Column: The Common Clothes Moth and the Gift of Renewal

August marks the start of restless time during the abundance of lazy and hazy summer days.

A cursory glance can notice a tiny thing, yet sometimes the tiniest things can cause the greatest damage. Take tineola bissellielta, the not-so-innocent common clothes moth. Like many issues in life, by the time we see the train wreck, it is too late: the damage is done. My summer has been shaped by the discovery of the clothing moth. Instead of traveling and zipping around outside, my primary focus has been on the home.

As an enemy, the Webbing Clothes Moth means business.

The Enemy (aka the Common Clothes Moth or Webbing Clothes Moth) Wikimedia Commons


Note its beautiful size, the golden color. For a moth, it is really not bad looking. However, when your home is the site of an invasion, your entire life takes a beating.

If someone had said that the movements of my summer would rely upon a tiny, near invisible enemy like this, I would have laughed. Now, I wash numerous loads of laundry on the sanitary setting, dry them on high heat, stuff them into black scent-free plastic bags, and store them in tight, lock fitting 27 gallon containers.

Is there anything good coming out of the wreckage caused by these tiny creatures whom I did not even know existed before seeing the remnants of my mother’s favorite hand-woven wool sweater, carved into burrows by the larvae?

Yes, actually.

I had to clean up the larvae, the tiny offshoot from eggs so tiny that we can really not see them with the naked eye – hence the need to launder clothing on high or have them dry cleaned.

Is this expensive?


The time it takes to review one’s clothing drags up memories, some sweet and some bitter, from past events and past lives. Each piece requires a decision that, sadly, I’ve put off for months or even years, so many seemingly tiny choices which added up to a major fork in the road.

Keep the pink and purple kimono that I last wore sometime in the 90’s after falling in love with the pattern in a fabric store? If so, is it worth the cost to dry clean it? Because the fabric probably won’t stand the machine washing on the sterile sanitary setting. If not, do I take a picture or simply donate it?  Do I take a chance on freezing it in a bag on the lowest setting for several weeks in order to freeze the larvae?

These are not easy choices, but neither is life.  What we choose to keep, what we choose to release from our homes, and what we choose to fight to restore are all meaningful decisions that will change the trajectory of destined paths.

Beginnings of Success – Pheromone Trap after Three Weeks (Clio Ajana)


Five years ago, I wrote about spiritual decluttering. Each column has a surface and a backstory. The surface was clear: a violent intruder drill at my workplace had me considering and putting my spiritual life in order. The backstory that I told no one was how I felt challenged by the Gods to write about what mattered literally in that fifteen minute span because life is short.

My mother was dying, in hospice in my home. I was barely sleeping more than three or four hours a night. We laughed, we watched The Amazing Race or old movies, and we avoided the obvious. I had not come to grips with losing the one person who had known me since birth. What few tell you about the death of a parent, especially when you have been intimately involved in that person’s care and well-being, is how much space is left when they leave. Their physical items remain, but the space in heart, mind, soul, and body is huge. It takes time to work through it.

During that time, I saw work as a respite and a gamble.  The gentle folk at the Catholic Elder Care by Day and the local center for Parkinson’s patients provided excellent care while I raced around fitting my job duties  into tiny clusters of time left by the hospice nurse, the music therapist, and the respite volunteer who came for exactly four hours a week when I could do ritual.

While I did not know it, the column on spiritual decluttering would be the last before my mother’s death exactly three weeks later. It was Labor Day weekend, the start of the month, and a time for renewal of goals.  In numerology, September reigns supreme as it intensifies whatever the energy is for that year.

The year 2017 was a “one year,” a time of beginnings. As such, September left few barriers from a numerology standpoint, and a clear open path to grab with ambition whatever the individual wanted. September was a “one month” universally. This meant that overall essence of the month was a two, meaning connection, cooperation, and using one’s intuition to follow the good advice given is a must.

During that September, I cannot remember much in between the column, written the day after the violent intruder drill, and the day my mother transitioned. They are a blur best kept concealed. It is only now, thanks to the moth, that I am revisiting this time period.

My mother and I have different life path numbers as individuals, but our personal year numbers always resonated with the universal year numbers.  So, in 2017, we both were experiencing the end of one nine-year cycle and the start of a new cycle.  Contrary to all medical expectations regarding my mother’s quickly declining health status, her life did not end during the nine year.  There was more to teach, to learn, and to experience during the one year.

Those last nine months of her life reminded me that joy and happiness can be found in the smallest things and events, such as when we snuck out to see La Boheme, my mother’s favorite opera, while technically she was in a facility. Like Cinderella, on Medicare, no one notices so long as you are back by 11:59 p.m.

Poster for La Boheme – Adolf Hohenstein (1854-1928) for G. Ricordi & C., Milan, restored by Adam Cuerden, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


I noted what I thought was important at the time to achieve the internal peace that eluded me:

During this holiday weekend, my personal goals are to recycle some books, to review what matters, and to renew my commitments. I give back or toss away negative thoughts and goals. I remove what no longer suits the space or life that I wish to live. I stand in truth and honesty with the labels others have given me or ones that I have given myself. Do they still fit? Do they matter?

Overall, the wisdom I thought I found was suspended in time.  I needed to be physically present for my mother’s transition. I could not attend to my own needs because the living see to the final moments of the dying. Pretending to do both simultaneously is not only a recipe for disaster, but a missed opportunity.

As a Pagan, I am taught to see life in its myriad of complexity as a gift, a challenge, and a world filled with possibilities and meaning. My worship and connection with the gods urges me to note places where vulnerability and weakness transform into recognition of determination and wisdom.

My mother’s sweater is at the dry cleaners. I do not know what condition it will be in when I see it again, or if it will be so ruined that I will never see it again. I have the memory, but not a picture.

Perhaps that is the point. It has been five years of transformational awareness, filled with the poking and prodding of reality and the chance to set course in a different direction. Like butterflies, these clothing moths have go through egg, larvae, cocoon, and adult stages. The larvae need nourishment and time. Clothing provided the food; and forgetfulness provided the time.

This time, my full spiritual decluttering will occur through my discarding of physical items that no longer useful to wear for whatever reason. If the kimono or the clothes I struggled to make in college don’t come back, I will cherish the memories that I made with them. My mother’s wigs, which might have been a delicious dessert according to some experts who note how moths like human hair, may be gone forever.

I lock up my beloved yarn, all 45 or 50 skeins of it, stored in preparation for the long winter craft season when I can gift others the blessings of my time and somewhat uneven skill with the crochet hook or knitting needles for holiday presents. Before using it, I will need to wash it on the sanitary setting, dry it, and then work with it. I do not want to pass on moth eggs too tiny to see to others.

The cleaning as a result of searching for remnants of the webbing clothes moth means that some papers, old mementos, and “just in case” items are going to the recycling or trash.  Each pass makes my home lighter.

Perhaps this is a gift of renewal, borne out of grief and the ravenous offspring of the clothing moth. Looking through one’s home means finding the concealed trails of a life lived. Because of how easily the moth can ravage clothing, especially anything wool, I search and make decisions fast at a ripping off the bandage quickly pace.

The moth allowed me to see how much I had to appreciate in my life. This understanding could not flood my awareness before I fought for it through cleaning and searching for the ravages of the webbing clothes moth.

August is a traditional month in many countries, the United States of America included, to experience the family vacation, to relax, and to enjoy the remaining abundance of summer sunshine and light schedules.

The gods have a great sense of humor and timing. If my mother were here, she would note the irony that during a hot summer, it would take a tiny moth to keep me focused on what really matters: home. It is in the cleaning, that we appreciate what we have and who we are.


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