Cicada wing. Kristine Paulus. CC BY
A hymn, of sorts, on hearing one of my favorite sounds for the last time this year—it echoes from idyllic childhood summers and the country roads of my ancestral homeplace. A strangely sacred sound, it always lifts my spirits and aches in my soul at the same time.
High in the oaks
against the bluest of skies
the rattling swells
as its season dies.
this buzzing call
from amid the leaves
soon to fall.
This song of my childhood
in the last of the light
before the chill.
Full force, the cicada sings
—doesn’t it know?—
summer’s gone on the wings
of a song long ago.
Summer is dying now, taking with it one of the things I love best: The song of cicadas.
If you’ve ever heard cicadas in full throttle, you might not agree with “song” as a fitting description of their cacophonous buzzing. It’s not pretty. The noise can be deafening.
Yet when I hear that first discordant rattle sometime in May, my spirit rises, my own heart sings in response.
The song of cicadas calls to me from long ago, when I was a little city girl spending sultry summers in the country. The song evokes narrow dirt roads keeping an ominous forest from encroaching on rustic homeplaces, tiny cemeteries where baby after baby is buried under white monuments adorned with lambs, and the old church just around the bend. The song is one of ages, the rising and falling of generations, all of us coming and going in our time. It is a song reverberating with tire swings hanging from pecan trees, canals teeming with frogs and turtles, white-tailed deer bounding up from lush ditch banks along fields at dusk. It is the bright song of the sun, of hope, of continuity. It is the dark song of the night, oddly comforting; something out in the blackness is vibrantly alive, maybe keeping watch, while children drift off to sleep. It is the sound of safety, stability, belonging. Calling and calling, the crescendo mirrors the rhythm of life, brimming with promise, echoing eternity. When I hear it, I am a child again, no matter how many summers have come and gone. My home is in the countryside now and it is with a deeper pang each September that I note the song fading out. Every May, as I mark another year of my existence, I listen for the first returning rattle. You’re back! my heart sings. Ah, but we were here all along, they might say, if cicadas had words. There’s a lot of living and loving yet to do. You have today. Carry on.
Reflect: What’s one thing in nature that inspires you? Why?