Ode to the Cicadas

From the comfort of my air-conditioned home and office, I witnessed this year’s emergence of the 13-year cicadas mostly with fascination. I know my perspective would be much different if I worked outside all day, but I must admit, I’m kinda missing the songs of the cicadas. Here’s a tribute to the 2011 cicadas.

They emerged in masses in early May,
just when the soil temperature was right, about 63 degrees Fahrenheit.
After 13 years underground, feeding on roots of trees where
their mothers had laid eggs in branches slit with their razor-sharp legs,
and the larvae had fallen to the ground
to burrow underneath until their time would come,
The finally mature nymphs crawled out of the ground,
shedding their skins and leaving behind piles of curved brown shells
as evidence of their former lives.

Maturing into an adult takes a lot of time and patience.
When the brood first emerges, they find a place on the plants whose roots nurtured them
to molt once again–and to wait for six days for their new exoskeletons to harden.
At first they are white.
They wait for about 6 days in the shelter of their plant as the exoskeleton hardens.

You see their molted shells everywhere, on tree trunks, telephone poles, garden hoses, and even metal posts.
The nymphs land anywhere they think is a tree.

Magicadas, they are called,
this year’s group known as Brood XIX, or the Great Southern Brood.
Their wings are beautiful, delicate, shimmery things
They have beady, red, oversized eyes
And their flying is clumsy
There will never be a classical composition titled “Flight of the Cicada.”

Their life cycle is short and purposeful: sing, mate, and die–within 4 to 6 weeks.
The males sing the mating serenades; the females find them.
I kind of like this order to life.

Magicadas are harmless
except to the plants where the females lay their eggs.
They provide food for cats, dogs, squirrels, moles, and curious (or stupid?) humans.
When they sing their mating song
and dive-bomb at random
We react with disgust, annoyance, and sometimes wonder.

The sound of the cicadas crescendos and decrescendos
on hot days,
Reaching levels as high as 86 decidels.
Cicadas are attracted to the sound of engines, especially lawn mowers and tillers,
And they land on anything they darn well please.

The invasion of the cicadas is short-lived;
It could be considered a test of patience for us humans
As we walk outside, mow lawns, work in the garden, run, or attend graduation ceremonies.

The only ugly encounter I experienced was one while
I was pumping gas and wearing a skirt. A cicada flew under my skirt
I looked like a fool dancing around trying to get rid of it.
“Demon, come out!”

I will miss those cicadas unlucky enough to get caught under my windshield wiper blades
I will miss their mating songs
But most of all the wonderful distraction they offer to
the dailiness of life.

Farewell for now, Magicicadas.
We’ll see your offspring in 2024.

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