Local Author Meditates on Minnesota's Summer Wildlife

A giant silkmoth rests on a leaf.
Our columnist Anne Marie Ruff Grewal reflects on this month’s “exuberance” of growth.

In June, I think of Joseph Conrad, who described an environment in which “vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings.” He was describing what’s now the Democratic Republic of the Congo in his 1902 novel, Heart of Darkness. Conrad never made it to Minnesota, but I like to borrow his evocative language for where we live, which explodes into a temperate jungle for a few glorious months. I love the creatures that thrive in these days of exuberance: the birds and butterflies, the frogs and fireflies, the salamanders, beetles, and dragonflies. One of my favorite summer characters is Hyalophora cecropia, the sexy giant silkmoth. The huge caterpillars of the species spin cocoons in the fall and emerge in summer finery. Mating is their sole mission in adulthood, which lasts a brief two weeks. A male can smell a female from a mile away. This hand-sized, furry-legged, velvet-thoraxed, feather-antennaed specimen stopped me in my tracks along a busy roadside in early June. The idea of this moth, forsaking sustenance in a relentless pursuit of sex in a short but glamorous life, seems the stuff of a great novel.

Anne Marie Ruff Grewal is a writer, editor and environmentalist. She serves on the board of the Long Lake Waters Association, and has recently published her second novel, Beneath the Same Heaven—a story of love and terrorism.