Nocturnal

Worldwide Walls (formerly POWWOW!) // Worcester, MA // 15’x30′ // 2021

Photo by Ian Lundie
Photo by Ian Lundie

‘Nocturnal’ is a mural about life, death, transition, and change. It came to me a year and a half into the pandemic and is a reflection on what I’ve learned and experienced during this difficult time. The species pictures are mostly native to Massachusetts and all have a personal meaning to me. 

At the very top of the mural is the Eastern whip-poor-will. This bird has long been a symbol of the liminal space between life and death. Its nocturnal nature and otherworldly call have earned it the mythical status of a psychopomp, or soul guide from the world of the living to that of the dead. This species was once abundant in Massachusetts, but as our species has grown more populous, it has been forced to retreat.

The second creature moving down the mural is a Cecropia moth. This creature comes out of its cocoon with no mouth parts and therefore only lives long enough to mate in this form. The beauty and fleeting nature of this species remind me to experience all I can in life and appreciate every moment.

Below the moth is a plant called a tuberose. This night-blooming plant was domesticated thousands of years ago from an agave that today you can no longer find it in the wild. In the Victorian era of England, my place of birth, this flower was used in funerals because of its association with the night and its sweet, pungent aroma. This plant connects me to my home and helps me to recall my ancestors. 

Lastly, oyster mushrooms require the death of another being in order to fruit. They recycle the nutrients from that once living thing and use them to continue the cycle of life. These mushrooms feed other species, passing along those nutrients and sustaining the web of life. These mushrooms remind me that although death is a tragically normal part of existence, I am part of a larger network of interconnected life and I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone.