almost eighty years after the first hawkmoth survey in Mussoorie, a second seeks to compare information. Lepidopterist Peter Semtacek wonders if warmer, wetter winters – which mean moister soil for the moths’ pupation period – are enabling moths to migrate west along the Himalayan foothills.

Read more at http://www.woodstockschool.in/hovers-like-a-hummingbird-looks-like-a-bee/ and http://www.mussooriewriters.com/2014/09/08/moth-survey-update/

Listen and watch Peter’s TedX talk at http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/The-Butterfly-Effect-Controls-R

smetacek roof of world

Butterflies on the Roof of the World, Peter Smetacek, Aleph Books 2012


the lesson of the moth

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself

by Don Marquis (1878-1937)


Listen to the poem:

Other winged things

Daedalus and Icarus:

Icarus describe

from The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Literature, Second Edition 1977

The Fall of Icarus:

The fall of Icarus

 The Fall of Icarus by Peter Paul Rubens, 1636. Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. Image uncredited at wikipaintings.org

 Icarus and Amelia Earhart:

…She was swallowed by the sky / Or by the sea, like me she had a dream to fly / Like Icarus ascending / On beautiful foolish arms…

 from Amelia by Joni Mitchell. Video from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bFgxKov8Ts&feature=kp

Amelia Earhart and Electra, the aircraft in which she disappeared over the Central Pacific in 1937

Amelia Earhart and the Lockheed Model 10 Electra, the aircraft in which she disappeared over the Central Pacific in 1937

Image at http://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/earhart.newdocs/earhart.electra.jpeg  on Wikimedia Commons


Lepidoptera means ‘scaly-winged’ in Greek. It is the large order of insects that includes moths and butterflies.

atlas moth

Atlas moth: an illustration from Natural History Drawings: The Complete William Farquhar Collection, Malay Peninsula 1803-1818 (Editions Didier Millet & National Museum of Singapore, 2010)

Small Moth by Sarah Lindsay

She’s slicing ripe white peaches
into the Tony the Tiger bowl
and dropping slivers for the dog
poised vibrating by her foot to stop their fall
when she spots it, camouflaged,
a glimmer and then full on—
happiness, plashing blunt soft wings
inside her as if it wants
to escape again.


Chiroptera means ‘hand-winged’ in Greek. It is the order of mammals that includes bats.

Lesser false-vampire bat, Singapore

Lesser false-vampire bat, Singapore

Image uncredited at http://www.wildsingapore.per.sg

What is it like to be a bat?

…Our own experience provides the basic material for our imagination, whose range is therefore limited. It will not help to try to imagine that one has webbing on one’s arms, which enables one to fly around at dusk and dawn catching insects in one’s mouth; that one has very poor vision, and perceives the surrounding world by a system of reflected high-frequency sound signals…In so far as I can imagine this (which is not very far), it tells me only what it would be like for me to behave as a bat behaves. But that is not the question. I want to know what it is like for a bat to be a bat. Yet if I try to imagine this, I am restricted to the resources of my own mind, and those resources are inadequate to the task…

Thomas Nagel, in The Philosophical Review, October 1974

Poetry with a sting in the tale:

bee journal 1

‘This book is a kind of uncut home-movie of bees. I like its oddness and hurriedness, its way of catching the world exactly as it happens in the split second before it sets into poetry…’

Alice Oswald reviewing Bee Journal

The fall of Icarus

Honey from Bartholomew’s Meadery, Denmark, Western Australia http://www.honeywine.com.au