Season of shivers

September. Days growing notably shorter. Darker mornings. Sun blazing at midday, chorus of feverish buzzing from the treetops, cicadas singing loudest just before the last.

School. Children swathed in masks. Eating lunch all over the building for safe distancing. Even in a recessed section of hallway, sitting on the floor in portable blue plastic seats with built-in tabletops for food. A study in balance. Like seesaws. It takes coordination to stand up without losing what’s left of your lunch.

In the evenings, exhaustion. Everyone expresses it. Everyone. The nightly news drones on: Death and dying. Afghanistan. Hurricane destruction. Epic flooding. Rising COVID cases. Delta variant. And you might want to invest in warm clothing, Viewers. The Farmer’s Almanac predicts an unusually cold winter…it’s being called ‘the season of shivers‘…

Season of shivers. So poetic. I want to make something out of it, turn it around in my hand like a crystal, watch it sparkle in the light. I will hold onto it a while.

Isn’t it already a season of shivers. Church closed again, three weeks to date, as COVID struck a number of our members at once. Granddaughter in kindergarten for a week, now quarantined for two, following an exposure. Colleagues wanting to talk about intervention for students who were kindergarteners and first graders during the last year and a quarter, when instruction went virtual. A frantic clinging to norms when norms are gone. We can’t start with intervention. We must be about reinvention. Daunting.

Children. The most resilient of us all. I am sent to the cafeteria to supervise half of second grade while the other half is spread across the hallway and classrooms. Two to a table, facing the same direction. Cheerful. Chattery. They have to finish eating in time for me to clean all the tables before the next grade level arrives. I am the only staff member present. Normally there are two. Even office staff is pressed into service at lunch time, covering all locations. Skeleton crews, everywhere.

I manage it. The kids are in two lines, masked, lunch boxes in tow, awaiting their teachers. They watch me. They’re not sure what to make of me. They are quiet.

Beyond the propped cafeteria door, a balmy September afternoon. The swelling of cicada-rattles. Loud.

Do you hear that buzzing? I ask.

Nodding of masked heads. Like little bobbers on water.

Do you know which insect makes that sound?

Cockroaches! shouts a boy.

Crickets? offers a girl.

No. It’s a cicada.

They like the sound of the word. They say it aloud: Cicada.

I describe it. With my fingers: This big. Long wings. Hatches underground, climbs to top of trees. That buzzing is made by the males. It’s a love song. Doesn’t sound like a love song, does it?

Giggles. Shaking of heads.

They have questions, but their teachers have come. They must go.

Thank you for telling us about cicadas, says a girl, as her line begins snaking away.

At the door, the last boy stops, turns back: Where is that rattle, on the cicada?

In his belly, I say.

The boy nods. He runs along the sidewalk to catch up with his class.

I stand still in the shadowy silence, this momentary transition, listening to the miniature buzz-saw, helicopter-blade whirring of the cicada congregation. Loudest they’ve been all summer, just as it begins to die.

How well they must understand, cicadas, about the season of shivers.

Shiver. benjaflynn. CC BY 2.0


When I began writing this post, I hadn’t planned on including cicadas. They crept in of their own accord. Because I love them, and their song, I let them stay. I often write of them. Cicadas represent, among other things, personal change and transformation.

Many thanks to the Two Writing Teachers community and the weekly Slice of Life Story Challenge. Sharing our stories is also about personal change and transformation. We grow through it.

20 thoughts on “Season of shivers

  1. This slice was so poetic and beautiful — even while dealing with not so beautiful topics. I especially enjoyed the reflection of the phrase “Season of shivers” as you turned it over and then how you shared with the students what you knew about cicadas. I had a good time reading this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this. Such a wonderful way to engage students in noticing and being curious about nature. I do hope they get home and tell their parents all about the duty teacher who knows about cicadas. I’d love to hear their mispronunciations of the word.

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  3. I felt entirely swept up in your day and in your encounters. Shivers, rattles, love song, chattery children, buzzing. All the sensory detail brings us close up to where you are. I am blown away by how deeply I felt immersed in your telling. The description of cicadas that you offer the children rings in my ears. Thank you so much for this satisfying slice. It feels like I’ve just had an unanticipated dessert.

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  4. Firstly, I love how you snuck in a science lesson on cicadas – great use of a teachable moment! These lines resonated with me the most, “A frantic clinging to norms when norms are gone. We can’t start with intervention. We must be about reinvention. Daunting.” And, necessary, I might add. It’s been necessary for a while. I hope educational reform happens – if this experience with the pandemic doesn’t force our hand – I don’t know what will!

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  5. Writing. It helps us find those parallel lines, those places of alignment within ourselves and with each other, with our world. And I found so many with this post, Fran – not the least of which is the love for and fascination with cicadas. But you talk about children, and the resilience of children. I couldn’t agree more. They are capable of so much more than we give them credit for, and while we as adults are scrambling and worrying and fretting, they are closer to OK than we think. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be fiercely protective of their well-being, but…maybe we can be more gentle in our approach. And, of course, I identify with your love of words and phrases: “I want to make something out of it, turn it around in my hand like a crystal, watch it sparkle in the light. I will hold onto it a while.” This. Because this is what we do with the words that grab us. Beautiful post, Fran.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you, Fran, for your season of shivers piece. I pray we don’t have a season of shivers this winter beyond just the cold. Hope comes through after the downer of the nightly news, sweet hope so beautifully woven into all your work. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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