Today’s Wonderings

Today is the first day of writing camp.  I hadn’t been calling it writing camp when I told people what I’d be doing this summer, but I really like the name.  It feels like a summer thing to do. I went to camp every summer when I was a kid, and, for a time, I worked at a summer camp as an adult.  This isn’t sleep-away writers’ camp, mind you, or even day writer’s camp. It’s a virtual camp, but it still feels like a positive way to describe what I hope to do every day: wake up early, and write for fun.

Today’s welcoming entry focused on writing non-fiction.  Kate Messner wrote the initial entry. She’s both the camp director and counselor today.  She mentioned that teachers and writers often advise novice writers to “write about what you know.”  I’ve given that advice to students every year. Today’s revision of that advice, though, makes a lot of sense.  Kate said, “What do you wonder about?” She described several examples of how her writing projects grew out of her wonderings, like wondering about the animals that lived under the snow in winter or wondering about the beetle that emitted some noxious spray in Charles Darwin’s mouth.  Both of these led to published books. She suggested that we write a list of our wonderings. I’m going to do that first and then see if I can write a bit more about at least one of the items.

This morning’s wonderings:

  • What kind of snake did I accidentally grab while I was weeding last week?
  • How do you tell the difference between a moth and a butterfly?
  • Is there a brain chemistry connection between people who become addicted to drugs and people who attempt or complete suicide?
  • Might I publish a book someday?
  • What led John Laurens, a child of privilege in South Carolina, to become an ardent abolitionist in the 1770s?
  • Why do we sometimes have days when a whole series of crazy coincidences arise?
  • Why are some people more prone to procrastination than others?
  • What is the feature of Comic Sans that makes it a writing stimulant (prosodisiac)?
  • Why is there a rabbit population explosion in my neighborhood this year?
  • How is it that some nice people actually like Trump?
  • Do most great athletes have an obsessive personality?

Yesterday, while I was mowing the lawn, I narrowly missed mowing a moth…or a butterfly.  Instinctively I reached for my phone to take a picture of the fortunate creature, but I didn’t have my phone in my pocket.  I turned off the mower and went in to retrieve my phone, hoping that I wouldn’t be too late when I returned to the scene. The creature obliged my photo needs, posing patiently in the mulch.

Later, I wanted to show off my photo.  “Wanna see the butterfly I almost mowed over?”  I handed my phone to my daughter.

“Nice, but I think it might be a moth.”

I shrugged.  “Whatever, but it’s beautiful, don’t you think?”

I said this, but I confess that my heart sank a few millimeters at the moth comment, especially when it was echoed by our friend, Chelsea.

Now I’m wondering a few things.  First, why was I disappointed by the kind of lepidoptera I’d captured?  Second, how do you actually tell these creatures apart?

John Doe

I don’t know that I’ll be able to answer the first question.  Is it simply the name? Butterfly is fun to say. Its anagram is flutter by. It conjures all of these positive images of metamorphosis, sunshine, summer, flowers, and fleeting beauty.  Moth, on the other hand, is just a boring word. For me it also carries the images of high-strung nighttime creatures bouncing off screens, loitering around lamps or chewing on sweaters.  But, if this was a moth, then maybe I should adjust my prejudices.  

I decided to do a bit of investigating. From ScienceBob I learned that butterflies most often rest with their wings folded, while moths are less demure (He didn’t say that part).  Also, butterflies have longer antennae, while moths’ are shorter and furrier. Butterflies tend to prefer daylight, while moths are generally nocturnal. This information was only moderately helpful.  My John Doe (or UFO) was out during the daytime with wings spread boldly. A contradiction. His antennae were short-ish. It’s such a relative term, right?  

I continued my research. Everyday Mysteries informed me that the antennae provided the best indicator.  The butterfly’s antennae were usually club-shaped, with a long shaft and bulb at the end. I revisited my photo, and wished I’d gotten a better frontal shot.  These antennae did not appear to have bulbs at the end.  

Everyday Mysteries was kind enough to provide further links at the end of the article. When I clicked to “Butterflies and Moths of North America,”  whom should I find as one of the featured creatures, but Promethea Silkmoth, a dead ringer for my friend. This was exciting. Not only did I have that moment of recognition (It’s him!), but I also liked the name.  This was no ordinary moth. This was Promethea Silkmoth. I also learned that I should have exclaimed, “It’s her!” The female has reddish brown wings with tan spots. The male has black wings.

Promethea Silkmoth (as seen on http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org)

My wondering temporarily satisfied, I ceased my research for the day.  I’ve always said that I have a fascination with butterflies, and for a variety of reasons, but I shall now enlarge the scope of my preoccupation.  Thank you, Promethea Silkmoth. I’m glad you knew to rest in the mulch instead of the grass.

15 thoughts on “Today’s Wonderings

  1. I like how your wondering lead to research. I agree that your moth friend is beautiful. I also liked how you set this piece up, the comparison to camp. I never signed up. Writing (and reading) has been challenging this summer. I need to find a groove. Have fun at camp!

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    1. I had to come back. Your post had me thinking about all the wondering my kids are doing this summer. They’ve been asking some interesting questions. I started writing them down… you may have helped me with a post for next week. 👍🏼

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  2. Camp led to wonderings in list to a slice – love it! I think it’s human nature to wonder and Kate obviously modeled how a writer uses those wonderings to write. The wonderings obviously led to much research on your part – wondering, writing, reading, writing. Reminds me that there is no one singular process for a writer! Great slice – love saying Promethea Silkmoth – kinda rolls off the tongue! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Writing camp! What a great idea. I really enjoyed your wonderings. I think this is what makes you such a great writer. You wonder about such interesting things. Maybe we need to get kids to do more wondering and less “experting” when they rehearse for writing. I also learned a lot from your post. I wonder about the difference between frogs and toads too! Enjoy camp. Any chance you’ll have s’mores by the campfire one night???

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    1. I will ask about the s’mores. They seem like they would help the writing process.. As for the frog and toad question, I remember one distinction from when I had a pet toad in my classroom…at KHS! — toads hop; frogs leap. So there’s that. My class loved to watch the toad hunt. He was a skillful predator. Crickets were no match.

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  4. I love how your wonderings led you to research moths and butterflies. I am partial to butterflies myself though moths are important pollinators too and deserve our appreciation. I am fortunate to raise Monarchs in my 2nd grade classroom each year though once our curriculum is revised I will have to teach other content. The antennae, colors and resting wing position are the biggest difference between moths and butterflies. There’s no doubt there are some very impressive moths out there though. I need to start my own list of wonderings as I often struggle to find something to write about when Tuesday rolls around. Thanks for the idea.

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  5. I made a list, too yesterday of my wonderings! I’m inspired by how you carried your wonderings with you as you mowed and showed exactly where it took you through research! Great photo, too! Thanks for letting me see into your wondering mind.

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  6. I enjoyed learning the distinction between butterflies and moths, including your own attitude about the delightfulness of butterflies and the bothersome bouncing-off-screens of moths. I happened to use the same exercise today, when I wrote a list of “I wonder why…” and chose to pursue one topic. My wonder went in the direction of a quick observation, whereas you did some fine research. I like the model that you provided.

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  7. What s great idea about writing a list of wonders. I’m going to try this with my students. Thanks for sharing. Also, thanks for educating me about moth vs. butterfly. I never knew about some of their differences.

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  8. I am definitely going to add a page to my blog journal on wondering and add it to my writing coaching journal as well. I love your text as a mentor because you’ve made the path clear. Keep teaching me please.

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  9. This post made me think of a few things, the first being Karlin Grey’s picture book “The Extraordinary Ordinary Moth.” Do you know it? She is my neighbor and I think she told me that she was inspired to write the book based on her son’s wonderings about moths. I’ll have to ask her about it again now.

    And also, a recent interview I listened to with Elizabeth Gilbert where she suggested that people retire the old adage “follow your passion” with “follow your curiosity” because not everyone has a clearly defined passion and our wonderings are powerful things.

    Finally, I love how an everyday task, like yard work, led to a wondering that evolved into a piece of writing. It is inspiring to think what can come from small moments if we create the time and space for them to become bigger moments.

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    1. Hi. Didn’t know the book, but I just bought it! Thanks. I like how it has the word Extraordinary, which was a key word in our class charter this year…AND is a key theme in a book I just read…which a certain KB would really like, I think, called The Season of Styx Malone.

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  10. I was so so busy last week that I had to wait until this week to comment. I’m so glad I did. I love the wonderings prompt & your list of wonders. I really like how you follow the butterfly/ moth conundrum and how your research and your daily life and your interests and your writing all come together. Reading this piece made me want to go live and write and live some more. Can’t do better than that!

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